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Bridging the Proof Gap for OOH Marketers

The Proof Gap Persists

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Bridging the Proof Gap for OOH Marketers

By James Heller,
CEO at and co-founder of Wrapify.

Many marketers still struggle to quantify the impact their spend has on the business and close the marketing proof gap — the space in the C-suite’s mind between marketers’ reported progress and the actual, data-backed ROI they can point to. But in today’s data-driven world, failure to measure the results of your advertising is no longer acceptable — not even for out-of-home (OOH) advertising, a tactic historically considered “upper-funnel.”

The proof gap problem is especially pronounced in verticals with long buying cycles. While the rest of the C-suite is accustomed to evaluating performance quarterly, marketers sometimes need more time to generate quantifiable returns.

This proof gap is just one of the factors that makes it so difficult to be a modern marketer. CMOs have an increasingly complex and technical job. They are expected to own the customer experience, to master data-backed decision-making and, often, to lead the adoption of technology platforms that permeate the entire organization, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Today, CMOs have the shortest lifespan in the C-suite — an average of three years — according to a survey by executive placement firm Korn/Ferry. In fact, the average CEO will go through at least three marketers in his or her tenure.

Treating OOH as an Upper-Middle Funnel Tactic

The Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) reports that the OOH industry was up 7 percent year-to-date in August 2019, largely fueled by record-setting growth in Q2 2019. Digital-out-of-home (DOOH) is the fastest growing OOH channel and represented 31 percent of total OOH revenue in Q2 2019. This is because of the ease of buying DOOH; increased scale, due to the availability of DOOH inventory on programmatic exchanges; and better targeting and measurement capabilities.

In the past, brands used OOH as an upper-funnel, brand awareness play. Even today, it is, frankly, an “ego buy” in some cases. Companies, including newly funded direct-to-consumer (DTC) players, plaster subways and roadsides with billboards to make investors, board members, management and employees feel good. But today’s DOOH and OOH have more sophisticated measurement capabilities than their predecessors. Using technology, creative measurement and attribution strategies, brand marketers can now approach OOH and DOOH as an upper-middle funnel tactic.

Here’s what that looks like. Brands can, and should, use location and demographic data to serve targeted, personalized out-of-home ads to a precise audience. They can then measure the behavior of the OOH-exposed audience and compare it to a baseline. In this way, advertisers can attribute OOH campaigns to incremental gains in foot traffic or digital conversions, such as website clicks or app downloads. They can also retarget the OOH-exposed audience with digital advertising to strengthen the message and continue the narrative.

DTC Brands and the OOH Resurgence

One of the biggest vertical spenders on OOH is DTC. These brands are increasing their marketing budgets across the board, and their expenditure accounts for an outsized percentage of OOH buys. In fact, DTC OOH spend was up 7 percent, to $4.6 billion, in the first half of 2019, according to Magna’s fall 2019 ad spend forecast.

These marketers tend to be performance-driven. And while OOH has gotten “a pass” in the past, that leniency is unlikely to persist. It is no longer acceptable to buy media and hope for the best. Although OOH is not a direct response (DR) play, marketers can now use it to support DR initiatives. They can also track performance metrics to understand how their campaigns are moving prospects down the funnel.

A CFO isn’t impressed by a low CPM cost or historical data. He or she will appreciate hearing about directionality and incremental conversion. He or she will appreciate hearing that in the wake of an X million dollar spend on OOH, people exposed to the campaign were Y percent more likely to visit the company website than those who did not see an OOH impression. That is something tangible that marketers — and the C-suite — can sink their teeth into.

If the #OOH renaissance is to continue, particularly in the DTC space, marketers will have to step up their measurement game. Many marketers can’t prove the value of their OOH campaigns, and some aren’t even trying. The proof gap persists, even when they are making strides in other realms of marketing measurement. So, it is time to leverage the technology and strategy available to map OOH investment to measurable business gains.

The views and opinions expressed in OOH Today are those of the contributor.

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1 Comment
  1. christie david says

    Wow. Amazing. Very well written and great content.