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Long before the advent of social media advertising, even before the days of traditional media, outdoor signage influenced consumer behavior. As advertising grew larger and more targeted, and consumers became numb to the constant influx of ads in news feeds, on the radio and television, reaching consumers has never been easier – but truly connecting has never been more challenging.

For decades, marketers and brands have leveraged out of home advertising in a variety of ways. Outdoor advertising is arguably the oldest form of advertising – signs, flags, and posters have informed and inspired consumers for more than a century! As technology and consumerism has evolved, new opportunities for outdoor advertising have completely changed the marketing game.

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) marketing provides the visibility and accessibility of large-scale outdoor advertising while offering marketers the targeting and moving messages of social media and online advertising. In practice, DOOH screens are much like the traditional billboard signage of yesteryear but in essence, they’re so much more.

In 2018, DOOH advertising reached $8.2 billion in advertising spend – a global growth of 4.3% – while traditional categories like radio and print saw declines (Magna Global). In fact, the fourth quarter 2018 recorded the strongest advertising in growth in 18 years (+12%), with out-of-home advertising seeing its best quarter in more than a decade, with ad sales up by 8.5%.

As smart cities become more commonplace, DOOH opportunities for brands are growing faster than you can say “key messages”. While there’s no doubt that DOOH signage brings an air of sophistication and vibrancy to OOH advertising, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Beneath the screen surface, DOOH offers endless opportunities to engage with and even influence consumer behavior through the use of technology.

Influencing Consumers Through Timed Messages

DOOH advertising provides brands with the unique opportunity to better understand consumer behavior and, thus, create campaigns that influence them. Consider screen advertising within subway networks.

When the train arrives at Station 1A, commuters will shuffle to their next destinations: some have finished their journey and head to the exit, some will rush to Station 1B for their connection, while others make their way to Station 1C. By observing the time it takes, on average, for consumers to make it from Station 1A to Station 1B or Station 1C, marketers can create continuous messages across multiple screens – timed perfectly to appear as commuters arrive at their next platform – thus creating a storytelling opportunity outdoor advertising previously hasn’t had.

The possibilities are endless.

On weekday mornings, ads for coffee and breakfast sandwich combos can greet commuters and continue to sell the deal between platforms but by Thursday afternoon, those very screens can be advertising happy hour drink specials or a beer brand. By leveraging consumer data, you can tweak messages relatively quickly and cost-effectively, a stark contrast to the time and financial cost of changing your billboard.

One of the cardinal rules of advertising, The Seven Times Rule, tells us that consumers must see an ad seven times before they even notice it. With changing and timed DOOH screens, you can hit that number in a fraction of the time it would take with traditional billboards and begin influencing behaviour sooner for a much higher return on your marketing investment.

Getting Consumers Involved

The advantages of DOOH signage go well beyond the ability to use movement and brighter colors in your ads. You can include touchscreens, wireless connectivity, or other technologies that enable and encourage consumers to interact, making your screen something more than just another advertisement for Brand X. From QR codes to touchscreen games, DOOH can attract and engage consumers while also capturing important data which can then be used to better target and measure consumer behavior.

At bus stops, train stations, airport lounges, and other places where people wait, QR codes can encourage consumers to use their smartphones. Interaction with advertising on screens can bring additional access to consumers, such as special offers on goods and services. While commuters in the past may have stood impatiently and awaited their next bus, today’s consumers can interact with the surrounding signage – providing both access to brands and a way to stay entertained on a busy platform.

The use of cameras and other technology can help marketers capture data on the demographic makeup of the areas, understand what messages resonate or attract consumers, and generally provide insight into the audiences DOOH screens are reaching. For example, an ad for Women’s Aid UK #lookatme campaign was equipped with a camera to change based on the number of people who looked at the ad – slowly making the bruises and injuries disappear as more consumers looked at the screen.

Changing Behavior through App Capabilities

Let’s go back to those ads for coffee and breakfast sandwich combos and now let’s imagine the brand is Starbucks. The Starbucks DOOH screens highlight the use of the Starbucks app for quick and convenient ordering and payment. Scanning a QR code on-screen brings you to your mobile app store, where you can download the free app and create a profile. Easy, right? You hop on your next train and add money to the app for future use.

There’s a simple – though not easy – rule of thumb when it comes to effective marketing messages: hitting the right consumer, at the right time, in the right place. With most advertising media, you’re hoping for the best, but with DOOH, you can make it happen.

Now, picture this: It’s your day off and you’re out running errands. It’s been a long week. You receive a notification on your mobile phone, pushed directly to you from your Starbucks app. It’s letting you know there’s a Starbucks nearby based on a GPS location tag, and, better yet, they have their Happy Hour special on this afternoon for registered Starbucks Card users. You can even order your drink via mobile and simply use Mobile Pickup upon arrival. Although it wasn’t part of your plan for the day, you order a latte and swing through to grab it on your way past their shop to your next errand.

By connecting with you at the right place, at the right time, Starbucks’ leverage of DOOH via their mobile application has successfully changed your behavior. It’s easy to walk past a sign but the interaction at the mobile device level captures the consumer’s attention and energy in a new way.

What’s next?

As technology evolves and interactive DOOH screens become more common, the opportunities for engaging consumers will be endless. By leveraging these technologies and mining consumer data to understand behaviors, marketers will be able to further influence consumer behavior and encourage higher DOOH advertising spends.