A Comprehensive Guide to Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) Advertising in 2024

Back to Blog - by Otniel Calderon

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising represents a powerful way for brands to reach their audiences at the most impactful moments in their day. Last year, U.S. ad spend in this channel climbed to an impressive $2.87 billion, and eMarketer expects DOOH to see continued double-digit spend growth through at least 2027.

DOOH advertising enables brands to find on-the-go consumers across digital out-of-home media from billboards, to salons and gyms, to taxis and gas stations, and everywhere in between. It represents a viable opportunity to increase a brand’s awareness and visibility—provided you understand and can navigate the landscape.

Let’s dig into the nuances of DOOH, including how it compares to traditional out-of-home (OOH) advertising, as well as its many manifestations, benefits, and best practices.

What Is DOOH Advertising?

DOOH advertising involves the use of digital displays to present ads in various public spaces. The channel encompasses a variety of digital formats, including digital billboards, transit displays, and screens in high-traffic areas like malls, doctor’s offices, or office buildings.

The transition from traditional Out-of-Home to DOOH represents a significant shift in the advertising world. While traditional OOH has been predominantly static, offering a one-size-fits-all approach, DOOH introduces a dynamic element to outdoor advertising. This evolution signifies not just a change in the medium but also a transformation in approach, enabling brands to engage more interactively and effectively with their target audiences.

The rise of DOOH—and its continued rapid growth—is closely tied to advances in digital technology and data analytics. With recent technological strides, DOOH has become an increasingly popular choice for advertisers seeking to make a more significant impact in the public sphere. The flexibility and dynamic nature of DOOH allow for real-time content updates, audience targeting, and engagement tracking—aspects that have historically been nearly impossible with traditional static billboards.

What are the Differences Between OOH vs. DOOH Advertising

Let’s dive deeper into the differences between traditional OOH advertising and DOOH advertising.

Static vs. Dynamic Content

OOH advertising has typically been characterized by its static nature, through which billboards, posters, and other non-digital formats present the same message to all audiences. In contrast, DOOH advertising offers dynamic content that can change based on various triggers, such as time of day, weather conditions, and audience demographics. This dynamic content is not only more engaging but also allows for greater flexibility and targeting in advertising campaigns.

Imagine a billboard in a busy city center: A traditional OOH billboard might display a fixed advertisement for a new smartphone, visible to all passersby but not necessarily relevant to each individual. In contrast, a DOOH billboard in the same location could rotate through different ads throughout the day, perhaps showing a coffee advertisement in the morning rush hour, a lunch deal around noon, and a movie trailer in the evening. This flexibility allows the DOOH billboard to stay relevant and engaging for diverse sets audiences throughout the day.

Targeting Capabilities

Another key distinction between traditional OOH and DOOH advertising lies in their targeting capabilities. Traditional OOH advertising offers limited targeting options, with ads being placed in locations where they’re likely to be seen by a large number of people. In other words, it’s a mass-market play, casting a wide net with the hope of reaching a relevant subset of the audience.

In contrast, DOOH advertising leverages digital technology and data analytics to offer targeted and personalized advertising experiences. DOOH platforms can use real-time data, audience demographics, and even individual viewer behaviors to display ads that are specifically tailored to the audience present at any given moment. This level of targeting means that DOOH ads can be much more relevant, engaging, and effective in reaching the intended consumer group.

Measurement and Analytics

Another critical aspect that distinguishes OOH and DOOH advertising is the capability for measurement and analytics. Traditional OOH advertising, such as billboards, bus stop posters, and other static formats, primarily relies on estimated metrics for measurement. The typical approach includes calculating potential impressions based on the location’s traffic or footfall. However, these estimates do not offer deep insights into audience engagement or interaction with the ad.

In contrast, DOOH advertising can offer more advanced measurement and analytics capabilities. Using its digital backbone technology, DOOH platforms can track actual engagement metrics, such as the number of viewers, dwell time, and even audience demographics, all in a privacy-safe way. This data-driven approach allows advertisers to understand not only how many people might have seen the ad but also how they interacted with it.

Types of DOOH Advertising

One of the most exciting—albeit, complex—parts of DOOH advertising is the vast array of formats and placements that are available to support a campaign. Here’s a snapshot of some of the most popular:

Digital Billboards

Digital billboards are perhaps the most recognizable form of DOOH advertising. Positioned in high-traffic areas such as highways, city centers, and busy streets, these billboards offer high visibility and the flexibility to rotate through multiple advertisements.

For example, on a busy city street, a digital billboard would be capable of displaying a rotating series of ads from an advertiser. In the morning, a nearby restaurant could show a breakfast special at a nearby café. By midday, it could switch to advertising a lunch offer. In the evening, it might switch to promote that evening’s dinner special and cocktail pairing. This ability to change content ensures that the advertiser’s use of the billboard remains relevant and engaging throughout the day.

Transit Advertising

Transit digital screens are in the heart of high-traffic metropolitan areas where other forms of out-of-home coverage might be limited or unavailable, such as bus shelters, train stations, and at street level. These displays provide an excellent opportunity to reach commuters and travelers with time-sensitive and location-specific information.

For example, inside a subway car, digital screens can display a mix of news updates, weather forecasts, and ads. An advertiser—such as a food or grocery delivery app—could choose to rotate its ads to reflect the destinations at a given stop. As the train approaches different stations, the ads can change to highlight local businesses near each stop that are available within the app. This targeted approach ensures that the content is relevant to the passengers’ current location and potential destination, while reminding passengers riding past multiple stops just how varied the app’s roster of participating businesses is.

Street Furniture

Street furniture in DOOH includes digital displays integrated into electric car charging networks, bus shelters, benches, kiosks, and other street-level structures. These displays often provide a dual function of offering useful information, such as maps and weather updates, alongside ads.

For example, a digital screen on a bus shelter might rotate through ads while also displaying real-time bus arrival information. The ads can be contextually relevant, featuring local restaurants, upcoming events, and special offers from nearby stores.

For example, a fashion brand might leverage the location awareness of the display by highlighting its nearby store and providing directions (“just two blocks west on Broadway!”). Alternatively, they could implement a QR code within the ad creative that drives users to an exclusive discount code. This unique creative allows the fashion brand to see how effectively their ad drives users to the store. By providing both valuable information and targeted advertisements, the display becomes a useful and engaging fixture for advertisers and bus riders alike.

Digital Screens in High-Traffic Destinations

Indoor spaces like malls, airports, and office buildings offer unique opportunities for DOOH advertising through digital screens and interactive kiosks. These displays can engage viewers with immersive and interactive content, often tailored to their immediate surroundings and needs.

For example, in a shopping mall, interactive digital kiosks might serve as way-finders, helping shoppers navigate the mall. These kiosks can also display ads for in-mall promotions, store deals, and upcoming mall events. As shoppers interact with the kiosk, the displayed ads can adjust to match their expressed interests, providing a more personalized advertising experience.

Other high-traffic destinations that lend themselves to DOOH advertising include:

  • Convenience stores
  • Wellness kiosks in retail locations
  • Taxis and rideshares
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Hotels
  • Gas stations
  • Liquor stores
  • Office buildings
  • Airports

4 Benefits of DOOH Advertising

One of the reasons that DOOH is on the upswing in advertising circles right now is because the benefits of DOOH advertising for brands have been well-demonstrated. Consider the following:

Here are four of the key advantages of incorporating DOOH advertising into a brand’s broader media mix:

1. Dynamic and Interactive Content

One of the most significant advantages of DOOH advertising is its ability to deliver dynamic and interactive content. This feature not only captures the attention of audiences more effectively but also allows for creative and engaging advertisements that can interact with viewers in real-time. The capabilities of these ads will only grow over time.

For example, consider a digital billboard equipped with a camera and facial recognition technology. While staying within the bounds of privacy-first practices, this billboard could analyze the demographics of the crowd and display ads tailored to the age, gender, or mood of the audience. For instance, if the billboard detects a group of young adults nearby, it might display an ad for a new video game or a local concert happening that weekend.

2. Targeted and Contextually Relevant Messaging

DOOH advertising excels in delivering targeted and contextually relevant messaging. By tapping into data analytics and audience insights, DOOH campaigns can tailor their content to the specific audience present at a given time and location, ensuring that the ads are relevant and resonant.

For example, a digital screen in a fitness center might display ads for health and wellness products during peak gym hours, targeting fitness enthusiasts. During off-peak hours, the screen could switch to displaying ads for relaxation and recovery products, catering to a different segment of gym-goers who prefer quieter hours for their workouts.

3. Real-Time Updates and Flexibility

The ability to update content in real-time is another key advantage of DOOH advertising. This flexibility allows advertisers to respond swiftly to changes in the environment or consumer behavior, making their campaigns more timely and relevant.

For example, digital billboards can react to current weather conditions. On a hot, sunny day, a local pharmacy chain might display ads for sunblock, sunglasses, or local beach events. If it starts to rain, the store could quickly switch to promoting umbrellas, indoor activities, or rain gear. This real-time adaptability ensures that the brand’s content stays relevant and responsive to the immediate needs and interests of the audience.

4. Improved Measurement and Analytics

DOOH also offers advanced capabilities in measurement and analytics. Unlike traditional OOH advertising, which often relies on estimated impressions, DOOH can provide more accurate and detailed data on audience engagement and ad performance.

For example, a digital transit ad equipped with sensors can track the number of people passing by and the amount of time they spend looking at the ad. This data allows advertisers to gauge the ad’s visibility and audience engagement levels, offering valuable insights for future campaign optimizations.

How to Craft Successful DOOH Advertising Campaigns

Creating effective DOOH campaigns requires a strategic blend of creativity, data insights, and an understanding of the medium’s capabilities. Here are the key steps to include in your process:

Define Your Objectives

Begin by clearly defining what you want to achieve with your DOOH campaign’s objective. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, promoting a new product, driving foot traffic, or boosting online engagement, having a clear objective will guide your strategy and execution.

Understand Your Audience

Identify and understand your target audience. This includes their demographics, behaviors, interests, and the best times and places to reach them.

Choose the Right Locations

Select the most appropriate locations for your DOOH displays based on where your target audience is most likely to see them. Consider high-traffic areas, transit hubs, shopping malls, and other locations where your audience is frequently found.

Develop Creative Content

Design engaging and eye-catching content tailored to DOOH presentations. This could include dynamic visuals, interactive elements, or personalized messages based on the time of day or location.

Leverage Technology for Targeting

Use the advanced targeting capabilities of DOOH. This may involve displaying different content at different times of the day or using real-time data triggers (like weather conditions or social media trends).

Incorporate a Call to Action

Include a clear call to action (CTA) in your ads. This could be a prompt to visit a website, scan a QR code, visit a store, or participate in a social media campaign.

Measure and Analyze Performance

Use the measurement and analytics tools available with DOOH to track the performance of your campaign. This could include metrics such as viewer engagement, foot traffic, conversion rates, and overall reach.

Refine and Adjust

Based on the performance data, refine and adjust your campaign as needed. This could involve changing the content, adjusting the display times, or targeting different locations to improve the effectiveness of the campaign.

Integrate with Other Channels

For maximum impact, integrate your DOOH campaign with other marketing channels. This could include display campaigns, social media, or television commercials to create a cohesive and multi-dimensional marketing approach.

In following the above process, be sure to keep these best practices for DOOH in mind:

  • Use Dynamic Content: Keeping your DOOH content fresh and dynamic to maintain audience interest. Regularly updating the ad content to reflect current events, promotions, or time-sensitive information can keep the ad relevant and engaging.
  • Employ Targeted Advertising: Leverage data to target specific audience segments to ensure that the ads are seen by the most relevant viewers. Tailor the content based on demographics, location, and consumer behavior.
  • Leverage Analytics for Optimization: Continuously analyze the performance of DOOH ads and use the insights gained to optimize future campaigns.

DOOH advertising represents a versatile and powerful way for brands to engage with audiences in the physical world. Its dynamic, targeted, and measurable nature makes it an essential component of a modern marketer’s toolkit. With its ability to deliver impactful and interactive content, DOOH offers a unique opportunity to capture audience attention and create memorable brand experiences.

For brands and agencies looking to navigate the complexities and opportunities of DOOH advertising, partnering with experts in the field is key. At Digilant, we provide advertisers with the insights and support needed to leverage the full potential of DOOH advertising. Let’s talk about what Digilant can do for you.

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