Where Hyperlocal Meets Digital-Out-Of-Home

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Rob Gorrie is a guest author. If you’d like to submit a guest post, click here.

The digital out-of-home advertising sector — all those networked screens you see on top of gas pump tops and in elevators, 7-11s, waiting rooms and the back seats of taxis — couldn’t be happier about the rise in popularity of location apps and daily deal coupons.

Finally the hyperlocal targeting that is a part of what these networks of screens can do has some consumer-driven energy and contextual relevance behind it.

There are now millions of screens, big and small, installed in venues across the country, and in much of the developed world. All of them are defined by subject or audience verticals, and all are chasing ad buys that boil down to numbers of eyeballs and the cost-per-thousand to reach them.

These kinds of networks have been around for more than a decade, and the software platforms driving them have grown very sophisticated in their ability to target advertising down to individual screens at individual sites, and schedule and serve ads based on highly local data like the weather, point-of-sale activity or even sensors on the screens or in the environments.

Every screen in every venue is profiled with meta-data that defines everything about the location, proximity, audience characteristics … whatever is available. Then media planners and trafficking people can slice and dice that data as much as they need, easily targeting and pulling the trigger on a campaign for, say, a new high-octane energy drink — where media only gets delivered to locations where the product is sold, only in predominantly Hispanic areas, and only indexing high on 18-30 male and to certain income thresholds.

Finally the hyperlocal targeting that is a part of what these networks of screens can do has some consumer-driven energy and contextual relevance behind it.

But there’s been a problem: while agencies and brands have already made digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising worth billions, hyper-targeting is only used sporadically when campaigns are executed. Most of the money getting invested into these screen networks – the big buyers are financial, telecommunications and auto – is for national run-of-site efforts that don’t get much more granular than cherry-picking DMAs or general audience characteristics.

Different screen mediums are now converging
The emergence of new mediums that are also all about hyperlocal and consumer engagement will change that. We are seeing a diverse set of very different digital screen mediums starting to converge.

Mobile marketing, tablet marketing, location-based services, social media and DOOH advertising are all angling to reach, engage and influence consumers when they are away from their homes and active in their day-to-day travels. All of those mediums are more effective when they are working together; none of them can operate well in isolation.

Location-based services and smartphone apps need awareness and consumer encouragement. Social daily deal services need buyers — lots of buyers. DOOH networks want and need their screens to be sticky; focal points the moment people walk into a venue. And that sticky need for people to look at screens habitually comes with contextually and personally relevant, valuable content … like great deals in the immediate vicinity or coupons for a local pharmacy as you leave the doctor’s office.

These technology-driven mediums work when the content on all the different kinds of screens – from laptop browsers, tablets and smartphones to flat panels in public spaces and big LED billboards – are part of integrated media campaigns, working toward common, measurable objectives. They link one running consumer conversation across mediums and locales, the dialogue tied to increasing consumer value and the bottom line.

Big screens drive awareness
The big screens — the ones that are place-based and just there, and not needing to be dug out and turned on – are the vehicles to drive the awareness and the activation of mobile engagement apps and group couponing services. They are screens big enough to get noticed, and they’re running programming that’s relevant to the surroundings. They’re also dynamic, meaning things like location-based check-ins can be flagged and celebrated on a screen, in that venue. And they can promote offers specific to a location in ways not possible through more traditional mediums.

Moderated social streams can be pushed onto DOOH screens in venues where mobile coupons are redeemed, to show the tweets of happy customers who jumped on the offer. Tweeters get their name in lights. Back-office integration means screens can show dynamically how much money has been saved through redemption at that location or overall – which can drive more usage.

The big screens … are the vehicles to drive the awareness and the activation of mobile engagement apps and group couponing services.

Pulling in customers drives awareness and loyalty, and the usage of location-based services. Those screens, venue by venue, can show check-in numbers and trigger more activity. When there is activity and interactivity with one screen, it drives activity with another screen.

Think about the impact of a mobile phone carrier that launches a new shopper-focused, location-based app that will live or die based on how many consumers opt-in and allow discounts and offers to be pushed to their handsets. Nothing will drive awareness and value of those promotions on a location-by-location basis more quickly than DOOH, because of the targeting and immediacy, and the overall reach.

The big research house Arbitron does an annual study of place-based video – another term for DOOH – and the 2010 numbers showed roughly 70 percent of Americans see place-based video screens each month, and more than half every week. The screens are now ubiquitous.

Convergence is already underway
Predictably, some of the early convergence is happening in two ways: big announcements with big players, and much quieter activity happening largely off the radar screen.

One of the largest network operators in the DOOH industry, San Francisco-based RMG Networks, announced a deal last month with Groupon – which will see the daily deals geo-targeted to some 75,000 screens in coffee shops, waiting rooms, health club and other RMG venues. The company also did a deal with a Near-Field Communications partner, Blue Bite Media, to activate instant deals, and has started working with Boston’s LocaModa to filter social streams and automatically post messages to venue screens.

Much more quietly, firms like Canadian start-up RT7 are putting daily deals screens in locations like the point of sale in hyperlocal stores. The company recently related in an industry blog how a two-week test on 200 screens drove sales of 16,000 daily deals-style coupons.

The biggest networks and established media companies are transitioning from static poster faces to digital screens and will give national breadth to these kinds of activities, but the opportunity will get truly interesting when this activity reaches networks right across the country, no matter the screen network operator. And no matter the technology or service platform.

Companies like Adcentricity have developed a platform that has assembled reams of targeting data of hyperlocal DOOH networks across North America. The company takes these networks – representing tens of 1,000s of venues and different verticals or regional focuses – and packages them into offers that interest national brands and media planners based on campaign objectives.

Adcentricity’s platforms allow agencies to efficiently buy audience and venue characteristics across a potentially diverse range of individual networks that share common attributes, making for powerful, highly relevant hyper-targeting. That matters for these networks because this harmonized, broadened offer gives operators access to national media dollars that would otherwise remain elusive.

It matters, as well, for the many technology companies that are working at a very targeted, hyperlocal level. Screens at a geo-targeted level can not only drive awareness of offers and apps, they can also be immediately relevant to that area and circumstance and adapted on the fly. When a daily deal, for example, is fully subscribed – the dynamic nature of DOOH means changing the offer can be fast and easy, and quite possibly automated.

The diverse apps and deals programs emerging in the marketplace have great potential partners and awareness vehicles in DOOH. If those types are not talking yet, they should be.

Also read: Billboards Get Into the Hyperlocal Game

Rob Gorrie is the President and C0-founder of ADCENTRICITY, a location-based ad network.