Digital Marketing Guide: Out of Home

New Technologies Make the World More Interactive

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Digital out of home. That's those pixilated billboards, right?

Wrong. Digital out of home is any screen you see in a place-based setting: the in-store networks at your grocery, taxis and movie theaters. With the formation of the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau in 2007 and buying groups at Havas ( MPG's Chrysalis) and Aegis Media (Posterscope's Hyperspace), it's poised for big growth, too. Veronis Suhler Stevenson recently valued the sector at as much as $2.5 billion in 2009, while traditional outdoor experiences its first major revenue declines in decades.

Sounds like a bunch of outdoor TV networks. Who's programming them?

Increasingly, TV networks NBC, ABC and CBS have created their own out-of-home divisions to cross-promote their prime-time shows in retail, transit and airline venues. But some companies are experimenting with venue-specific original programming, such as "Waiting For a Ride," a "Hills"-esque docu-series from youth retail network Access 360 Endemol, producers of "Big Brother" and "Deal or No Deal" and "The Bite," an "Extra"-like entertainment-news show airing in national restaurant chains such as Denny's, Hardees and Arby's.

So if it's TV, does that mean I can repurpose my 30-second spot?

Theoretically, yes, but marketers are finding that tailoring their ads to fit the particular venue has strong return-on-investment potential. Lisa Cochrane, VP-marketing at Allstate, said digital out of home has helped the insurance company make its video ads more contextually relevant. Recent forays include a first-quarter campaign with health-club network Ideacast about saving money after the holidays, as well as several strategic buys in cinema and on Gas Station TV. "We always want to find a message that fits with that medium," she said.

Can any digital-out-of-home companies deliver TV-like audience reach on a stand-alone basis?

With the possible exception of National CineMedia or Screenvision, the two largest in-cinema ad firms, not yet. But as with online video, a network model can help aggregate impressions. Connie Garrido, president of Chrysalis, is prepping a multimillion-dollar shift of TV dollars into digital out of home for Schering-Plough, and has met with more than two dozen media companies to determine partners with the most scale. "We're working with the networks to simplify and streamline the purchasing," she said. "I could find things that would make sense for the client, but I will never be able to leverage it unless I'm able to see what the PR agency's planning, or what digital properties will be surrounding the agency's campaign that we can leverage." The OVAB's official site,, also has a monthly planning guide with audience stats and programming highlights.

How do you measure out-of-home video impressions? Is it like broadband video or TV rating points?

With no standard metric yet in place for digital out of home, the ad model is constantly evolving. The OVAB introduced its measurement guidelines at a summit in October. The guidelines recommend best practices for measuring audiences and equating them to other media. "Our No. 1 priority is consistent and comparable metrics, and educating the network operators and agencies [about] what those are to provide a framework," said OVAB President Suzanne Alecia. But many companies are turning to custom studies from Nielsen and Arbitron. Jason Brown, president-sales and marketing, Ideacast, has seen marketers such as Geico, Sprint, FedEx and Healthy Choice all come to the network on the strength of custom research that health-club regulars are often light TV viewers at home. "We have realized that our niche is this mobile professional, who works out in the mornings, watches CNBC on the treadmills, flies on our airline partners for business trips and stays in hotels, and hardly watches any TV. And if they do watch TV, they own DVRs," he said.

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