Old-School Outdoor Ads Are Booming, With High-Tech Twists

November 2, 2018

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In an era of internet ads that track people’s movements and digital-browsing activity, outdoor advertising is enjoying an improbable heyday. But as Recode recently reported, the retro format has become more connected to high-tech marketing than it might at first appear.

Ads on billboards, buses and at venues like baseball stadiums are expected to rack up record spending this year. So-called “out-of-home” advertising, which makes up 7 percent of total ad spending, has outperformed other non-internet media, including TV, for the past six years. The old-school ad format is booming precisely because digital ads are so commonplace. Billboards stand out and are seen by broad swaths of people.

“It’s getting so hard to reach a mass audience today because it’s unclear who’s watching [TV] or clicking on internet ads — or even then if it’s a real human being clicking,” said Mark Boidman, head of media services at investment bank PJ Solomon.

But digital technology is also boosting outdoor ads. The mobile phones consumers carry reveal their locations and spending habits, helping ad buyers know how many people are walking by a particular billboard, their demographics and what they purchase afterward. Billboards themselves are also becoming digital, so advertisers can run multiple campaigns or tailor ads to specific events, even the weather. Brands and agencies can alter digital billboard messages and their length depending on how fast traffic is moving past it or the time of day. — Greg Beaubien


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