What Accounts for Performance Marketers' Reluctant Embrace of Out-of-Home Advertising?

The oldest medium's shift to digital metrics has gone unnoticed—until now

Performance marketers have heretofore been reluctant to explore the waters of out-of-home advertising, and with good reason: By and large, the industry was slow to adapt to the digital landscape. A global pandemic that forced most of the world inside didn’t help much, either; after all, nobody wants to buy a billboard that nobody is going to see. But pandemic aside, a marketing world increasingly dominated by performance had little room for the traditional OOH business, seen largely as strong in branding, reach and awareness but lacking in traditional performance tactics.

Performance marketers: It might be time to give the medium another look. This ain’t Don Draper’s market anymore.

As the industry has now very successfully transformed into a digital medium, digital out-of-home media now powers brands from the top of the marketing funnel right through to delivering targeted audiences, generating consideration and actions like walking into stores and making purchases on web sites. We’ve got a full-funnel medium on our hands.

In fact, when compared to other performance media, DOOH delivers full-funnel impact without the ills we see so common online. DOOH demonstrates premium, brand-safe environments, without ad skipping and no bot fraud, plus a myriad of attribution metrics for brand campaigns showcasing product movement. And now, programmatic trading has become the demonstrated superpower of DOOH.

First coming to light during the pandemic, campaigns were moved from where people weren’t to where they were—with simplicity, and without long negotiations, contracts and human involvement. And further, in this growing media world of cookie deprecation, we see OOH in general leveling way up in comparison to other media as context is becoming stunningly important.

Certainly, over the past decade, digital marketing channels like paid social and paid search have become the most popular way to advertise, but a recent OneScreen.ai survey of over 600 marketing professionals tells a worrisome story. While 98% of marketers said they invest in digital marketing, 67% of respondents have reached a point of diminishing returns. In other words, as marketers are scaling up spend on digital and social marketing, results are actually declining.

You don’t need to be a performance marketer to dislike those numbers.

The result, according to OneScreen.ai, is that performance marketers are terrified right now. And if they’re not, they should be. The current state of the industry is not unlike marketing circa 2008 when we were all scrambling to learn SEO and social media.

Beyond the pixel

According to Sam Mallikarjunan, co-founder and CEO of OneScreen.ai, “To be a modern performance marketer today, you have to think beyond pixels and clicks, or at least think about what pixels and clicks may look like if reimagined in a different medium—take the real world, for example. Think of spots on a map like websites and people that visit those spots as inbound links. If you want to reach people who work at hospitals in Pittsburgh, you could just buy as much ‘reach’ as possible and pray, or you could buy spots on the billboards those people actually drive past, the EV charging stations they use to charge their vehicles and screens in the elevators they ride as they start their shifts.”

As marketers, we’ve got to become more comfortable with less accurate measurement. We’ve spent so long measuring the smithereens out of every single thing we do that we’ve somehow overcorrected. We are one of the few professions in which there are entire industries whose sole purpose is to prevent us from doing our jobs (e.g., ad blockers, TiVo). OOH is the biggest unblockable ad channel on the planet.

However, measurement of the space is advancing—between currency, ad effectiveness, cross-platform and knowing who is in front of the screen (AVA – Anonymous Video Analytics now lets brands know what type of person is in front of a screen without disclosing any PII)—all for the benefit of advertisers investing in the medium.

“When it comes to measurement of the audiences reached and the resulting business outcomes delivered, DOOH is now on par with other digital channels like online, mobile, social,” said Ari Buchalter, CEO of Place Exchange. “That includes everything from audience-level reach and frequency to upper-funnel branding metrics like awareness and affinity, to lower-funnel performance metrics like conversions, sales and ROI. Moreover, the granularity of data available for DOOH now allows for the application of advanced techniques like multi-touch attribution and incrementality measurement.”

DOOH on the rise

The SEO and social media of 2022 is digital out-of-home advertising. DOOH provides the flexibility and immediacy of digital ads with the relevance of the real world. All without any production costs. Our recent Omnichannel Decision Makers study among brands and agencies conducted by Advertiser Perceptions showed the top reasons for activating DOOH campaigns were in fact creative and scheduling flexibility.

And the use of DOOH is on the rise—the same DPAA study showed that 66% of brands and agencies activated a DOOH campaign in the past 18 months and 81% planned to recommend DOOH in the next 12 months.

The pandemic has been challenging for many industries, including advertising and DOOH. Like the economy, advertising is coming back and digital out of home is making a big comeback. As people are coming out, traveling, attending events and brands are looking to engage with consumers in a real-world environment and context, digital out of home is the smart bet for many brands.