Technology has changed every aspect of our lives, from how and when we choose to get our entertainment to how we buy products. The power of media influence has shifted from media providers to the media consumer, who can now personalize their experiences through the technology in their hands. In the advertising industry, everything is changing. One-size-fits-all messaging simply doesn't work anymore.
Digital outdoor advertisers are an integral part of these industry changes. Consumers expect a media experience and a connection to products that are individualized. No mass media allows advertisers to provide that experience as effectively as digital outdoor. Savvy companies recognize that partnering with digital media in new and creative ways can only increase consumer loyalty and their bottom lines. To be truly effective, advertisers must be pushed by DOOH operators to maximize the tremendous capabilities of the digital medium in order to see dramatic results.
Sure, there are plenty of static billboards out there that will remain the backbone of the out-of-home industry for years to come. But as technology becomes more and more prevalent, is that the way to reach new generations of consumers and to dramatically increase advertising share for out of home companies? Simply put, no, it's not.
In his April 2015 article for Forbes.com, Daniel Newman discusses the impact that the increasingly influential millennial generation (those born between the early 1980s and the early 21st century) is having on the type of advertising that drives sales and brand loyalty. This generation of "digital natives" has never known a world without access to multiple types of technology. They distrust traditional advertising and put more credibility in word-of-mouth experiences, even if that comes through a digital community.
This generation has considerable buying power that is increasing every year, and in order for advertisers to become their favored brands they need to expand their use of digital billboards as part of an overall brand experience. Standing out in a visually crowded field of advertising and brands is not just important, it's vital. Millennials like to share content that is memorable, inventive and edgy. It's not enough to be unforgettable; brands need to become integrated, interactive and viral to thrive. Timeliness and a focus on participation are especially important. The idea is to create a collective experience that can be shared by those who are drawn to a particular brand or campaign (think of Budweiser's "Up For Whatever" campaign). This group of consumers wants to see themselves as part of the brand experience.
Data supports the effectiveness of digital billboard advertising. In its 2015 study on digital billboards, Nielsen reported that 75 percent of travelers stated that they noticed a digital billboard ad within the prior month and 60 percent noticed one in the prior week. Of the travelers who noticed a digital billboard in the prior month, 55 percent felt highly engaged with the ad message. Advertising recall on digital boards is very high, ranging between 74 percent and 89 percent among respondents. Digital billboard ads were judged to stand out better than online ads by 71 percent of the study respondents, which rated almost equivalent to that of television.
In order to produce advertising that exploits the unique nature of digital billboards, advertisers and their agencies need to be educated by all of us, operators and manufacturers alike, on those capabilities. We need to challenge them to focus their efforts on campaigns that encompass dynamic and conditional content that can be integrated across multiple digital platforms, like social media and mobile phone apps.
Work with your billboard manufacturer to understand the content management system. Find advertisers who are already engaged in digital campaigns and show them how digital billboards can integrate with, and expand upon, what they are already doing. If their marketing departments or agencies are unfamiliar with ad production for digital, help them understand its dynamic differences from static surfaces — use best practice examples and encourage them to think outside the box.
For those who use digital advertising effectively, there are rewards. My experience, and that of our customers, demonstrates that the more effectively content is tailored to individual products, brands and campaigns, the more likely clients are to renew their contracts for digital billboard space. Dynamic and conditional content require a game plan for an advertising campaign, but with solid execution you get happy repeat customers and they get more return on their advertising investment.
Friskney is vice president of sales for the Outdoor Advertising Division of Danville, Ill.-based Watchfire Signs, which has been manufacturing outdoor electric signs since 1932.