Using Programmatic DOOH to Reach the Right Audience

By Leslie Lee

How many times per iPhone update have you accidentally discovered a new feature you didn't know existed? I recently learned of the ability to shuffle through a batch of images sent via an iMessage thread, like the way you would shuffle through a deck of cards. I could immediately see the way in which the feature is intended to save me time and energy and make the experience itself more enjoyable.

But there are other versions of this scenario wherein a new technological feature exists, but because we haven't taken the time to learn about it, we toil over an old way of doing things and miss out on positive benefits.

It's a silly example, but I think about watching my mom and dad navigate their computers. They just don't really know about all of the keyboard shortcuts that are commonplace for many people, so every time they want to save or print a document or cut and paste some text, they are manually navigating to the toolbar menu instead of a quick keystroke. They don't know that capability exists, so they keep doing things the old way and wonder why others can move so much faster than them.

In marketing, that gap between technological abilities and user knowledge is where competitive advantage can be found or lost. And in the realm of digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising, that gap is fairly large.

If you ask an average person what they think of when it comes to out-of-home (OOH) advertising, they are likely to talk about the billboards on their local expressway or maybe the face and phone number on the back of a sidewalk bench. These are static images designed in hopes of catching the eye of commuters and influencing them to remember the brand, or maybe to call a phone number or visiting a nearby store. This has been the standard of OOH forever, static messages focused on awareness, all the way back to shop owners posting signs outside their front doors or painting on the walls of Pompei.

And it's true — that type of OOH works! But limiting your knowledge to that use is the same as missing out on the benefits of decades worth of Apple updates.

Growth in Programmatic DOOH and the Value of Context

OOH is having a renaissance thanks to today's technology. OOH advertising revenue increased 11 percent in the third quarter of 2022 compared to 2021, accounting for $1.94 billion, according to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA). Clearly, the medium remains a strong choice when working to reach consumers.

We're all familiar with massive, high-res digital displays in high-traffic environments like professional sports stadiums or Times Square in New York City. But DOOH is increasingly showing up in more varied locations like malls, suburban bus stops or EV charging stations near your grocery store or town's city hall. These screens can immediately provide relevant information that help push consumers closer to taking action at a specific moment in time.

We're also seeing marketers embrace a more data-driven approach to advertising across this medium. For example, in a qualitative survey conducted by Advertiser Perceptions and Vistar Media, a SVP executive creative director said the quick integration of real-time data for dynamic creative is one of the top benefits of DOOH: "I think [dynamic creative] is a huge advantage to someone like me being creative, because your message doesn't have to be just that one thing; it could be responsive to weather, it could be responsive to a score of a game, it could be whatever it may be that we can tap into, feeding data into it. It's compelling for somebody like me as I start to think about ad campaigns and executing in different ways."

Let's say a creative brief asks an agency to raise awareness of "Fast Food Brand A" in several metro areas. A media buyer might target digital inventory in those DMAs, TV, and radio; those are the basics. But the campaign might need a "final push" to make audiences aware of specific promotions during unique windows of time, say during lunch hour, and tailored to each franchisee's location.

How could you do that in such a way that has immediate and relevant impact, and directly supports the digital, TV and radio buys? If your only knowledge of OOH is long-term static placements, the channel probably wouldn't come to mind for this campaign. But the capabilities that exist today allow for highly specified, time-based, nuanced activations like this.

Programmatic DOOH is amplified by contextual relevance and dynamic messaging such as weather updates, real-time news like stock prices or betting lines, social media feeds, distance to the nearest store and much more.

If you're a big box retailer like Target running an in-store holiday sale, you could easily display the distance from the specific DOOH screen to the nearest physical store. If you're a broadcaster and want people to tune in to a live sporting event, you could run a countdown throughout major cities as a reminder of how and when to watch. Messaging that is true to the very moment a consumer is viewing the display can serve as a powerful push to move them across the finish line.

Like my iPhone, my effectiveness in using the device is limited most by my lack of knowledge of what it can do. DOOH is no different. The latest software update has already arrived; will you take full advantage of it?

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Leslie Lee is SVP of marketing at Vistar Media, overseeing global marketing and customer education. Leslie is currently on the advisory board of We.DOOH, and is an advisor to Eulerity (an early-stage startup focused on digital advertising for local businesses). Leslie has a B.A. from Harvard University.