Season 1 | Episode 4

Next Gen Out-of-Home (OOH) Media Buying

Out-of-home (OOH) media is one of the most ubiquitous and oldest forms of traditional advertising found in this country. The American Billboard has been around since the 1830s, yet still today, it’s considered an easy way to reach a broad audience. 

In Episode 4 of Paid Media Coffee, we discuss the present state of OOH and how it’s impacted by today’s digital media buying. 

Kelly Mancuso is joined by Director of Emerging Opportunities Rashidi Barnett and Paid Media team members Oliver Brantley and Nick Toomey to discuss digital opportunities within OOH.

Kelly: Welcome to Paid Media Coffee. I'm Kelly Mancuso. And today we are continuing on the conversation of the convergence of traditional and digital media focusing in on out-of-home Advertising. I'm excited to introduce today's guests. First, we have Nick Toomey, a paid media associate at Nebo. 

Nick:  Excited to be here. Thank you. 

Kelly: We also have Rashidi Barnett the director of emerging opportunities at Nebo. 

Rashidi: Hello, hello.

Kelly: And Oliver Brantley a paid media strategist at Nebo. 

Oliver: Thanks! Glad to be back. 

Kelly: All right. As I mentioned we're talking about out of home today, and we're going to discuss how ad tech has really taken this channel into the digital age.

Just to start high level, there are basically two categories of out of home. You've got traditional and digital. But now we also have this subcategory of programmatic out-of-home that's emerged over the last few years. Can the three of you help us understand what programmatic buying capabilities have really done for out-of-home advertising?

Oliver: I mean traditionally you're picking a spot that you think your target audience might be driving or walking by, and just hoping that their eyeballs hit and they call the number or visit the website. But programmatic out of home has brought real-time bidding to traditionally very static advertising medium. 

Kelly: Literally static.

Oliver: And so what we get is, dynamic pricing and responsive campaign optimizations. 

Nick: Traditionally, you bought a placement for weeks at a time, at least a month is what I think the minimums are. With digital out of home, you can buy placements on a digital billboard, right? And you can swap out the creative. 

Rashidi: Just to add to that, it's also self-serve. So, instead of having to go through the Reps from the individual market places in platforms, you are going online directly yourself just as we buy media on Facebook, Google, and cross other ad exchanges - able to just go directly as we are used to purchasing and buying media able to do that just directly within the platforms.

It's really interesting. 

Kelly: Mmm. I think it's really cool. There was actually a study that I read by Zenith and it said that out of home is the only quote-unquote traditional medium that’s seen a rise in ad revenue over the past 20 years. So, I think you know in my opinion that's probably solely due to the rise of digital ad tech and programmatic capabilities than out of home.

Oliver: There is a study from IAB, but Americans are spending 70% of their time outside of their home, which is a 50 percent increase over the last 20 years. 

Kelly: It's easy just to think about out of home as billboards. At least that's where my mind goes, but we have to also think about all the other screens that are everywhere in our life. And so being able to show ads and serve ads on those screens that are digital screens opens up a ton of new inventory for buyers as well. 

Rashidi: Right. We don't see it as much here in Atlanta. But in other more, I guess more pedestrian cities, you have digital taxis you have seats that are also digital. So it's really interesting not just to see how these large massive billboards and screens but to see it in these are other places that are moving like a taxicab. 

Oliver: To add to the programmatic argument, those are a lot more addressable for individual users. So, a billboard in traffic on the downtown connector in Atlanta is reaching, let's say a thousand people but a single screen in the back of a taxi or an Uber can be immediately personalized for that person, right?

Kelly: I think it might be reaching a little bit more than a thousand people. 

Just giving you a hard time. 

Rashidi: Per 15 minutes.

Kelly: Yeah, right. Yeah. I mean you've got elevators. I've seen screens at airport and on public transit.

Kelly: Videos, right there, here everywhere.

Obviously there are challenges that come with any new emerging ad tech. So what are we dealing with when it comes to out of home? 

Oliver: First, you're relying on screens that exist in a fixed location. Aside from taxis that might be moving, that screen is still fixed in one place.

So it's not moving with the user. And so it relies on somebody to be in that physical location. 

Nick: Oliver and I had a client not too long ago. We were working on digital billboards and we kept trying to figure out how many impressions are we actually going to get? And a problem that we kept running into, is that these are not guaranteed Impressions.

It's estimated Impressions and we can't really see in this location X amount of people saw it. It's a guess. In that location X amount of people could potentially see it and that was running us into problems, especially measuring it against other digital efforts that we were doing.

PMC Episode 4

Rashidi: I feel like to complicate that even further it is. Yes, the ad was served on the particular screen. I feel it further complicates it with digital, for instance, on our mobile devices. We were matching device IDs and cookies and we could probably make a better assumption that the person actually saw it. That it was actually viewable.

But with Billboards and out of home, it's really hard. Something that's a major challenge is the measurement aspect of it. I think within the digital online digital media space, we sort of painted ourselves into a corner in regards to measurement. We're trying to apply almost those same things to digital out of home, but I think maybe some traditional marketers will help us realize that we don't always have to be tied to those things.

I think it's still a little bit early for us to tell how this is going to go. But I think it's our opportunity now to sort of not always have to be right on every single thing. I think it's just a matter of us measuring and looking at other metrics at the same time. I think some platforms are also looking at that as well, which could be interesting.

Kelly: You bring up a good point we talked about this in the last episode. We were talking about the video advertising landscape where digital advertisers are trying to apply those digital measurement tactics that we have with search, or display, or social and apply those to these traditional mediums now that we can buy them digitally, and it just doesn't make sense.

So we need to kind of teach ourselves what to look at and how to measure the impact.

Rashidi Right! There's a company called Hivestack and they're combining some of what I would say are traditional digital marketing tools to create a general marketers toolkit. You're able to take digital out of home billboard and ad but then they’re overlaying device IDs at the same time. So being able to combine that to determine, okay this person saw but we also served them an ad on their mobile device and we can also see that they went in store as well.  Some of that attribution I think can get really interesting by combining some of that data that we have used to be walled off. 

Oliver: I think Mobile location data is really what's changing this and you know enabling any sort of attribution.

Rashidi: Right. 

Nick: I mean, that's the main point of programmatic out-of-home, right? That's the only way they can do what they say they can do is based off of location targeting. They can see that if someone is around a billboard, they can retarget them with a display ad on their phone on the laptop and things like that.

But again going back to attribution. They have no idea whether it's, oh someone was standing in front of that billboard or that screen seeing it, or they were just in that location. So, it's a start for sure. We're definitely getting better at being able to attribute what people are seeing on a billboard to purchasing something in a store and things like that. But it's still not necessarily a one-to-one. 

Oliver: Until facial recognition technology gets to a point where it can measure eyeballs on screens. Yeah, we're not going to have a hundred percent visibility into that. 

Kelly: I think there is ad tech out there that is using the direction data. So, you know what direction is the traffic going. And so they're able to use that to kind of correlate impressions.

But again, it's all probabilistic.

Rashidi: Right. 

Kelly: There's also a challenge with exclusivity with digital out of home. With a traditional billboard or traditional out-of-home space, you secure that inventory and that's 100% yours, but with digital, there is a 24/7 airtime. You know, you're rotating your ad space with other advertisers so you're sharing it and you know, even if you know that you were running at a certain time of the day, that doesn't mean that everyone that passed during that time saw your ad because maybe when they passed, one of the other six advertisers were showing. 

Oliver: And I think that has a tremendous impact on creative development as well, but we'll get into that later. 

Kelly: Hmm hundred percent. And then another thing that can be a little bit confusing for advertisers is just terminology in general. A lot of the digital out of home Inventory can also be referred to as connected TV or those connected screens that we talked about earlier and obviously that can be confused with OTT in terms of connected TV. So there are blurred lines there and being clear about what you're seeking when you're talking to a provider is going to be really important so you don't accidentally buy the wrong thing. 

Oliver: Just something that is maybe not necessarily a challenge but something that's different and could be you know impacted, is that you know in the past billboards are fairly easy to buy just one of so if you look at you know a single location Home Improvement store in a rural area or something they were able to buy a billboard close to their location pointing out there building. But now I mean that mom-and-pop Home Improvement store isn't going to programmatically buy out of home Inventory. So just kind of changes how people are advertising, you know in general not just large big-budget marketers, but you know all marketers. 

Kelly: Yeah, that's a really good point. We talked about it on the first or second episode about how the digital out of home is opening up opportunities for advertisers to secure large spots say in Times Square that would have never been able to do that because you know say there's a Broadway show and they want to sell the remainder of tickets. They can buy. You know an hour's worth of time on a Times Square billboard to sell those remaining tickets and in the past that wasn't a possibility if you only had a finite media budget.

Rashidi: Right and I guess in that instance, too, if you are a marketer and trying to figure out how to get the right message from the right person at the right time, like in New York in Times Square selling tickets, you probably aren't going to want to do that. You're not going to do that purchasing on digital media, hoping someone is on their mobile device at that time right? That is the perfect use case for when you want to use digital out of home. 

Kelly: Hmm. So, what are some other things that we need to consider when we're determining what kind of out of home outlet to use?

Rashidi: I think we talked a little bit about this earlier, but I think there are some ways in which you can create different messaging around where you are. So, depending on if you're downtown, if you're walking, if you're driving, if you're in the backseat of a car. So what Oliver mentioned earlier, I think those are sort of the things that you will need to be mindful of one like planning and actually creating a messaging strategy. I think that can be really interesting. And also just how much space that you actually have on a digital billboard. So being mindful of the space that you have is going to make an impact.

I know we probably have all seen this but there's just too many words on the billboard. You're thinking, wait. What are you trying to communicate here?

Kelly: Benefits? Who is that billboard even for? There's some text in the bottom, but I don't - can't quite make it out.

Rashidi: Right so I think it's also the opportunity to optimize as well. Once you actually see a live ad, are you able to say okay, let's switch the call to action based upon whichever key metrics you're looking to drive, maybe in-store traffic. Are you not seeing that sort of lift in traffic?

So it's optimizing the messaging. That can be different if you're inside of a mall purchasing that inventory or if you're just, you know, driving by a ballpark and there's an ad out there for something specific. 

Oliver: I think Rashidi brings up a really good point. One of the most important things to me is the call to action that we're using, right?

So one problem I've always had with Billboards is that they put a very complicated phone number on a billboard as I'm driving by at 65 miles an hour. In Georgia, you are forbidden from keeping your phone in your hand, but I just can't type that fast and I don't have the short-term memory that allows me to, just remember these phone numbers off the top of my head.

So I think considering that people in malls have their phone on them. They're probably already glued to it. People on public transit are already staring at their phone. So, you can be a little bit more generous with the call to action you're using. But people driving by, you know, you need something very simple that will stick to their mind and maybe they're driving past the same billboard every day and it finally gets ingrained.

But I think using something simple and giving people an easy call to action in that situation is really important. 

Nick: Oliver and Rashidi are bringing up great points. I think what's awesome about programmatic out of home and in digital out of home is that you have the ability for your creative to be dynamic.

So you can, depending on the weather or depending on the location, or depending on if it's on a billboard, or in a mall, you can target those audiences with a specific ad which is fantastic. I saw one ad out in Russia. I read an article on it that when it got to negative four degrees Celsius that they showed an ad for the movie with Dwayne The Rock Johnson and it was just all of that the actor standing there with snow behind them saying "Summers coming.”

So it was very simple but to me, that was a way that they used the weather and used what they had to advertise their brand. Same thing as what Oliver saying with the call to action and what your creative is doing. Thinking about how users are interacting with your ad is very important.

Are they on the road? Do they have two seconds as they're driving by just to see a logo and what your brand name is? And even if you put a website up there, are they going to remember that website? Just thinking through all of those things is really important and again programmatic out-of-home gave us the opportunity and the outlet to be really creative and strategic with it.

Also keeping in mind that you can make this into a holistic campaign. It's not just programmatic out of home. And even using that once they interact with a display ad, now you can hit him with search, and with social. So just kind of melding it in completely with a holistic strategy I think this is a really good outlet to use programmatic out of home.

Rashidi: Because you can almost layer that along with like Waze for instance. People are going in one direction. You know that you had Billboards along that route, so do you target people that are going to a specific location?

Then you can maybe geofence or geotarget that particular location that people are going to. It all depends. If you are the Atlanta Hawks or Atlanta United if you know that people are going down to the stadium, do you buy ad inventory along that particular route? And then do you geofence that particular route as well?

Or you could just be Coca-Cola or it can be some other brand that's trying to reach that same target. But how do you not look at this in a silo but look at it in combination with other different types of media that's on your media plan to figure out what is the best strategy?

How do you combine all these different platforms together to make your message resonate more clearly with the users?

Kelly: What about pricing? How does it differ and how are advertisers paying for programmatic and digital out of home? 

Rashidi: I think it's so early, but I think Oliver mentioned a point. Can you clarify? All the inventory right now. Yes, it's real-time bidding. But I think there's much nuance there, right? 

Oliver: When we talk about programmatic display, it's second to second real-time bidding for each individual impression. Programmatic out of home is not like that at all. It's near real-time bidding and generally and so this is from Clear Channel. Clear Channel's real-time bidding is happening within 60 seconds of availability.

Rashidi: Okay. 

Oliver: Most programmatic out of home Inventory is programmatic guaranteed, where you reserve inventory and then purchase it. It's sort of in near real-time.

Nick: One thing right now that people like Clear Channel and Lamar are seeing is that the supply is still higher than the demand currently. That's something where you know for us marketers we need to capitalize off of because the price is going to be never better than right now but going forward is something to note that the supply is finite. It's not a search campaign or display campaign on your computer where it can go anywhere. There's so many options and so many places to put it right now.

There's only a certain amount of digital billboards out there certain amount of screens to leverage. So that's something that partners right now throwing out there and having marketers think ahead on. Also that partners right now are currently trying to move to a CPM base because they know that's how marketers like to buy digitally, right?

Kelly: Okay. So to me one of the most exciting things about digital out of home isn't just that it's a channel through which to serve ads but there's also an experiential aspect that can be leveraged with out of home now. So to wrap it up, I'd love to hear from all of you about the coolest things that you think are happening with digital out of home today and how brands are leveraging it.

Oliver: Yes. So I found one case study from IAB that was about an iconic artist's exhibit in New York City, so it's obviously a client anonymized. But it was out of home ads at an unspecified New York City Transit Hub. And a QR code on the ads allowed users to access an artist-curated playlist for their commute.  So the artists created a playlist on a streaming service that people were allowed to listen to or we're able to access by just scanning the QR code. And so to me that was really interesting because it was essentially a win-win for all three parties. So the publisher is getting revenue. The advertiser gets engagement, and they actually ended up driving record attendance to the exhibit. And then the riders get an experience that actually adds value for them. And so, you know overall I think transit is the biggest area of opportunity. To see people create ads that aren't just a personal injury lawyer putting his number up on the board. But actually providing value for the riders during their commute is really interesting because, in a transit ride, we're pretty much all on our phones and listening to music and already consuming media. Adding value to that consumption I think is really cool. 

Kelly: That's a really great way to connect your online audio strategy with a digital out of home. 

Rashidi: Right. I think the interesting thing is what I alluded to earlier. How do you combine all these tactics and mediums together and that's, Oliver, what you mentioned that one thing that's really interesting. My favorite one is still the Kylie Jenner, Kylie skin campaign. I think that showed the capabilities of the platform. Essentially they took it from basically a seedling in from a Friday and having it launched that very next week. And before that would have taken them weeks upon weeks to sort of negotiate that. So I think that really opens up our eyes for us as digital marketers to say, "Okay, how can we be really creative if we start to combine some of these things?" 

Does digital out of home sit with a paid media team? Does it sit with a traditional agency? And how he began to sort of combine all those things? Because you really can make something really interesting and impactful if you start combining all the mediums together. 

Oliver: I think that's a really good point. A lot of times we look at media as the ends rather than the means to the end that they actually are, and I think what it really comes down to is the concept.  You need something creative that's not only shown on digital out of home, but goes across media and you know actually provides value for people and doesn't just promote one thing in one location. 

Nick: Right. 

And that's what I think to me is the best way that brands are going to be able to leverage digital out of home. Is that creative aspect of it. Because you can - you can change out your creative instantly. If you decide that this creative isn't working based on tests and results like that, you can switch out your digital billboards across the nation. 

Oliver: That you don't have to print a vinyl fifty-foot sign two weeks in advance... 

Nick: And then schedule the people putting it up; all that stuff. You don't have to worry about it. And then like Oliver saying, you can use that creative across multiple platforms, right? You can make it a holistic strategy, I'm just thinking for Popeyes, for example, the whole Popeyes / Chick-fil-A debacle that happened a couple weeks ago was super interesting on Twitter. But Popeye's on a Sunday between you know, 12 to 4 p.m. Can put out digital billboards around Chick-fil-A locations saying come get a Popeye's chicken sandwich.

Rashidi: Right, right Chick-fil-A’s closed.

Nick: They're closed, finish driving by Chick-fil-A, and then they see a Popeye's ad instead. That's gonna immediately grab them during lunchtime to want to go to Popeye's. So I just think that aspect is really awesome in terms of how brands are able to leverage that. Or you know, like Rashidi was saying, after a sporting event as people are driving home and you know that everyone is in this location, you can hit people with certain apps. Whatever that might be. 

Rashidi: Just to add onto that to the Popeye's idea, because that's really cool, is they were also running out of chicken sandwiches, right? So, they could have used exclusivity to drive additional traffic into their stores or additional hype by even saying, "Hey, this particular location has sandwiches."  

Or even if this location is out, directing people to the next one. That could have been really interesting to sort of combine all those things using real-time data and information that they had. It would have to go from the restaurant, out to the agency of the media team that really could have been interesting just to sort of like amplify that. I know they were getting a lot anyway just from like organic. But that could have been really interesting. To increase brand awareness around that. 

Oliver: Just add on to that, I mean this is probably a five-year concept, but theoretically you could add an inventory count down that shows how many sandwiches they have remaining. 

Kelly: Well that also ties into some of the things that brands are doing in terms of in-store experiences. So if you are in a grocery store, and there is only so much inventory left that needs to be moved of a certain product, they could do an in-store display to try and to move that so that's one of the ways and from a retail perspective, I know that some brands are using digital out of home, to shift the imagery. They're using facial recognition software to change the image that's being displayed based on who comes in their store. So it helps align and tailor that creative a little bit more to the user. It's really cool. 

Rashidi: Adomni is also doing something similar with they were recognizing dog breeds. So being able to serve up something really quick based on the dog breed that they might have just seen or is walking by. It's an increased relevancy. I think that's really interesting. 

Oliver: I think there's you know, you kind of mention it Kelly, but leveraging facial technology and then you know looking even further leveraging things like VR and AR and you know, augmenting the image that you're seeing so, you know in a retail potentially trying things on without actually having to try anything on using in-store signage. 

Kelly: Super cool! There's also an aspect of social integration that some brands are taking advantage of so like at concerts having Instagram feeds going on out-of-home billboard signage. People can come and interact with and then start following and then that also adds a layer of measurability because you're able to see how many new followers or how many engagements that you're getting on the Instagram post online. 

Rashidi: I think what's interesting also sort of like along those same lines is that digital out of home, well I guess out of home in general, is almost the last remaining medium where every person doesn't have their own individual ad experience. So, if you're on Facebook or Google or across the web, essentially me Rashidi, I'm seeing a very specific type of as based upon my demographic psychographic whatever information they did that they have. But this is almost the last space where you are having this collective experience. 

Kelly: Yeah.

Rashidi: How can Brands actually take advantage of people seeing one thing at the same time all at once and having this experience around that? What can you get consumers to do based upon - that's almost like a captive audience that you have? You still have this in Primetime TV with big sports events, but, you know within the next five or ten years a lot of that's going to change. So, I feel like digital out of home is going to be one of those things. Unless we're all walking around wearing lenses in our eyes where we are seeing our own billboard at the same time. We actually probably will get there, I bet in about 50 years. Still, it's really interesting to think about, how do you you have a captive audience experiencing something all at the same time? How do you use that to amplify your brand message? 

Kelly: So true. I'm really excited about what's to come in the out of home space. 

Oliver: We've come a long way from fast food billboards on 75 South 

Kelly: Diamond Jewelers. 

Oliver: Yeah, weird truck stop things.

Kelly: Alright. Well, awesome. Thank you all for joining us today.  I really enjoyed this conversation. 

Oliver: Yeah, me too. This was fun; thanks for having us. 

Rashidi: Let's do it again. 

Kelly: All right. Well, our next episode is going to be about the audio advertising landscape. 

Please tune in and if you have any questions or comments, feedback, any recommendations on what you'd like to hear us talk about in future episodes, please email us at, and don't forget to rate, like, review, subscribe to the podcast and we will talk to you next time. 

Thanks so much.


Posted by Paid Media Coffee on November 8, 2019


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