The future of outdoor media is 3D, by IQdata’s Dimitri Metaxas

Data, Dynamism and Differentiation are essential to the medium’s transformation, says IQdata’s Dimitri Metaxas.

Dimitri Metaxas is the co-founder and CEO of IQdata

Like every other medium, outdoor advertising needs an audience to thrive but, unlike other media, it lost nearly 80 per cent of its traffic to Covid-19 restrictions. The fact is while movement across major regional cities has largely rebounded, the near-term regional out-of-home (OOH) industry prospects remain tense. Some companies have closed down while others scramble to manage cashflows, sometimes fighting bruising price wars. The contrast between the situations of the outdoor media industry and its digital media peers couldn’t be starker.

While digital continues its inexorable growth, the region’s outdoor media is still looking for its much-needed inflection point. Digital is well past this, thanks to data-driven audience measurement, audience profiling and advertising performance. The region’s OOH sector is, however, still lacking a common audience measurement currency to unlock its own transformation.

One reason for the absence of consensus is that the sector is fragmented, commoditised and price volatile. Another is that a common audience measurement currency that puts all media suppliers on an equal footing can benefit buyers at the expense of sellers. Industry-wide media measurement may solve issues, but often also brings new ones, causing further disruption to an already challenging environment.

What the market needs is a way to stimulate demand and bring logic and evidence in the pricing of traditional, static OOH sites, which represent over 95 per cent of the region’s outdoor inventory. The industry’s digital transformation will begin when OOH media owners quantify their audiences, analyse their advertising performance and ultimately optimise their pricing. This journey starts with harnessing existing data.

More OOH, not less

At around 10 per cent, the share of OOH in brands’ media investments pales in comparison with digital channels, which now claim the majority of ad dollars in MENA. Advertisers have increasingly relied on them as they demonstrate their performance with greater accountability and transparency. The pandemic only accelerated this trend.

To increase their share, outdoor media companies must play to their unique strengths and transform the way they market their inventory. Instead of selling space, time or even eyeballs (i.e. traffic), they need to provide both universal media buying metrics and clearly defined target audiences. This means richer demographic, behavioural, interest and other audience attributes, as well as enhanced media performance data. This is made possible by the collection, at scale, of GPS location signals from active mobile device movements around OOH sites and beyond.

With this information, outdoor media companies can better differentiate, elevate the sales process and redefine the relationship with buyers, firmly embedding the medium into more sophisticated media practices. Tracking mobile devices anonymously across outdoor locations and other relevant Points of Interest (POIs), such as places of residence, work and other lifestyle activities, they can paint an accurate profile of people exposed to each OOH site.

Mining their own data to analyse the audience of each site, outdoor media companies can differentiate their offering and help media buyers to select locations more precisely for their campaigns. Thanks to a much more precise site evaluation based on anonymised smartphone data, pioneering OOH companies have already won new or bigger budgets here in the GCC.

From static to dynamic with data

Using data for more than measurement, OOH companies can further integrate the medium into modern marketing. Brands can use the information from the devices detected in the vicinity of their outdoor locations to retarget them online. Combining this with other attributes, marketers can define and reach custom audiences, based on lifestyles or behaviours. With this, the place of outdoor in the conversion funnel, attribution model and media plans can only improve.

This data also makes dynamic pricing possible. Each site can be priced for each campaign based on its performance with a given audience or based on dynamic demand forecasts. Digital media grew with similar dynamic pricing techniques.

Several OOH companies have already transitioned to data with our GeoPlace OOH audience measurement, profiling and targeting solution and are busy exploring these data-driven opportunities. Because it is accessible and requires no hardware installation, it helps transform all outdoor media owners, be they large or small.

As traffic and demand for inventory are returning to pre-lockdown levels, now is the time to propel the medium forward. The transformation of OOH will see it moving away from price volatility to dynamic pricing, from static to dynamic audiences, and from a one-size-fits-all approach to precise targeting and retargeting.

The outdoor medium will become different, not just from what it was before but also meeting different expectations every time. Some are already investing in its future and are reaping the benefits. There’s still plenty of life in the world’s first advertising medium.