Outdoor advertising in a digital age

Thursday 5th, February 2015

by Dave Thomas

Art & Digital Manager

The dawn of the digital era hasn’t just wrought profound consequences on the way we live out our personal lives – or, in the case of the couple who were recently caught out having an office sex romp, the consequences of their personal choices. It has also changed the way we advertise. It’s opened up new avenues for marketing on the Internet, and forcing us to rethink our approach towards more “traditional” forms of advertising, including billboard advertising, bus advertising.

The biggest joy to advertisers with the rise of digital advertising, is the tracking and analytics available on each and every campaign engagement. But is this something you have to give up with a traditional campaign? Definitely not.

For a while, marketers latched onto the idea of using QR codes to track interactions, where consumers could scan a unique barcode with an app installed on their mobile phone to access relevant information. Even though QR codes were one of the hottest trends of 2011, they weren’t the golden egg advertisers had hoped for. They relied heavily on the public having a mobile phone handy, with the correct software installed, and being stationary enough to take a photo. All great until you realise that most outdoor advertising is targeted at drivers and people in transit.

So how then can marketers create outdoor advertising campaigns that aren’t just effective, but whose effectiveness can actually be tracked? When a brand is looking to do a media buying exercise, what kind of media strategy or creative strategy should they be looking at when it comes to outdoor advertising? There are ways for outdoor advertising like billboard and bus advertising to be effective, here’s a couple of the more common ways.

1. #hashtags

As creative strategy teams and brands alike have discovered, hashtags are a catchy, trendy way to track consumer engagement with an advertising campaign. Not only will a great hashtag attract attention and generate further discussion on social media networks, with the right tools advertisers can measure cut through by monitoring the never-ending stream of Internet chatter.

2. Unique URLs

Unique URLs and custom landing pages, promoted and spread through outdoor advertising mediums such as billboards and even bus advertising, are another option. In the same way that a catchy hashtag will stick in people’s minds, an easy to remember, distinctive URL or custom landing page will get target audiences clicking – which, in turn, allows marketers to accurately attribute traffic and conversions to specific advertising campaigns. Unlike a mere hashtag, a website is also able to convey far more information and connect many more ways.

3. Digital billboards

Another way to harness the power of the digital age in outdoor advertising is to actually integrate the experience into billboards. This could be something as simple and eye-catching as the Look Up campaign by British Airways, which featured a boy pointing to the sky, and which used British Airways’ flight data to update the billboard in real time, displaying each flight’s number and origin.

Ultimately, as far as marketers are concerned, outdoor advertising in a digital age is still largely uncharted territory. However, when combined with a well-thought-out media & creative strategy, the potential for real cut-through is immense.