If you’re looking for creative advertising opportunities, you might find yourself looking out the window. And, in the process, you might be staring at your potential solution: outdoor advertising. It’s a conventional method of spreading the word and yet a heavy, modern reliance on digital advertising has made it a less obvious choice. However, the real world is on the rebound. And there are ways to combine the old with the new. Optimized, scalable business models, cross-channel capabilities with mobile, and other technological integrations all provide an edge that didn’t previously exist.
According to market analysis from Trends, billboards could be a $33B market by 2021, which would represent a 12 percent increase. For vendors in the medium, and for marketers who have felt burnt by disappointing Facebook ad spends, all of this renewed interest and investment is exciting. But is outdoor advertising as effective? That ability to move the needle will determine the future of outdoor options.
In an animated YouTube video, Do It Outdoors lays out some of the benefits that have emerged through these retoolings. Do It Outdoors describes itself as “a national nontraditional out-of-home media company that intersects physical and digital advertising using mobile billboards, field marketing and relevant digital engagements.”
In the past, the company has even taken marketing messages to the streets by affixing mini ad boards to groups of Segways. Their animated video suggests that location-based mobile display advertising can complement outdoor efforts and amplify results.
“Mobile ad impressions are delivered through mobile websites and apps and can be static banner displays, rich media or video,” the animation’s narrator states. “Pairing our mobile billboards with mobile ads amplifies reach and generates immediate consumer engagements. Click-through-rates typically increase by up to 56 percent and the message frequency boosts recall when a consumer is ready to make a purchase decision. Your targeted geofences can be wrapped around the mobile billboard route, specific audiences, events, markets, or key points of interest. This integration allows us to serve display ads to people within close proximity of our out-of-home media.”
The video cites market research indicating that 48 percent of consumers are more likely to click on a mobile ad after seeing the same ad in a physical, out-of-home space.
However, some billboard campaigns may be premised on false assumptions, such as the belief that it’s always easier to capture someone’s attention when they’re moving around or stuck in traffic. And even if you do receive their attention, it may be a less valuable kind of attention if they’re not in a good mood or not in a position to take a direct buying action. Digital touchpoints might inspire more immediate sign-ups, follows, and sales. Nevertheless, outdoor vendors are persisting.
Boxi is another company trying to redo the outdoors. Using its “patent pending truck wrapping system,” the company puts advertisements on delivery box trucks. The company views traffic congestion and density as an opportunity for higher brand exposure. The box trucks are 9 ft. high and 16-25 ft. long, allowing brands to display their messaging on a canvas that is considerably larger than a phone screen.
When I spoke with founder and CEO Neal Pecchenino, he told me that the idea for Boxi emerged through his own frustrations with digital advertising. Prior to Boxi, Pecchenino had a small consumer electronics company. Under the guidance of others, he directed his ad budget heavily toward digital — at one point, he was spending up to 30 grand a month — but that spend “never seemed to move the needle.” He tried everything, including influencer marketing.
“You never really know if people are seeing your brand,” he said. “But with a wrapped truck on the 405 or on the 101 in San Francisco or the New Jersey Turnpike or the Lincoln Tunnel, you know that people are seeing your trucks. There’s something nice about knowing for sure that people are seeing the vehicles.”
Digital advertising campaigns do reach some people. However, there are ongoing controversies over the ways that impressions are counted. According to widely accepted industry standards, a viewable impression occurs whenever at least 50 percent of the pixels in the advertisement appear within viewable space. These pixels must appear for a minimum of one second, post ad render. Needless to say, this is a low bar.
Additionally, online advertisers often find themselves at the mercy of algorithms, which don’t always target well. When those algorithms misinterpret signals of engagement, they may waste even more money by retargeting people who were never actually interested.
As marketers evaluate online versus offline options, they may find themselves comparing occasionally faulty hyper-targeting methods with a lack of hyper-targeting. After all, people within a particular geographic area may have some overlapping needs, but drivers are unlikely to adhere to the same buyer persona simply because they’re stuck in the same traffic jam.
I asked Neal Pecchenino about these comparisons and the potential limitations on outdoor targeting. He said that Boxi’s advertising option does lend itself to consumer products seeking general brand awareness and citywide campaigns. However, he added, “Boxi is priced so aggressively that you can try things and see if it works and put direct calls-to-action on very specific products and still have success.”
On a longer term campaign, the price per truck breaks down to about $50 a day. Clients can put promo codes on the vehicles to track conversions. When asked for specific figures regarding these conversion rates, Boxi’s publicist said that the company is still young and wants to have more concrete numbers before speaking publicly on that topic.
“It’s not as simple as slapping an ad on a truck and calling it a day,” said Pecchenino. “We have a whole tech side of the business where we track everything and a dashboard where our clients can log-in and, 24 hours a day, see exactly where the vehicles are, where they’ve been, critical campaign metrics including mileage and estimated impression counts and [other data].”
Outdoor advertising options extend well beyond billboards and circulating box trucks.
Another company, StickerYou, offers a unique online sticker maker platform, which can be leveraged for flashy, creative, real-world branding.
Vivian Choi, StickerYou’s Director of Design, told me that stickers, labels, decals, and temporary tattoos are another part of the growing experiential marketing industry and outdoor advertising in general.
“Much of outdoor advertising is intended to be temporary,” she said. Choi explained that vinyl stickers and decals don’t leave behind residue like paper stickers and decals do. They offer a way to brand or enhance a space without permanently altering it.
She added, “Stickers and temporary tattoos also make excellent swag to give away. They are cost-effective, have a ‘wow’ factor to them, and by their very nature are shareable. People pass stickers to friends, or put them on laptops, cellphones, or slap them on surfaces in public spaces. Which means that one branded sticker given away as swag could be seen by hundreds of people outside of the original event.”