Out-of-home advertising (OOH) remains one of the most popular and effective marketing tools available — which is no small feat, given that the earliest recorded leasings of billboards in the U.S. were in 1867.
Today’s OOH advertisers are just as likely to book space on a billboard as a screen strategically hovering above the buttons in an elevator. From stories-high digital displays in Times Square to interactive bus stop ads, “OOH works because OOH as an industry has always embraced change — evolving, transforming and sometimes even disrupting, in order to stay relevant in today’s digital landscape,” according to the Out-of-Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
As an advertiser, it is a no-brainer to take advantage of an industry poised for double-digit growth with a track record of 5x ROI (more than digital display, print and radio). But when you have limited dollars to spend, you want to be sure your OOH placements are seen and working.
In this post, we’ll go over the basics of OOH, including some key concepts like proof-of-performance and attribution. We’ll also give you a glimpse into one of the best OOH markets in the world — New York City.
What Is Out-of-Home Advertising?
Out-of-home advertising (OOH) is a form of marketing that helps businesses reach consumers outside of their homes. Advertisers use physical spaces to promote products or services, such as billboards, bus stop ads and building wraps. In recent decades, digital ad placements have included video displays at gas pumps or elevators.
One of the benefits of out-of-home advertising is that it can reach a broad audience — even those who don’t typically engage with other types of media like TV or news outlets. Another benefit of out-of-home advertising is that it can be targeted. For example, companies can place ads in specific locations that their target consumers frequent.
While OOH continues to prove effective for advertisers, it’s important to measure just how effective it is to ensure your hard-won ad dollars are well spent.
Tracking OOH Success
There are a few traditional methods marketers have used to measure the effectiveness of OOH advertising, including:
- Reach. A data-driven estimate of how many people will view your OOH ad over the course of the campaign.
- Impressions. The measurement of all potential exposures (including the total number of times an individual consumer views an ad).
- Ad recall. Tracking changes in brand awareness or recall after the ad campaign has run.
- Sales lift. The measurement of sales increases after the ads have been running.
In the digital OOH (DOOH) age, savvy marketers also use location data to track conversion events, even if they’re happening offline (like visiting a retail location after seeing an ad for that store).
Using these methods, you can learn that your OOH ad boosted store visits by 50% or had a sales lift of 35%, for example. Assigning value to an OOH ad is known as attribution.
What if you live hundreds of miles away from your OOH ad? Or, you have dozens spread across the entire city. You need proof that your OOH ads are out and visible to passersby. This is called proof-of-performance (POP).
According to OAAA, POP is “certification by an OOH company that contracted advertising services has been rendered.”
Typically an outdoor media company will work to obtain average-quality photos (known as installation photographs) at the start of each campaign and during any rotations.
In addition to POP, high-quality photography is common in OOH campaigns as a way to document the ads even after they’re taken down. These photos also offer a way for your OOH campaigns to live on and continue making money. A recent OAAA/Harris poll found nearly 80% of social media users (averaged across platforms) notice OOH ads in their feeds and 48% take action by visiting the company’s website or searching for it online.
These are the types of photographs that are common in the OOH industry, according to the OAAA:
- Sales photos. These photographer-captured images provide a “broad perspective of an OOH unit, an accurate reflection of the unit, and its surrounding environment.” OOH company’s use these as part of their sales collateral.
- Close-up photos. Similar to installation photos (but of higher quality), these offer a close-up view and are typically captured by a staff or contract photographer.
- Archival photos. These are sometimes called glamour shots or beauty shots and require the skills of a professional photographer. Archival photos are OOH ads in action that include “contextual details enhancing the overall imagery.”
OOH in NYC
When it comes to OOH, New York City is big business. With a population of over 8 million people and tens of millions of visitors each year, there are plenty of opportunities to get your message in front of a large audience.
From iconic Times Square billboards and taxi-top ads to subway posters and wall wraps lining the concourses at JFK airport, there are near-infinite possibilities to get your message out there. Of course, in one of the largest markets in the world, you run the risk of being crowded out or ignored altogether. Here are a few tips for making the most of your NYC OOH ads:
- It’s all about location. Perhaps more important than the what and how of your OOH ad campaign is the where. If, for example, you’re advertising a new university program, it would make sense to place the majority of ads in neighborhoods where students work and live.
- Be creative. This isn’t the time to hold back; you want your message to stand out in a literal crowd. So pull out all the creative stops and go big to get noticed.
- Focus on a single message. Consumers see OOH ads in passing. You want to make sure your message is clear and impactful. Don’t get bogged down in minutiae.
OOH is an effective way to reach your target audience. When done well, your ads can stand out in a crowd — even in one of the most crowded markets in the world — and yield a significant return on investment.