Brain and brawn: OOH transforms its future with data – by Hearts & Science’s Shivani Dhawan

It may be the world’s oldest medium, but the future of outdoor is bright, says Hearts & Science’s Shivani Dhawan

By Shivani Dhawan, marketing science & analytics director at Hearts & Science MENA

You could argue we’ve become spoiled. Digital marketing has accustomed us to rich and diverse sources of data with which to plan, deliver, optimise and measure ad campaigns. So much so that we now expect the same from all other media, like some sort of a default setting. But then reality check sets in and hopes are dashed. For now.

Planning on digital channels with audience-level data and benchmarked KPIs means we can break through the noise and deliver greater effectiveness and targeted reach. Not only can we estimate the ROI of the digital campaign before it’s launched, thanks to guaranteed outcomes, but we can also optimise towards maximising conversions during the campaign. With this level of precision, it’s no wonder budgets are moving towards digital – but the contribution of other media, including OOH, is about to become better understood. 

While there are some reach measures available, such as traffic data and heatmaps, eyeball tracking technology and geo-fences, they don’t go nearly as far as digital CPMs or CPVs. What’s more, they are useful in post-campaign measurement and much less in the planning process, especially if we want to compare OOH with other media like digital channels. The ultimate goal is to inform the planning and buying process with reliable and consistent data.

There is a way forward and it is to convert the offline OOH measurement into comparable digital currency using digital footprint data. Data partnerships allow us to marry the reach data with the opportunity to see (OTS) within the visibility radius, establishing an impression level, benchmarks and CPMs for each location. From there, it’s a small step to the measurement of the conversion rate of the served impression by tracking exposed devices to physical store locations. Generating benchmarks for the impressions delivered by each OOH location against the target audience, we can also set precise CPMs and CPCs, allowing us to compare the medium with digital and other media channels. 

The next level is exciting. With an interactive interface, planners can select their campaign objective, city and format, with the system suggesting optimal locations, times and formats, along with traffic heat maps and historical performance benchmarks. With precision and transparency instead of approximation and opacity, OOH planning is now informed, data-driven and quantifiable. Reporting impressions is done in real-time, with the impression-level data providing a common base with other media and the accurate measurement of ROI.

Marketing mix models (MMMs) have consistently shown OOH as one of the best performing media channels on both the upper and lower funnel metrics. Research has shown that OOH ads push people to search engines for more information and that outdoor, along with TV, outperforms display on several conversion tactics. Largely seen as having a very strong top-of-mind ad recall impact, the medium’s impact in driving lower-funnel metrics was much less clear. Without a measurable currency for outdoor, like digital impressions or TV GRPs, its impact was only partially measured with MMMs. As it embraces digital and mobile technologies, the medium is becoming more accurately measurable.

The place of a traditional medium like outdoor in brands’ plans looks more secure thanks to advanced measurement techniques and its digital transformation. Studies have shown that brands pay the price of ignoring its mass reach with sharp declines in brand equity. Adopting data-driven measurement techniques will highlight and quantify its full contribution and impact.

This is not fiction; it is reality, right here and right now. OOH is entering a new era, turning a new page and stepping into an exciting and bright future. Combining the sanity of data with its enormous branding and conversion power, the medium will make full use of both its brain and its brawn. In doing so, it will be of even greater significance to advertisers, bridging the gap between their brand and business needs. No more compromise.