Erotic prose aside, what Internet hyperbolists fail to mention is that out-of-home advertising (billboards and the like) has been the second-fastest growing ad medium of the past decade. Outdoor slumped slightly in 2009, like everything else, but in the 11 years prior its share of U.S. ad budgets rose 242%, and prognosticators suggest outdoor will accelerate again with the expansion of new digital boards, LCD point-of-sale displays, and improved ad metrics that supposedly give marketers a read on the audience demographics likely to have made eye contact with a display. The Traffic Audit Bureau is rolling out an “Eyes On” system that uses video monitoring of passers-by eyeballs, 50,000 surveys of consumer travel habits, and a pinch of statistical magic to make outdoor ratings real.
Or so we hear. Outdoor still has significant challenges. Digital board units, which are rotated on electronic billboards every 8 to 10 seconds, are often priced at par with normal billboards — a rather interesting math stretch since drivers zipping past at 60 miles per hour are likely to miss 3 of the 6 units being rotated onto the new digital screens. Point-of-sale displays have a wonderful potential to provide customized offers to consumers as they near the checkout, most vulnerable to impulse buying, yet marketers have failed to find a way to provide any true personalization (imagine, if you will, a scanner that recognizes your grocery cart contains ingredients for beef stroganoff and so offers you the perfect matching red wine on sale as you roll up to the register). The inability to measure any direct response to outdoor messages makes marketers awash in Google Analytics gun-shy about throwing big dollars into a silent hole. And outdoor execution, which can be brilliant (see the OAAA Creative Resource Center for inspiration), is often abysmally produced by local auto dealers or hospitals whose cluttersome eyesores give the entire segment a bad name.
Marketers evaluating outdoor need more than fancy impression estimates: It’s a function of whether the media use fits your target demo, whether the modality of consumer interest makes low-cost frequent impressions an asset, and whether you can articulate your message in a few clear beats. For product categories where consumers rarely think about you until they suddenly need to — home insurance, automobiles, health care specialities — a low hum on the horizon helps intercept the untargetable. Soon, you can measure the real eyeballs perking up, too.
Via Scott Brunjes.