There’s no doubt that digital out of home advertising (DOOH) is leading the way in the ever-growing demand for outdoor marketing in the UK.

This trend was evident back in June 2019, when there were 11,024 DOOH screens located across the UK (an estimated 51% increase on the previous year), and this number is sure to have risen even further since.

In this article, we’ll talk about DOOH advertising in further detail, how it works and how effective it is for advertising your business.

What is Digital Out-of-Home Advertising and Does it Work?

In simple terms, DOOH refers to digital media that appears in outdoor environments that are accessible to the public, typically in locations such as shopping centres, bus stations and busy roadsides.

In this respect, they’re incredibly similar to traditional OOH media and billboards, which are print-only and manufactured using materials such as wood, paper and vinyl.

There are other differences aside from composition and the use of materials, of course, particularly as digital displays can be used to rotate between multiple messages rather than prioritising a single one (we’ll touch a little more on this later).

Like its paper counterpart, DOOH also offers a wide range of options when it comes to available ad space. Depending on your needs, there’s everything from compact digital sign boards (like those found on bus shelters) and interactive TV screens to large scale digital billboards that mirror 48 and 96 sheet formats.

Digital billboards

How Do Digital Billboards Work?

Where traditional OOH media uses printed content on paper, DOOH uses LED screens to display bright, eye-catching commercial messages that can consist of either static or moving content.

Digital billboards will typically display ads from multiple businesses (it’s not uncommon to share the space with up to 6 other advertisers), with the ads shown on rotation, with a predetermined set length of time that each is displayed for. Some DOOH advertising firms may also allow you to schedule your ads to be shown at specific times (depending on the nature of each ad and its core target market).

This contributes to the fluid and flexible nature of DOOH media in the digital age, while there’s no doubt that this type of advertising channel allows for the use of more vivid imagery and far greater interaction between brands and consumers alike.

Another pressing question that remains is whether DOOH is an effective way of targeting and engaging customers online? There’s plenty of evidence which suggests that it is, with outdoor media as a whole (including traditional billboards) providing a significant opportunity for brands in 2021.

Certainly, OOH media has immense value as a driver of activity and brand interaction online, with this having been borne out by a Neilsen study carried out in 2017.

This found that nearly five-in-10 US residents (46%) aged 18 or older used an online search engine directly after engaging with a billboard. Not only this, but outdoor media also evolved to drive more activations through Instagram and Twitter than television, despite billboards and similar channels accounting for just 7% of the total offline ad spend.

As we can see, OOH is clearly an efficient and cost-effective way of building awareness, assisting conversions and driving further brand interaction online. Other, more recent studies have also built on these findings to explore the precise impact of DOOH, with one in particular reinforcing the dominance of outdoor media as an offline advertising channel.

This found that when respondents saw online communication and messaging after interacting with DOOH, their responses were as much as 48% higher than they were having viewed television ads first.

What’s more, the study found that full motion DOOH screens delivered 2.5-times more memory encoding and emotional intensity than static advertising, increasing engagement and subsequent conversion rates in the process.

Even on a fundamental level, the exponential growth of DOOH screens throughout continues to trigger a larger number of impressions amongst audience members, allowing brands to optimise their reach strategically through the use of digital billboards.

Overall, it’s estimated that Britons encounter a total of 1.1 billion digital OOH ads during a typical week, with this number having increased by a staggering 36% year-on-year.

As a result of this, figures for weekly impacts from the trade body Route reveal that up to 68% of Brits now see a digital screen at least once a week. This number is continuing to grow too, as more brands turn to DOOH as a way of targeting vast audiences and optimising their ROI of their total marketing spend.

These findings highlight the effectiveness of both DOOH and outdoor media as a whole, particularly for advertisers that wish to create awareness around a specific brand or drive more interactions as part of an integrated marketing campaign.

Digital outdoor advertising

What are the Advantages of DOOH Media?

We’ve already touched on the subtle differences that distinguish DOOH media from traditional paper billboards, and we’ll dig a little deeper into these later on.

However, it’s fair to say that there are some key strategic advantages to choosing DOOH media over static ads and outdoor media options. These include:

Reduced Management Costs Over Time

When you install a traditional billboard, you’ll often have to incur production and installation costs over the course of a typical two-week booking.

Extending or changing ad content on paper or vinyl billboards will trigger further costs too, while creating new or additional ads will also account for more of your total marketing spend.

These costs can be reduced by using DOOH media and billboards, however, which utilise CMS software to manage content in a remote, automated and real-time way. Even the display of new or updated content can be automated and done in a matter of seconds, without the need for additional labour or production expenses.

Of course, creating a digital ad (especially one that uses video) can be more costly initially, but it’s important to measure this against the reduced management costs and ease with which ads can be updated over time.

Increased Campaign Creativity

Another key advantage offered by DOOH media is that it allows for more creative and collaborative campaigns, which are far more agile and capable of generating a strong return on your marketing spend.

For example, it’s sometimes possible for digital billboard owners to integrate weather data, which allows for live marketing campaigns to be adjusted depending on whether it’s sunny or raining. This affords you greater creative freedom in terms of how you present your products or services, while increasing your chances of engaging customers in real-time.

On a more accessible level, the digital format alone allows you more creative freedom with your ads with video and transitions between key messages or imagery. DOOH offers you a wider array of options when it comes to your outdoor advertising, although it’s still important to not use too many elements in your DOOH ads. They will only be shown for a short period of time before the ad is rotated out, so you want to make sure that passers by aren’t missing anything important if they only get a glance.

The precise technology that you integrate into your DOOH campaign will vary depending on location, content and the underlying objective of your marketing efforts, but there’s no doubt that digital displays provide endless opportunity for increased creativity.

Detailed Playback Reporting

In some respects, digital displays also work in a similar way to online ads, with the software used to run DOOH messaging also capable of providing insightful reports.

This can prove truly invaluable to marketers when analysing the effectiveness of your ads and help you to make more informed decisions about future campaigns.

Different data sets can be produced by software systems too, from proof-of-play (PoP) protocols (which determine when and where ad content is being delivered) and scheduling reports used to highlight the reach of specific ads and their level of ongoing functionality.

Detailed playback reporting is central to the success of any DOOH campaigns, particularly as it provides context to ad measurement and metrics such as the number of impressions generated per site.

Access to In-Depth Demographics

On a similar note, DOOH campaigns are also capable of generating insightful viewership analytics, such as the number of impressions generated and key demographics of those who interact with your ads.

Examples of demographic information include the age and gender of customers, with this helping brands to understand how effective their ad is at reaching its target audience in strategic locations.

Not only this, but digital displays also provide information on when specific ads have been seen by the highest number of people. This may be particularly useful for fast-food brands that are attempting to target commuters on their way home from work, as they’ll hope to see peak levels of traffic and interaction at specific time junctures.

This type of data also allows brands to accurately value individual displays, allowing for more informed decisions.

Digital out of home advertising in London

How to Choose Where to Book Outdoor Ad Space

If there’s one thing that unites OOH and DOOH media, it’s the underlying importance of location.

More specifically, the location of your traditional or digital billboard will underpin the success of any campaign, as this must maximise your brand’s reach while simultaneously targeting carefully defined audiences.

Of course, you’ll always be inclined to prioritise high-traffic and central ad locations that can deliver optimal impressions, but this often means little if you’re unable to reach your target audience through such locations. So, you’ll have to strategically select locations based on various factors, so that you can make informed and ultimately effective decisions.

The most important thing is that you have a clear understanding of your target market, particularly in terms of their behaviour and when they’re more likely to interact with brands.

If we use the previous example of a fast-food brand looking to target young professionals, for example, it makes sense that they should leverage bus top and roadside displays that can reach customers as they undertake their daily commute and head home from work.

This way, they can directly target customers at times when they’re most likely to engage with the brand, while using the interactivity of DOOH displays to pique the interest of even tired minds.

In this scenario, it’s crucial that brands target busy commuter locations and central public transport hubs, while timing their ads to appear most prolifically during the evening rush hour.

If you’ve operated DOOH campaigns previously, you can combine knowledge of your target market with key data sets such as travel surveys. These entities use hardware to track the movements of respondents in target locations, which is then overlaid with a map of OOH poster sites to highlight hotspots and footfall volumes.

This offers an excellent insight into audience travel patterns, helping you to make more informed decisions about sites where your customers are known to congregate.

Digital or Traditional Billboard Advertising – Which is Right for You?

When it comes to deciding whether or not OOH or DOOH media is right for you, one of the defining factors is your budget.

As discussed earlier, DOOH can offer reduced management costs over time when it comes to updating and changing your ads, but traditional OOH advertising can be more affordable for longer rental periods. So, much will depend on the structure of your budget and how much you’re able to commit at the outset, as well as the total amount that you’re willing to spend on billboards and posters overall.

It’s also fair to surmise that you can simultaneously reduce the production and management costs associated with paper billboards by creating your content in-house, and this is another consideration when choosing your preferred format.

Exposure is another key consideration, with paper and vinyl billboards known to use the same static images and messages for the entire course of a booking. Conversely, digital alternatives tend to rotate between four and six different ads every minute, with individual messages receiving either 10 or 15 seconds of exposure during this period.

Of course, the increased exposure and reduced upfront cost of OOH media may well convince you that this option offers the best value proposition, but it should be noted that DOOH billboards also allow for the publication of more varied content.

It’s arguable that the publication of more varied content on DOOH ads creates a genuinely engaging board and helps to maintain viewers’ interest more easily, which may draw more eyes to your own messaging over time.

The key is to identify which ads your own message will feature alongside in a specific location, in order to determine whether this makes for an eye-catching and overall alignment with your brand.

It’s important to give consideration to all of these factors before making a final decision, while liaising with networks to determine accurate pricing and identify potential discounts for bookings that last longer than two weeks.

The most important thing to remember is that both OOH and DOOH displays offer value to brands, and there’s nothing to stop you utilising both in different locations as part of a larger integrated campaign.