It’s certainly an interesting time for OOH — some may even call it a renaissance. Thanks to advances in technology, the industry is seeing its biggest growth since the early 90’s Internet boom. Train stations are now WiFi enabled. Digital screens display relevant content based on traffic and weather. NFC technology allows a bus shelter to become a point of purchase. OOH has come a long way and the world is embracing it. Brands that would normally think twice about investing ad dollars into OOH are now considered top spenders. Silicon Valley has realized the potential behind the medium and has jumped on board. Rideshare brands, e-commerce brands and money management brands have all thrown their hats into the OOH race. Who better than to realize the true potential of a technology-fueled renaissance but the tech brands themselves? Interesting twist.

At its core, OOH is still the oldest medium in existence. Simply, it’s powerful public messaging. Early man was smart enough to know that people spend most of their time out and about and so connecting with them outside of their home was an important piece of the communication puzzle. But it would be impossible to discuss the oldest medium in existence without mentioning the driving force behind its advancement; mobile.

On a global level, TV has fluctuated over the years. Radio is on a decline. Digital has seen its fair share of issues with ad blockers and such. Yet OOH has continued to grow over the last 5 years because it remains a medium with both scale and hyper-local attributes. Unlike digital, radio or even TV, you can’t turn OOH off. You can’t fast forward a billboard or change the channel on a mall kiosk. It’s an unavoidable medium that has helped attract many advertisers over the years. Its inherent out-of-home nature has made it an obvious partner to the mobile world. OOH’s ability to act as a purchase point, a vending machine, a social feed or even a secondary TV screen has created a direct line of interaction with mobile and thereby has furthered the consumer experience. Through geofencing and retargeting capabilities, mobile and OOH can now act together and create an immersive experience for the consumer, providing them with the ability to carry out-of-home messaging to their next destination.

The mobile relationship is more than just the ability to engage with campaigns. Mobile is now an effective data source for OOH; it provides the industry with information about potential customers that were previously unattainable. The ability to analyze mobile devices via GPS technology provides advertisers the opportunity to monitor the customer journey and plan accordingly. Shop at a certain store multiple times a month? Go to the same gas station on your way to work? Through GPS technology and mobile data, OOH learns those habits and serves dynamic and relevant content to the right audience at the right time. Seems like Tom Cruise and the brains behind Minority Report were onto something 12 years ago. Their vision of contextually relevant advertising is quickly become a reality and we have the mobile device to thank.

Naturally, digital OOH is most capable of fully embracing the concept of dynamic and informed creative. The ability to change creative at the click of a button based on the relevant audience within close proximity of the medium, is truly the future of out-of-home. We’re already seeing this taking place abroad in countries like China, Australia and England. These countries are investing large budgets into the development of digital OOH and as the price of the inventory decreases and universality increases, we’ll see digital OOH quickly become the dominant medium. Digital OOH will be easier to deploy and regulate, and as smart phone penetration increases, and data becomes more finite, advertisers will see digital OOH as the optimal choice for investment.

As I alluded to earlier, it’s no secret that the tech giants are keeping a close eye on OOH. Silicon Valley is not only using OOH as the basis of their marketing initiatives but several brands are the brains behind much of the innovation the industry has seen over the years. One such brand is Google, who has been a huge proponent in the battle to create connected cities as seen through the efforts of the LINK NYC project. Seeing brands playing important roles on both sides of the industry is a very promising and exciting notion.

With the rise of digital, NFC and other mobile technologies, OOH growth and usage will continue to reap benefits. Mankind’s oldest medium is quickly becoming the shiny new toy everyone wants to play with.

This renaissance is far from over.
It’s just getting started.

Ahmad Sayar
VP, Strategy & Innovation

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