May 24, 2024

KT Business

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Field notes: For OOH advertising, AI has its moment

4 min read

At OAAA’s OOH Media Conference 2024 in Carlsbad, Calif., on May 1, AI was touted in much of the OOH hardware, and in the front- and back-end technology in some of the software platforms. The topic of AI’s impact on the OOH industry, from data gathering to creatives, to design and to delivery and engagement measurement, felt like it was being overhyped. 

But, diving deeper, the event offered evidence that AI is more about practicality and efficiency in the face of an advertising market that is veering more into digital at a pace much faster than what mere humans can handle. 

Here are some notes and observations from my time at OAAA’s OOH Media Conference. 

AI is helping to spur OOH’s momentum 

“Out of home drives higher recall, higher engagement, and is more trustworthy than any other medium,” said OAAA President Anna Bager well into her keynote, and proceeded to outline some of the poll and survey results that proved that OOH advertising is having its “moment.” 

Here are some of the choice figures from her keynote and the other sessions: 

  • From a Harris Poll: “Over 70% of consumers view digital OOH advertising more favorably than those in video, social media, print, audio, and online media channels.” For those of you spending ad dollars on any type of media format, it looks like one-third favor DOOH.
  • Same poll: Nearly 3 out of 4 mobile users who are exposed to a DOOH ad act on that ad. That one rings true, but more on that later. 
  • Same poll: 93% of consumers who notice directional DOOH ads will visit that business. This figure really blows my mind. 
  • From an OAAA member poll: “[O]ver 50% of you now use AI in some way, shape or form – enhancing sales tactics, fueling creativity or tapping into advanced business analytics.” It might sound scary, like AI is going to start sending some ad roles to the unemployment line, but here, the deployment of AI here has more to do with efficiency and expediency. In other words, there’s more work than people to do it. 
  • Bager was exuberant about the news of the Media Rating Council finalizing its engagement measurement guidelines, which will go a long way toward quantifying engagement results with OOH. If you dive into the news report, you’ll notice that most commenters who cared enough to post viewed the guidelines unfavorably and with some good reasons, but Bager noted that 87% of readers surveyed by MediaPost considered the MRC accreditation to be “important to their measurement data.” 
  • One of the other points Bager noted was that outside of traditional OOH methods of message delivery, there will be innovations that we haven’t thought of yet, and some will be derived from insights from AI. 

Kate Scott-Dawkins, GroupM president of Business Intelligence, followed a chief marketing officer panel to give some weight behind Bager’s keynote, providing empirical context for much of what Bager noted, particularly around digital OOH advertising. The presentation was based on a report that GroupM released in December, which indicated a slowdown in ad revenue this year.  Scott-Dawkins explained that the numbers show a resurgence when separating out DOOH and travel and airport spending from the rest of the market segments, and is well above other OOH formats (print, cinema, audio, and not accounting for political ads). Scott-Dawkins forecasts digital will surpass TV into 2025 and the rest of the industry by 2028. 

Shelly Palmer, professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, then followed with an AI-focused talk, “Disruption and Innovation.” The talk was tailored for the OOH audience. While most marketers might think we’re in a period of AI fatigue, his advice was to ignore that sentiment and download as many of the versions of AI out there and start upskilling. 

“Your job is not in danger with AI. If you don’t use it, you will be at a disadvantage,” Palmer said as a warning. As many times as I’ve heard someone tell me that AI isn’t taking jobs but giving new life to our job roles, it kind of struck a chord when hearing it said to an audience that I’m unfamiliar with. (I’m more in tune with IT techies and programmers, who have been warned for decades about better technology “taking our jobs.”)

The trade show included a few companies that offered unique displays for OOH advertising. In the time between keynotes, I was able to attend a short Town Hall session “OOH in the Modern Media Mix,” which featured AllUnite CEO Esben Elmoe’s fairly quick and short — but comprehensive — look at its visual audience measurement platform. AI technology is embedded in it, providing efficiencies on the backend to tackle the myriad data gathering methods, from Wi-Fi sensors to 2D and 3D lidar, and parsing that data into increments of time and distance to get incredibly precise campaign engagement measurements. 

Lina Maggi, SVP of Partnership, BCN Visuals, and Kerry Landolfe, VP Creative & Innovation, Media Futures Group, EssenceMediaCom, teamed up to give insight into their partnership developing 3D animated billboards using 2D displays. As Maggi explained, AI streamlined the process by shrinking the time between idea and delivery from several months to weeks, even days, and then delivering engagement results. 

The billboard made me do it

Bager’s statement about out of home’s impact isn’t just chin music. As I drove home, I did spy a few McDonald’s billboards, one of them touting the app. Rather than stop by my usual haunts, like the local Teri Cafe that I usually favor or the In-N-Out Burger (the smell of grilled onions is one effective out of home ad delivery method), I pulled up the McDonald’s app and did a Big Mac/large fries/large Coke reorder. The day finished full circle. 

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