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Modern OOH: Here’s why you should integrate digital experiences into your OOH advertising

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Modern OOH: Here’s why you should integrate digital experiences into your OOH advertising

With modern OOH, the combination of contextually relevant innovation and digital tools is today providing higher levels of measurable engagement than ever before

BY CLIVE PUNTER, Chief Revenue Officer at OUTFRONT Media

In 2016, I wrote an article about the three phases of advertising evolution. It discussed the big paradigm shift since the mid-’90s, grounded in the emergence of the consumer internet and out-of-home advertising’s role. Today, the relevance of the article is stronger than ever and smart brands are really getting the out-of-home consumer.


In a nutshell, within the last 30 years, advertising has gone through three evolutionary phases—exposure, engagement, and advocacy—each bringing material changes to the industry.

From the beginning of time, advertising was all about exposure. Brands and their agencies utilized traditional media to generate massive amounts of coverage and frequency aimed at consumers—it was all about impressions. Back then, the industry’s Holy Grail was achieved by optimizing for exposure and effective frequency—that was it.

The internet transformed media consumption from the late ’90s powered by Yahoo!, Google, and the like. Engagement quickly became the ad sector’s shiny new thing. Cookies were cool and the actions of search and clicks took over from what consumers saw or heard. Intent marketing became the new sticky early indicator for marketers. True performance marketing was born, and every brand chased instant gratification, the latest shiny engagement ball.

Social media marked the third key shift to advocacy, as the aughts witnessed the surge of interest in LinkedIn (20 years old in 2023), Facebook (20 years old in 2024), and Twitter (18 years old in 2024). Contextually relevant content, driven by viral advocacy activities, made expressions the new darling of the industry as it moved past its love of impressions. The ad world chased the personalized, customized, socially connected (and let’s face it, somewhat vain) modern consumer. FOMO, YOLO, and social influence took hold.

This shift ignited the industry’s love affair with all things digital media and, of course, the ad dollars followed.

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OOH 3.0

Modern brands have embraced OOH “3.0,” if you like. They have grasped a variety of new technologies that deliver a very engaging and connected digital experience to modern consumers who spend enormous amounts of time out of home with their devices, driving a far more integrated and engaging consumer experience.

Today’s data-targeted, digitally fueled, location-specific, and contextually relevant OOH is propelled by innovation. From attention-grabbing spatial and 3D anamorphic activations that seemingly bring brand products to life to QR-code-enabled real-time consumer interactivity, today’s marketing leaders are fusing digital with the benefits of out-of-home to create a fully integrated consumer experience online and in real life.

Many prominent brands are capitalizing on these digital-enabled OOH innovations. For example, brands that are using real-time interactive QR codes to further boost the effectiveness and stickiness of their OOH ads are seeing incredible ROI. Recently, we saw 42% of consumers scan a QR code after seeing a subway ad, with every one in 10 people making a purchase. This was based on 426 out of 1000 respondents surveyed in the OUTFRONT NY 5 Borough Audience Survey, Wave 4, in June 2022. I believe innovation—from QR to AR and XR—will drive the next wave of invention in OOH.


The consumer journey is the best indicator of brand engagement. The physical journey with the geolocation and geocontext, as well as the consumer mindset and mode with consideration for things like dwell time or proximity to purchase, can help when planning a fully integrated, engaging out-of-the-home and digital experience.

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And in many ways, mass transit is leading the way for modern OOH with state-of-the-art digital and video signage “lighting up” subway and bus systems across the country. Especially today, this transit experience is ideal for informing, entertaining, and engaging consumers along their new, more attentive, and purposeful trips to work, shop, or play. The modern connected consumer is on-the-go and ready to be exposed; they are ready to engage and ready to advocate for brands in real time, all the time.

What’s more, these highly engaging digital experiences can target and influence exposure to purchases among millions of people on an hourly or daily basis. Imagine having the ability to optimize a brand’s creative messaging based on consumer behavior or fueled by data-driven insights and predictable triggers like weather. No need to imagine—sophisticated geolocation data (aggregated and anonymized of course) is now providing new levels of proximity and trigger-based messaging targeting consumers. For example, in New York City, a major movie studio used these capabilities to run ads featuring the next showtimes for their current blockbuster film at theatres near the signs.

With modern OOH, the combination of contextually relevant innovation and digital tools is today providing higher levels of measurable engagement than ever before. For example, using highly innovative anamorphic creative that blows the creative out works well in locations where people gather and have time to make that an Instagrammable moment, or when full motion video displays tell a full story to consumers on the move to attract their full attention to create memorable and device-look-up moments (meaning they look up brands in real time and take action, as well as physically looking up).

Look at the best marketers across the globe and you’ll see how they smartly integrate OOH, social, and search—all on mobile, into on-the-go consumers’ lives to expose, engage, and eventually get them to advocate for their brands. Social amplification and influence of OOH or OOH magnification of social is the new powerful combination. Or #sOOH as we like to say.

In turn, the modern, always-connected consumer welcomes the exposure and engagement with brands and advocates for them. Brands now have the consumers’ digital power, out of the home.

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