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Is Data the Future of OOH Advertising?


Out-of-home experts from Ogilvy UK, Posterscope, dentsu international and Media.Monks tell LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the future of real-time data activation

Is Data the Future of OOH Advertising?

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is most commonly associated with billboards, posters and pop-up installations that are located strategically to target members of the general public. However, with rapid technological advancements, data has been used to increase both the creative reach and targeting of these ads, so that the consumer pays more attention. 

Over the years, innovation has been at the forefront of OOH - and now DOOH (digital-out-of-home) - campaigns, such as Tesco and BBH using sunrise and sunset to directly affect their Ramadan billboards; Cadbury and VCCP putting a human on a billboard in its ‘Just Ask An Aussie’ campaign; even Asda and Posterscope directing people towards petrol stations with low fuel prices. Driven by data, these targeted campaigns have been impactful - but in this first-party data reality, we want to know what could be next.

LBB’s Nisna Mahtani asked experts how creativity in the space has evolved as well as how issues around privacy have forced brands and agencies to become ever-more inventive. OOH experts from Ogilvy UK, Posterscope, dentsu international and Media.Monks told us what they think.

Here’s what they had to say.

Johnny Watters & Angus George

Executive creative directors - Ogilvy UK

Great OOH has always been unmissable, and data is just one more tool in the arsenal. And it’s not even that new! Cast your eyes back to the early noughties and TV Licensing’s famously threatening OOH campaign, featuring lines like, ‘There are six homes in Barras Ave NE24 without a TV License’. Utterly unmissable; but for the right reasons? 

Today, DOOH gives us more freedom than ever. But we’re walking a tightrope. It’s about striking that precarious balance between what Google used to call ‘the creepy line’ of revealing just how much we actually know about people, and the utter irrelevance of high-level data: ‘Hello [Glasgow]. It’s [17:07] on [Wednesday] and it’s [raining]. Please buy our product.’ Ugh. As with all things, it’s about the value exchange. What are people getting out of it? Using data for the sake of it doesn’t help anyone. Especially not the brand. But when the data reveals something about ourselves, there’s a power to that. 

From Spotify reminding us how important music is to our lives by revealing the funny, relatable stories of people’s listening habits, to Gorillas proving their scale by revealing what different London boroughs buy in relation to one another. Those revelations only get more powerful as we begin to push the bounds of technology and creativity. We’re transforming OOH from a passive medium to an active one, allowing us to create powerful and meaningful experiences that have a disproportionate impact, way beyond the value of the media space itself.  

Adam Cherry

Digital development director - Posterscope

Context and relevancy are everything, dynamic [DOOH] gives brands a palette of options to paint whatever story they want, on whichever screen they want, at any given time.
DOOH is a creative channel and always has been. Advances in dynamic technology platforms and signage software are contributing to its creative evolution, but it’s the explosion of data that is really driving creativity, in two key areas. Firstly, more brands are using multiple data sets to automate ads and copy, and secondly, more clients are supplying their own data in real-time which results in greater creative optimisation. And crucially, as clients and creative agencies do more dynamic campaigns, they are now considering it much earlier in the creative process, leading to stronger, more considered campaigns.
Since dynamic DOOH started circa 2010, we’ve witnessed more data protection from GDPR and the impending death of the cookie. But privacy hasn’t forced the channel to be more inventive, it’s always been inventive. OOH is a broadcast medium, so the use of personally identifiable information has a limited purpose. An OG example of digital, dynamic OOH is Pimm’s. It only ran on 10 screens as a test but got the industry thinking about how footfall (either too much or not enough) can be used to trigger different messaging and drive action, ie. entice people into a pub when the moment is right, or if the pub is full to direct people to another pub to enjoy Pimm’s.


In the future, more advertisers will be able to provide their own data in real-time, creating growth in contextual content using datasets we’ve yet to see! This includes campaigns such as Asda’s Petrol Price campaign, which only triggered the ad when Asda was the cheapest supermarket petrol in a given catchment AND displayed the petrol prices in the poster. A perfect use of how a brand’s own data can be used to create a campaign to work in the most effective way for them.


We’re seeing longer term commitments from brands, using a multitude of data points that allow lots of different messaging to play out depending on a variety of factors such as time, location, weather, day, travel times, stock availability, live prices, or proximity to competitors. Programmatic and dynamic OOH will also need to work in unison, with media bought in real time based upon client needs and then served as dynamic ads.

Ben Milne

Global head of out of home, media - dentsu international

One of the earliest ‘classic’ examples that stands out is Cortana. It goes back seven years, however, due to its dedication to being hyper-contextually relevant in each of the DOOH environments placed, it has aged well and is a strong example of unlocking the full advantages of DOOH.

Context is everything. The changes in privacy advancements are driving creative and media agencies to refocus on the actual context in order to understand audiences better and communicate with them in a manner which is not only relevant but also delivering an impact across all channels.

These privacy changes should be viewed as an opportunity, and inherently high-context media channels such as DOOH provide an ideal platform to capitalise on these. DOOH channels and screens have their own physical attributes and specific location-driven environments, which can be further enriched by the first-party data a client might already have for its core audiences. Additional contextual data such as weather conditions, train times, etc. provides further layers of opportunity for an unparalleled understanding of the broader context within which campaigns can be delivered.

Brands were initially very quick to embrace the newfound creative opportunities real time DOOH advertising presented. However, as the scaling up of the DOOH inventory has been happening across geographies and markets, the creative aspects in the channel have not kept up the pace and now provide an open goal, when coupled with strategic and contextual media placement to seize its full potential.

A renewed focus on context, driven by the eventual demise of the cookie and other privacy focused developments should present a breadth of new opportunities for brands in DOOH as well as making it simpler and faster to execute in the channel. 

The increasing sophistication of the screen platforms available on both the martech and ad tech side along with their improved interoperability means that in the future, brands will be able to activate against their first-party data quicker and more frequently. Embracing, this approach to DOOH will ensure the well understood effectiveness benefits of dynamic and contextually relevant media, and powerful creative activations, become the expected norm in DOOH - as it is for digital online, rather than just the exception when it comes to OOH.

Santander Cycles is also a great example in its use of technology and first-party data to demonstrate the utility of its subject within the DOOH context.

Tim Wood & Jakub Otrząsek

Executive creative director AUNZ and VP of data - Media.Monks

It’s been a decade since British Airways swept Cannes with its #LookUp dynamic digital OOH. If you didn’t see it, a little girl on the digital billboard pointed in the direction of actual planes flying near the site providing information on the destination of each. It was equal parts saccharine sweet and technologically brilliant. And while executions like these demonstrate the potential of digital OOH, marketers are yet to fully realise the breadth of its application, especially as it relates to using people’s personal data.

There is, of course, an underlying tension with the use of personal data in digital OOH. Data allows for personalisation and better targeting, while OOH is inherently about mass communication. Add in the restraints of a ‘first party world’ and things get even murkier. Even if you have a customer’s permission to target them, how do you ensure that other people who haven’t opted in don’t also see it? The short answer, you can’t. Even the strategy of optimising digital OOH for certain customers (while presumably excluding others) is questionable. Taken together, it means you’re very unlikely to see your personal data used in digital OOH anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make more engaging work. 

For example, Media.Monks recently built a proof of concept using census data applied spatially, which was combined with Google Maps API and Google My Business. The result? We could accurately identify how busy any particular area was at any given time, along with customer reviews that related to the businesses in that area. This sort of information could be a gold mine for advertisers wanting to target their ads to the right people at the right time. And experiments like this are only the beginning. The creative combination of discrete data sets to build compelling and valuable experiences is the way marketers need to think about leveraging digital OOH. Do that and you stand a much better chance of people talking about your work as they did about BA’s #LookUp. 

view more - Trends and Insight
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LBB Editorial, Thu, 18 Aug 2022 16:45:00 GMT