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Digital Just Got BIGGER – OOH!

October 8th, 2014

Not since the advent of the television ad in 1941 has the potential for new ad formats been so great. The emergence of digital platforms is enabling marketers to experiment with a number of new ad formats, each of which could revolutionize marketing as we know it. Throughout 2014 we have been highlighting the most effective techniques being broadly adopted.


Part VI: Digital Billboard

The billboard (also known as a hoarding outside of the United States) is one of the most iconic advertising forms.  Designed in the early eighteen hundreds to notify the public of upcoming circus performances, its use as an awareness builder for events is still going strong.  Few advertising forms today communicate “NOW” as impressively as a well-executed billboard.


When placed along commuter routes, the built-in frequency from billboards can gently nudge a brand up the awareness continuum, helping a relatively unknown brand vault to the top of a consumer’s evoked set.  And when placed near a retail area, the recency to the shopping event can cue the consumer for a desired purchase decision.


However the short, static nature of billboards has often led to them being pigeonholed into tactical uses within the media plan.  This is similar to the early days of online display advertising when the channel saw little use for strategic messaging such as brand differentiation, new product/feature information, superiority claims and advocacy content.  It wasn’t until the “richer” motion-based display experiences were introduced that the incidence of strategic uses broke double digits and started to approach those of other media such as television.


We see the same trend playing out for digital billboards.  Like static display ads, digital billboards were first promoted for their low cost, speed of deployment, and media planning flexibility.  By eliminating physical printing, start-up costs are minimized and initial designs and subsequent changes to creative can be made more quickly.  And since the cost structure is managed on an impression basis (as opposed to an installation basis) exposure rates can be manipulated across multiple digital billboards to better optimize frequency and reach ratios.  But from a creative standpoint, this type of digital billboard still presents a static viewer experience and therefore the same content density as its traditional counterpart.

Example Digital Billboard with Rotating Static Exposures


But brands are now starting to experiment with the dynamic and interactive capabilities of digital billboards.  This new generation holds much promise for elevating the medium into the realm of strategic campaigns.  The following case studies showcase some of the best examples of brands using digital billboards in strategic ways.


New Product Feature: Coca-Cola ‘Share-a-Coke’ Australia Launch


Brand Differentiation: Forever 21 Times Square


Superiority Claim: British Airways


Of course digital billboards will still be used for the time-honored tradition of event notification.  Only now they will be shows in themselves!


Event Notification: Cirque du Soleil McNamara Airport



Please contact your MSW●ARS representative to learn more about techniques for evaluating the performance of out-of-home advertising.

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