Beyond the Billboard: Trends in OOH Advertising

Beyond the Billboard: Trends in OOH Advertising

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As we drive along the highways and backroads this summer (or wander through Times Square or on the Las Vegas strip or sit in stadiums and concert venues), signage (OOH Advertising) is often hard to miss. Or, if the advertisers are using it properly, it should be impossible to miss!

From traditional billboards (which first appeared in the 1830s) to today’s 3D AR-assisted signage, mobile graphics, and personalized messaging, out-of-home (OOH) advertising is here to stay.

That’s a bit of an understatement. The OOH market is currently valued at $9B (up from $6B in 2020), with digital advertising comprising about half of it.

Tracking the effectiveness of OOH media didn’t begin until the 1970s and was measured primarily through brand awareness statistics. Digital billboards didn’t widely appear until 2005, changing the OOH landscape (literally).

Some key trends that we’re seeing as technology augments media are:

  • Call-to-action integration, which enables attribution and ROI analysis. During the pandemic, the QR code made a huge comeback, and consumers can scan and research or scan and buy when passing an OOH ad. Touch screens are also commonplace in many walk-by locations, and consumers have become accustomed to interacting with signage.
  • Programmatic OOH (or POOH, as it’s unfortunately called). That means ads can be targeted and swapped out based on the weather, time of day, product/service focus, or consumer type. British Airways ran a “Look Up” campaign tied to specific flights that soared over its digital billboard.
  • Every space is a space for advertising. From restroom signage to the skies (literally), marketers are finding new creative uses for every blank surface, including those that move. Mobile advertising has moved beyond Oscar Mayer’s 1936 Weinermobile, and mobile experiences have become more interactive and immersive (like Casper’s Nap Tour).
  • 3D graphics enable advertisers to reach beyond the billboard and entertain, amaze, and engage viewers. Their unique artistry makes them a terrific background for Instagram moments, extending their reach to people not physically at the location.
  • Chat GPT entered a signage war among fast food brands in Brazil. The novelty factor gave the campaign an extra boost.
  • Small screen meets big screen, as messaging can appear on our phones and at the locations we’re passing by. As geotargeting becomes more sophisticated, advertisers can take a page from Disney and start speaking to mass audiences and “targets of one.”

We expect more personalization, drama, immediate geotargeting, and highly-responsive performance analysis in the OOH space.

Although DOOH (digital out-of-home) is transforming the entire media landscape, we believe that “ink on paper” (and its sustainable equivalents) are timeless.

After all, sometimes the message and the location are as important (if not more important than the technology and wow factor) in some places and use cases. We must remember to look up from our phones and dashboards and absorb the stories around us.

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.