How to Measure Out-of-Home Advertising

When online digital advertising first came to prominence and put traditional advertising on the back burner, it promised two things: highly targeted ads and easily tracked conversions. Excited by these opportunities, advertisers flocked to the new marketing method despite the effectiveness of traditional advertising. Technology has now evolved enough that we know how to measure out-of-home advertising more effectively than ever before, taking one of the main benefits of online digital advertising and integrating it into other appealing options. 

What is out-of-home (OOH) advertising?

Out-of-home advertising refers to any form of advertising that consumers see outside the confines of their homes. This contrasts with other traditional advertising methods such as radio or television ads. Because online digital ads never fully took over, you still see OOH advertising anytime you go out. It’s made up of billboards, vehicle wraps, posters, digital displays, and other ads you see as you go about your day in any sufficiently large locale. 

Now that advertisers have a better idea of how to measure out-of-home advertising using technological innovations, OOH advertising is seeing a resurgence. In fact, all forms of traditional advertising are making a comeback. 

The return of traditional advertising

A number of factors have combined to bring marketers back into the traditional marketing fold. Harvard Business Review recently featured an article that went into some of these reasons in great detail. In short, online advertising is losing its effectiveness, and marketers are beginning to wonder whether it was ever as effective as promised to begin with. 

Some of the reasons given for the return to traditional style marketing include:

Cutting through the noise

Online advertisements are everywhere now. So much so that marketers are discovering that online ads are simply tuned out by consumers. When potential customers see your ads as nothing more than white noise to be scrolled past, your conversion rates tank. This is a concept known as the attention economy and advertisers are looking for ways to cut through the noise and reach consumers in spite of this shift.

The negative impact of the attention economy doesn’t even account for the number of users who run ad blocking software and never have an opportunity to pay attention to your ads. Those consumers become largely unreachable through many online ad campaigns.

Brand safety

When customers do see ads, there are often serious trust issues. While traditional media has retained very high trust ratings, ads on social media and other online platforms can’t say the same. A large part of this is simply that many online advertisers are not very trustworthy. 

Moving away from online advertising helps marketers to capitalize on the increased trust in traditional media while ensuring that their company’s ads aren’t running next to scammers and other undesirable businesses.

Adapting to privacy concerns

The state of online advertising will be changing dramatically in the next few years. In response to privacy concerns, developers of all major browsers have announced that they will no longer allow third-party tracking cookies. This forces marketers who wish to continue advertising online to rely on first-party data and other workarounds to continue getting the same level of targeting that they enjoyed in the early years of online advertising. 

Bringing new technology to traditional media

The days of static displays being the only way to bring your marketing campaigns to out-of-home audiences are over. Modern display technologies, powered by today’s ubiquitous broadband internet access, have empowered a new generation of digital displays for advertisers to take advantage of. These displays offer several advantages to marketers, especially now that we know how to measure out-of-home advertising effectiveness. 

Captive audiences

OOH advertising has always offered a captive audience in some sense of the word. Someone sitting on a bus or standing in an elevator has little choice but to look at the advertisements directly in front of them. However, digital displays allow marketers to reach a captivated audience. The dynamic nature of the displays brings them closer to TV ads than posters. 

With the right creative team, advertisers can now craft engaging campaigns that will lead to quality impressions rather than passive viewing by potential customers. By choosing the right placements for digital displays, it’s also easy to target specific audiences rather than the less effective mass advertising some other OOH advertising methods rely on.

Related: Captivate’s ‘Women in Business’ content series aims to celebrate and inspire women across the workforce

Programmatic buying

Digital displays are more easily and cost-effectively changed than posters and other static displays. Like other forms of digital advertising, they can benefit from programmatic buying. Using algorithms to plan ad buys has been tremendously successful in the digital space; programmatic ads are expected to make up 91% of the total digital ad market in 2023. Digital displays combine that winning formula with the dependability of OOH advertising. 

Related: Programmatic Q&A:  Adrian Witter & Captivate’s Lorenzo Papa

How to measure out-of-home advertising success

Programmatic buying is a great addition that modern technology brings to traditional advertising, but the real benefit is in giving us better ways to measure out-of-home advertising success. Online advertising spoiled a lot of marketers by providing them with precise metrics to track that can accurately gauge the success of a campaign. OOH advertising is catching up, with only a little more preparation involved.

Track search spikes

This is one of the least accurate methods but still provides you with a good at-a-glance look at how well an OOH campaign is performing. When people are interested in your display advertising, often the first thing they’ll do is open their phone and search for your company. If you see a big spike in organic search traffic that coincides with the launch of a campaign, there’s a good chance your campaign is the cause of that traffic.

We mentioned organic traffic, but don’t forget to include any paid ads you may be running on search engines as well. These are usually the top results in a search for your company name, and as such, they’ll be the ones that searchers coming from your display ads are likely to click on. 

Track direct website traffic

Sometimes, instead of coming to your website through search, consumers who see your ads will go directly to your webpage. This is especially true if you’ve displayed your website somewhere prominent on the ad. Even if you haven’t, with enough brand recognition, consumers may still know which website to go to. Don’t forget to look for spikes here as well. 

Track foot traffic

If you have a physical store location, your OOH campaign will hopefully bring in more foot traffic. Similarly to tracking an increase in website searches and visits during the time of your ad campaign, look for any correlation between increased foot traffic into your store during this time as well. 

Track app downloads

If your OOH campaign is advertising a mobile app or other digital product, then it will result in an increase in downloads if it’s successful. Like website traffic and foot traffic, this is an easy metric to measure and correlate to your OOH efforts. 

Use vanity URLs

Now we’re getting into slightly more accurate territory. We’ve seen how you can track an increase in website visits to gauge how many people may have responded to your digital display ads. But there’s no way to know for certain those top-level visits are coming from the ad. Instead of placing your top-level domain on the ad, you can use a vanity URL. By using a different URL for each campaign, you can see exactly who is coming from where.

Vanity URLs have the downside of requiring the consumer to remember the tag at the end and to enter it in instead of stopping on the top-level domain. QR codes are a way of encoding those vanity URLs that make them even easier to enter than your top-level domain is. That makes QR codes on your display ads one of the most attractive ways to track performance.

Offer discount codes

If your ad is promoting a sale, requiring a discount code to be entered in order to receive the sale price is another way to track exactly where your conversion came from. Remember to make the code easy to remember. People might see your display and not be able to make a purchase until much later. If they forgot the discount code, they might not make the purchase at all. 

Shortcode autoresponders

“Text CAMPAIGN to 45443.” We’ve all seen copy similar to that on various ads before. This is a great example of marketers taking advantage of technology to measure the success of their traditional media campaigns. Similar to discount codes, these prompts to shortcode autoresponders can be tied to a specific form of advertising and provide you with vital information about where your audience comes from.

Ask visitors directly

A slightly old-fashioned way of tracking how effective your marketing efforts are is to ask customers how they found you. A drop-down box on your conversion page will provide them the opportunity to tell you a little about what brought them to you. Be sure to ask by category rather than by each individual ad placement, otherwise, users might not take the time to scroll through the options or to answer accurately.

Measure brand lift

Customer surveys are another way of getting feedback about your OOH campaign. Although they may not directly ask where the customer found you, they will show an uptick in brand awareness or an improvement in brand perception if your campaign is successful. Intent to purchase and preference for your brand over the competition are other factors that can indicate a well-performing OOH campaign. These are easily measurable with the right tool.

Digital display ads with Captivate

Captivate offers dynamic digital displays that enhance the aesthetic appeal of real estate and bring a high-performing method of advertising to brands looking to reach high-value customers using a tried and true method with a modern twist. To learn more about how Captivate can help your brands achieve their marketing goals, contact us today.

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