Reconsidering Location for On-the-Go Consumers

1251574583750200236Emergency-exit-sign.svg.medJeremy Ozen is a guest author. To contribute a guest post to Street Fight, contact us here.

A few months ago, I watched my friend Michael Finnegan from Xaxis tell a room full of digital marketers that “out-of-home” is not a marketing channel, but instead, a behavior. Obviously, as someone who runs a business centered on digital out-of-home advertising, that gave me something to think about — and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

So why did Finn’s statement grab everyone’s attention, and particularly mine? Maybe because it states a fact that is simply true but never so eloquently expressed. Until the mobile era emerged, out-of-home advertising was a channel — the only way to reach consumers not reading a newspaper, watching TV, or listening to the radio. But with the mobile era in full swing, we carry a device that can broadcast these messages wherever we are, including (and especially!) outside of our homes and offices. In fact, in many instances, mobile can be considered an out-of-home medium.

As marketers, we are interested in reaching consumers on the go, close to the point of purchase: this is their behavior.  To achieve this marketing goal, both digital out-of-home and mobile should be considered as important, and closely linked. Thus, only by thinking in terms of behavior, as Finn suggests, can we create a location-based strategy specifically intended to target on-the-go consumers.

On-The-Go Marketing 101
One of the first things you learn about in a marketing class is the purchase funnel. Consumers start at the top — awareness — and move down toward conversion. In terms of a location-based strategy, digital out-of-home and mobile should complement each other perfectly, moving from top of the funnel to the bottom, seamlessly.

With the simple act of leaving the home (or office), the consumer is coming into contact with digital out-of-home advertising. Historically, there has been minimal interaction possible — the brand must be relevant to the consumer’s context (in a taxi, on an elevator, at the gym), and provide a message memorable enough that it will stick with the viewer wherever he goes next. But if someone then sees a related ad on his mobile device, there is the implicit potential for action: click for more information, or to buy, or to subscribe. The brand has gone to the consumer and asked him what’s next. These are lower-funnel tactics with lower-funnel engagement metrics.

Behavior Means Data
One of the things that I think Finn drew his hypothesis from is the enormous potential we have for data to drive out-of-home advertising. A simple digital screen on a subway platform itself cannot exhibit a behavior — but it can observe and respond to human behavior, provided the right behavioral data is collected along the way. Technologies already exist that make it feasible to buy and display audience-relevant content on out-of-home screens, and should be employed more widely. With a behavior-centric approach, it’s possible to use data to target a specific audience. But with a mere channel-centric approach all these powerful insights would be negated.

Being Responsive
By calling on us to start considering out-of-home a behavior, Finn was asking us to use our technology to be behavior-responsive. To let consumers drive content, not the other way around. Out-of-home works because it is exactly what its name implies. That’s a powerful advantage. But with great power comes great responsibility, as we all learned from Spiderman (and Voltaire), and in order to capitalize on this advantage, we need to re-think our approach.  It’s not the channel that drives the ads; it’s the consumers.  And once we start regarding out-of-home as a behavior (specifically, of consumers on-the-go), the way Finn recommended, instead of just a set of location-specific screens, our success is almost guaranteed.

SONY DIGITAL CAMERAAs co-founder and president of Vistar Media, Jeremy Ozen is responsible for strategy, business development, marketing, and key strategic accounts. Ozen was previously at Goldman Sachs European Special Situations Group in London monitoring a portfolio of venture investments. He has a BAS in Materials Science Engineering and a BSE in Finance from University of Pennsylvania.