Why Billboards are Hot Again: OOH in the Digital Age

Taking a drive to the supermarket the other day, I noticed a billboard for Palm Beach candles. The ad made me stop and think - not because of what was on it, but because I was confused. The ad showcased yet another brand using billboards (otherwise known as OOH for out-of-home) when I would have assumed the return on ad spend would have been much higher online.

Palm Beach has joined other digital-first brands like Glossier, Netflix and Everlane in using OOH, causing me to wonder, what’s the benefit of this sort of large scale but largely un-targeted promotion? Since I’m a big admirer of the marketing strategy of the likes of Glossier, I knew there had to be a reason… According to Forbes, a new report indicates nearly a quarter of the top 100 OOH advertisers are major tech brands such as Google or Apple. So, I’ve been looking into the trends to bring you some insight into why these digital native brands are transitioning to OOH to help you inform your own advertising spend in 2019.

According to Billboard Insider, OOH is the only “traditional” media category to show growth in 2018 with an estimated +3.4% growth to $33.5 billion in the US. Apparently, for every dollar spent on OOH advertising, it returns $5.97 in ROI revenue. This is 40% more effective than digital search and 14% more effective than print. It’s the same story in Australia. According to Ad News, “in the past five years, the share of digital OOH revenue across OMA members, which account for most of the major vendors, has risen from 11.3% ($61.92 million) to 47.4% ($373.4 million) in 2017. This has helped the outdoor media sector grow net media revenue by 6% to $837.1 million, at a time when most traditional media channels are either struggling or in decline.”

The main driver behind this seems to be that OOH ads can’t be skipped, blocked, fast-forwarded or seen as fake news by the consumer. The results they generate can’t be manipulated by bot traffic and they aren’t controlled by a newsfeed.

There’s also the opportunity to be really creative (providing you’ve got the cash to spend) - OOH ads don’t need to be your standard, static billboards. According to Ad Age, during Fashion Week in New York, “digital billboards for New Balance studied people by camera as they approached, then applied AI to decide whether they were wearing typical outfits—or something remarkable enough to highlight live on-screen, accompanied by the admiring banner, "Exception Spotted." (source)

Mobile commerce also seems to be driving the resurgence in display advertising - with over 34% of all eCommerce sales conducted via mobile phone, predicted to grow to over 50% by 2021 - we don’t need to remember the billboards we see for any length of time. We see something we like, jump on our phones (which, let’s face it, are already in our hands anyway), and purchase.

That’s one of the praises of OOH in general, particularly with new digital out of home options. This advertising can be a lot more contextual, reaching customers when they are primed to buy, be that at a bar, in a shopping centre or on public transport. For example, according to Entrepreneur, Cracker Barrel restaurants spends 50% of its budget on OOH, placing ads near exits and off ramps to target road trippers.

One of the criticisms of OOH advertising in the past has been that it’s not particularly targeted, specifically when compared to tools like Facebook advertising for example. However, according to Greg Glenday, CEO of US company Adspace Networks, interviewed by Ad Age, it depends on what you want your campaign to do. "If you want to create a national conversation, you can't do that if your message only reaches your core purchase intenders. You lose all of the intangible benefits of reaching people outside of that bucket.”

As with any marketing approach, omni-channel works best. This means pairing OOH with digital, email and other mediums that make sense. You also need to have great creative to catch the eyes of customers who have their heads permanently stuck in their phones. Need some inspiration? Check out these 50 brilliant billboard examples from Canva.

What do you think? Would you give display advertising a try? Why or why not? Let us know at claire@deaneand.co

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Claire Deane