There’s no doubt that the world of marketing has changed considerably during the digital age, with brands adopting an increasingly nuanced and integrated approach to building campaigns.

The importance of agile and data-led marketing strategies is particularly important in the paid sphere, where premium native ads can deliver 400% higher click-through rates than regular display messages on mobile devices. 

If we expand this concept and apply it across integrated campaigns that feature both on and offline advertising channels, we also see that the audience-first marketing model is crucial to achieving measurable success.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of audience-first marketing further, while asking how this works and appraising its relationship with out-of-home (OOH advertising).

What is the Audience-First Model and Media?

The needs and demands of consumer audiences have always continued to evolve over time, but it’s far to say that the rate and pace of change has been more pronounced during the digital age. 

The day-to-day behaviour of customers can also be impacted by various geopolitical and socio-economic events, with the Covid-19 pandemic offering a relevant case in point.

More specifically, global lockdowns and social distancing measures have driven a growing number of consumers to shop and purchase items online. 

According to a report by Adobe, this has accelerated the rate of growth in the eCommerce space by between four and six years, with the total online spend in the US peaking at $82.5 billion in the month of May alone (up 77% year-on-year).

This trend is prevalent across the globe, and companies have been quick to increase their focus online and strive to optimise the flow of traffic to their websites.

Given this and the rate at which customer behaviour continues to shift, it’s little wonder that more and more brands are adopting an audience-first approach. In simple terms, this means creating agile marketing campaigns and media that are ideally placed to meet the ever-changing needs of customers across the board.

As we’ve already touched on, this type of marketing approach is also data and detail-led, creating the potential for more intuitive and personalised campaigns that really resonate with target customers.

Of course, this type of marketing strategy has become increasingly viable in recent years, particularly as brands have been able to build vast and diverse data sets pertaining to their customers. 

This has enabled them to understand their target consumers on a deeper and more meaningful level, while using such insight to inform audience-first campaigns and ads.

OK, we hear you ask, but how exactly can you tell is a particular type of media or an overarching campaign is audience-first in its nature? Or, what are the key elements of contemporary audience-first strategies in the marketing realm?

To begin with, mobile is perhaps the most common audience-first driver of engagement as we approach the end of 2020, with an estimated 70% of all media engagement thought to occur through smartphones (or, to a lesser extent) tablets. 

In the true spirit of audience-first media, this trend is likely to become increasingly prominent in line with evolving consumer behaviour.

More specifically, data gathered by Business Insider indicates that m-commerce sales and engagement will account for an impressive 45% of the total ecommerce market by the end of this year, peaking at a value of $284 billion in the US alone in  the process.

From a global perspective, the m-commerce sector is now forecast to grow by a staggering $5.1 trillion through 2027, with the coronavirus pandemic having accelerated expansion and increased the predicted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.8% for the period).

With this in mind, the relationship between audience-first marketing and mobile will become even more prevalent during the coming decade, but we’ll touch a little further on this later in the piece.

Successful segmentation is also key to audience-first and data-led market, as this requires brands to collate huge swathes of information and subsequently categorise consumers into small and manageable groups.

Make no mistake; the smaller the group, the easier it is to create targeted and personalised campaigns, enabling brands to successfully meet the changing demands of their customers and achieve a superior return on their marketing investment.

Ultimately, anyone who wants to optimise their conversion rates and create genuine levels of engagement will need to invest in this type of marketing, while focusing heavily on a nuanced and data-driven mobile strategy.

OK, So Why Audience First?

Whenever you create marketing campaigns on a foundation of targeted data and high quality insight, you’re effectively prioritising quality over quantity and guaranteeing better results over an extended period of time (so long as you get the execution right, of course).

This has a positive effect on every aspect of your marketing campaign too, from the number of individual ads that you need to run to your ultimate sales conversion and the profitability of your endeavours.

In addition to streamlining your ad campaigns and boosting the end results, it’s fair to say that an audience-first model also helps to improve the quality of your brand’s lead generation.

An estimated 61% of UK marketers say that generating traffic and viable leads is their top challenge in the current climate, and placing audience needs at the front and centre of campaigns is a great way of overcoming this.

Certainly, the development of a highly researched customer persona and the accumulation of vast data sets improves the quality of the leads that you’re able to generate, which in turn impacts directly on your rate of conversions.

This can lead to outstanding and profitable results over time, and while the number of impressions generated may fall, the total number of sales should increase noticeably.

How Can OOH Tie Into Audience-First Marketing

Interestingly, aforementioned concepts such as mobile engagement and segmentation have also become increasingly synonymous with OOH of late, and this helps to explain the growing relationship between channels such as billboards and audience-first marketing campaigns.

Let’s start with segmentation, which has evolved to play a pivotal role in the use of OOH media and integrated marketing campaigns of late. 

This has much to do with advanced and intuitive tools such as Geopath Insights, which provide agile audience insights garnered through state-of-the-art location measurements.

Utilising mobile data gathered in real-time, Geopath technology is genuinely intuitive and capable of understanding the behaviour of regional consumers as they pass by OOH media. 

This builds on the tried-and-tested (but limited) metric of impressions, which simply offers a broad estimate about how many individuals have seen your ad in a specific location.

By also factoring in additional factors such as the length of time that customers spend viewing billboards and processing the associated messaging, it’s possible to gain far greater insight and comprehend the precise impact of each individual ad and campaign.

What’s more, Geopath technology uses the consumer data that it captures (from a multitude of sources) to develop aggregated and surprisingly accurate audience measurements, enabling users to determine whether outdoor ads are successfully reaching their target audience.

This can certainly help to improve ad campaigns in real-time in a bid to achieve optimal exposure amongst specific demographics, while simultaneously driving far deeper levels of engagement.

As you continue to map the daily routes and behaviours of target customers, you can also select the ideal locations for future ads from a strategic perspective. This can really help to inform your future OOH marketing spend, while optimising the quality of your leads and the associated sales figures.

Of course, increased mobile usage and smartphone penetration plays a key role in making Geopath technology possible. This in turn underpins the successful utilisation of OOH media, which is itself a prominent driver of mobile engagement for brands across the globe.

This completes a full cycle that’s central to the audience-first marketing model, and one that places advertising channels such as billboards at the centre of subsequent campaigns.

According to some studies, people who see an OOH campaign in the UK are estimated to be 17% more likely to engage with the advertised brand through their mobile device. This has much to do with changing consumer behaviour, with approximately 68% of mobile usage occuring while people are on the move.

This creates a growing window of opportunity for brands to target audiences at a time when they’re more inclined to engage with brands and their messaging, particularly through channels such as Google searches, Instagram and Twitter.

This also highlights the flexible nature of OOH advertising as a primary audience-first channel, as brands can utilise a variety of calls to action when targeting different and specific demographics.

Not only can campaigns be used to drive direct sales on or offline, for example, but they also provide a unique opportunity to promote continued brand engagement through targeted social channels.

This has been previously borne out by one particular Nielsen study, which explored the efficacy of various mediums when attempting to trigger online activations. This found that nearly 40% of customers had visited a Facebook page or posted a message on the social media site after seeing an OOH ad.

OOH media was also particularly effective at driving traffic through social sites like Twitter and Instagram, while overall this medium drives 26% of gross search activations generated online despite only accounting for 7% of the cumulative ad spend across OOH, TV, radio and print media.

As we can see, a data-driven and personalized mobile strategy relies heavily on the use of OOH media, regardless of your core objectives or key calls to action. 

This is the very embodiment of audience-first marketing, while it also helps to generate the highest quality leads and optimise engagement levels across a wide range of channels.

Planning Your Media – The Key Considerations

At this stage, you should have a clear understanding of what we mean by audience-first marketing and the role that OOH media can play in the creation of successful campaigns.

The next step is to plan your media and the core elements of your campaign, to ensure that your target audience is at the front and centre of everything that you do. Here are some steps to help you on you way:

 

Make Research Your Key Watchword

 

As we’ve already touched on, you can successfully embrace audience-first marketing without taking practical steps to understand target demographics in clear and unequivocal details.

In simple terms, you cannot have too much information when collating customer data, and we’d recommend identifying every potential quirk within your target audience in order to lead to more improved decision making.

This is crucial to building accurate and high quality leads, while it will also increase the value of each potential customer and the amount they’re likely to spend with the brand.

For example, let’s say that your brand is marketing a product at a female audience and want to drive engagement and conversions through social media. However, you can only feature a couple of social media handles on your 48-sheet billboard, so you need to select those that will drive the highest levels of engagement.

While the findings of your customer research will vary depending on a number of factors, in general terms we can see that sites such as Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram are dominated by female audiences.

More specifically, a whopping 70% of all Snapchat users are female, while the corresponding numbers of Pinterest and Instagram are 60% and 58% respectively. 

This data set can be insightful, as including your brand’s Snapchat and Pinterest handles (where applicable) on your OOH ad is likely to increase your audience engagement levels and create far greater awareness within a relatively short space of time.

To optimise the accuracy of your data and ensure that any subsequent findings are viable, you should use software such as an advanced CRM system to collect and analyse huge swathes of customer information.

You may also want to consider rewarding customers who provide verifiable data, while attempting to harness vast and largely disorganised information sources such as social media.

 

Use Your Customer’s Quirks and Behaviour to Inform Your Design

 

Another interesting way of identifying audience quirks and behaviours is to use billboards or OOH ads that are capable of recognising cars and individuals on foot before creating personalised messaging to target them more effectively.

With one particular example, Shell Malaysia unveiled a digital ad in 2018 that could capture vehicles as they passed through the Jalan Maarof in the Southeast Asian nations.

Utilising video technology, cars were identified and categorised according to their make and model before being targeted with customised messaging once they’d become stationary.

If we take this principle and apply it to OOH media as a whole, we can see that it’s possible to identify certain datasets and information by targeting customers as they pass adverts. 

In this instance, for example, you can make observations about a driver’s likely income and their favourite colour, which can in turn help to inform future messaging and the design of specific ads.

It can certainly help you to target key demographics with the right products and price premiums, while enabling you to create the ideal colour scheme based on customer preferences and your existing brand palette.

If you’re able to collate large swathes of data from the same demographic over time, you can even identify the ideal font and type of imagery for future OOG campaigns.

 

Choose the Right Media and Locations

 

As we’ve already said, you can use various technology and measurements to understand the behaviour of your customers when they’re out of the home and subsequently place ads in the most potent locations.

However, you also need to select the right media to suit each location, with large-format 48 and 96-sheet billboards ideal for advertising at high traffic and roadside locations respectively. 

Conversely, smaller posters and ads may be ideal at bus stops and train stations, as these messages typically look to blend seamlessly into the natural environment and target customers in the most non-intrusive way imaginable.

For small and medium-sized firms, there’s also a strong argument to invest in traditional billboards over digital alternatives (particularly when advertising in high-traffic or highly visible locations).

 

To begin with, this type of paper-based ad is considerably cheaper than digital alternatives, whether you’re looking to secure a two-week booking or maintain an advertising presence over the course of the year.

Additionally, traditional billboards provide far greater levels of exposure to brands, with one advert featuring a single brand and message for the duration of a particular booking.

When you invest in a digital billboard, you’ll typically have to share the advertising real estate with up to five other brands. This means that six ads will usually rotate over the course of a minute, meaning that your message may only be visible for 10 seconds at a time.

While you won’t have to share the space with competing brands, this can dramatically minimise your exposure and potentially cause your ad to pale in direct comparison to others.

The Last Word

There’s no doubt that audience-first marketing is built on sound and solid principles, which underpin data and insight-led campaigns that strive to meet the ever-changing needs of audiences.

The primary concepts that define audience-first marketing and make it so successful are also becoming increasingly synonymous with OOH, making channels such as billboards critical when looking to engage consumers as part of integrated campaigns.

In this respect, OOH media is arguably the most impactful audience-first marketing channel, and one that can actively help brands to optimise their profitability.