An out of home (OOH) 101 for digital marketers

5 things to know about out-of-home advertising for marketers who have spent their entire careers dabbling solely in the digital advertising world.

An out of home (OOH) 101 for digital marketers

For many years now, digital marketing has essentially been synonymous with marketing in general. There’s really no way to think about digital in its own silo anymore. Although for anyone who worked in marketing in the late 90s, you might remember the days when pretty much anything dubbed “digital” or “interactive” was a sheer novelty. At the time, we were all learning—and you might even say, building—the medium together. No one could have anticipated just how much all things digital would eventually transform people’s lives. So much so that many marketers today, some who even once carried the time-stamped moniker of “digital marketer,” have actually never run campaigns in other ad mediums whatsoever.

As more advertising dollars began shifting rapidly towards shinier digital media channels, many in the industry—especially millennials—leaned into becoming digital marketing specialists as opposed to learning the ropes as marketing generalists. The need for specialization was obviously there, so resources and talent followed. So today, many of us with experience developing and deploying media campaigns offline are by some considered relics in the marketing world.

Why bother taking this walk down memory lane, you might ask? The answer is simple: If you’ve spent your entire marketing career behind a screen, you likely have a biased notion of how traditional media channels work today. Out-of-home advertising is a great example of this. If your only reference to out-of-home advertising is based on an assumption that it has not evolved over time, then you’ve given yourself a marketing blind spot.

So today, we thought we’d dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions about OOH ad campaigns that we hear all too often from people with digital marketing tunnel vision.

5 things you probably don’t know about OOH advertising

If you’ve spent the last few years glued to either your computer or mobile phone screen, you might be surprised to learn that out-of-home advertising is not the “dinosaur” you once thought it to be. And if you’ve had a change of heart recently about running OOH ad campaigns, these five little nuggets of wisdom should give you peace of mind that it’s not as scary as you might think.

1. Believe it or not, people still do live in the real world

Although many aspects of our lives are moderated by digital or social media of some sort, we, as humans, still live in the real, physical world. As a result, we have many opportunities every single day to come in contact with marketing messages along our daily journeys. This might include seeing billboards dotted along the freeway on your way to work, being surrounded by ads while waiting for or taking a ride on a bus or a subway, walking past big, branded murals or wallscapes while running errands, or even on digital screens in the bathroom of your favorite local restaurant or bar. This list goes on.

The point here is that today, pretty much every physical space can be transformed into out-of-home advertising. And this is precisely what makes OOH ads now more valuable than almost every other advertising channel: People do not need to be engaging intently with OOH media in order for it to make an impact. The same cannot be said for digital advertising. If you’re not sitting in front of your computer or scrolling endlessly on your phone, those digital ads aren’t going to do you (or your target consumers) any good. If you want to grab people’s attention when they aren’t all consumed by their phones or laptops (a great time, as they're even more focused on the world around them) you have to step out into the real world and seize the potential of out-of-home advertising to catch people when they’re out and about.

2. OOH is more than just billboards

Back in the day, when people talked about out-of-home advertising, it was often in the context of billboards as those were the most predominant ad units available in the channel. But as we noted above, OOH ads today take on many different shapes and sizes—and while billboards are still a big part of the channel, it’s not the only lever marketers can pull in this space. In fact, there are quite a few different ad units to play with, including (but not limited to):

  • Wallscapes
  • Murals
  • Bus shelters
  • Bus or scooter wraps
  • Taxi toppers
  • In-station takeovers (bus/train)
  • In-transit ads (bus/train/taxi/scooter)
  • Airport ads
  • Street furniture (ex: park benches)
  • Retail signage (in stores, restaurants, bars)
  • POS ads
  • Food takeaway containers (ex: pizza boxes)

You get the picture. While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it’s a great example of how out-of-home advertising has evolved from its once billboard-centric beginnings. We might even one day have ads in space. The point is, if it's in the physical world, ads can be run there. Are you ceding this space to competitors?

3. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pick up the phone

One of the things that made out-of-home advertising infinitely more complicated in the past—especially for the media planners and buyers locking in these ads units—is that the channel as a whole was very decentralized. You often had to pick up the phone and speak with individual media owners, who managed different ad units in different markets, to negotiate what sometimes felt like a handshake deal (that is, if the media owner liked you). That is a far cry from how the channel operates today, thanks to programmatic platforms like AdQuick.

Now, you can more or less book OOH ads in the same way that you’d book digital ads, without ever having to engage one-on-one with media owners. Not to mention, because the vast majority of OOH ad units are now accessible and available for purchase via these platforms and are fair play for any brand that wants to purchase them, it has stabilized pricing and democratized the buying process in a pretty significant way. Long gone are the days of handshake deals, pricing inconsistency, or other opaque business practices. The entire planning, buying, deploying, and optimizing process now happens in real-time in just a few clicks. Everything is automated today. So for those of you who are terrified about picking up the phone and having to have a conversation with a real person, the good news is that, in this instance, you can plan OOH ad campaigns to your heart’s content from the comfort of your computer.

4. Looking for a specific audience? OOH’s got your back.

Just as AdQuick’s platform makes the OOH ad planning and buying process a lot easier, they also come with a number of bells and whistles that you may have thought are unique to digital ads alone. Like targeting, for example. When planning an OOH ad campaign, you can get really granular with who you want to reach as well as when and where you want to reach them.

After you’ve input all of your requirements, you’ll get a list of OOH ad units that can achieve your audience targeting goals—along with pricing, precise geo-local coordinates, contextual images, and a lot more to help you make ad buying decisions with greater confidence. And better yet, if you want to create alignment with your digital ad campaigns, you can import audience targeting parameters from those campaigns to create OOH lookalike audiences.  

Aside from being a more efficient and data-driven way to plan and buy OOH ad units, it has basically eliminated the need to do local market “scouting” because all of the information you’d ever need for following through on an OOH ad buy will be accessible to you in the platform.

5. Yes, you can measure performance and attribution

This is what usually blows people’s minds when they learn that out-of-home advertising today is not what it used to be in the past. For starters, when you book OOH ads in AdQuick’s platform, you’ll be able to measure performance in real-time and, for digital OOH ad units, optimize creative and messaging on the fly to increase the chance of those ads performing even better.

Taking that one step further, we’ve cracked the code on measuring (offline-to-online) attribution, so you can get a better sense of how OOH media impressions convert into actions—whether that leads to a store visit, a QR code scan, a coupon code redemption, or an online purchase after having seen an OOH ad. This alone has been a game changer for the out-of-home advertising industry by bringing the sophistication and accuracy of digital ad attribution to a once purely analog medium. And because OOH ads still offer brands the biggest bang for their buck, there’s no question why interest in out-of-home has surged recently.

OOH advertising is now a modernized channel

The moral of the story here is pretty simple: If you’ve focused almost all of your attention on online advertising over the past few years, you likely missed the memo about how out-of-home advertising has evolved from the inside out. Even more, the ability to leverage a single platform for planning, targeting, buying, deploying, optimizing, and measuring OOH ads puts the channel on par with the programmatic digital advertising world you already know well.

We’d like to think that out-of-home advertising is having a renaissance. But the truth is, it’s merely taking digital advertising best practices to transform a once analog and somewhat inflexible channel into a bonafide performance marketing powerhouse. All of this is to say that even if you’ve never run OOH ad campaigns before, you shouldn’t be afraid; you can now basically take everything you know about digital advertising and replicate it in the OOH space.

Most importantly, it’s important to remember that we don’t live 100% of our lives tethered to digital screens. So as a parting thought, think of out-of-home advertising as a way to fill a communications gap when people have set their devices aside and live in the real world. For this reason alone, it’s our belief that OOH ads will always have a leg up over digital ads.

Ready to run your first OOH ad campaign on AdQuick? Schedule a demo today to get started.