Back to the Future: The Growing Importance of Out-of-Home Advertising

Randy Burge

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Not so long ago, many of us looked at the use of billboard advertising as somehow “unworthy” of the lofty goals of higher ed branding. Sure, it was ok for the “come on down” antics of for-profit providers or to market the occasional open house, but somehow out-of-home advertising media seemed just a little “unseemly.” 

Fast forward to 2020 and out-of-home advertising (OOH) is making a roaring resurgence as a medium of choice for savvy brand advertisers, including colleges and universities. In fact, it has quietly been growing at an annual rate of over 11% (unlike other media platforms). Why? Most experts believe it’s because audiences are simply getting weary of the incessant intrusion of commercial messages on their mobile devices. 

Perhaps OOH-pioneering agency, JCDecaux, says it best. “With the growing number of communication channels, from online to Video on Demand, to social media, audiences are becoming increasingly fragmented. The growing number of devices vying for our attention reduces individual reach and effectiveness of brand messaging. OOH remains a key medium that surrounds audiences in their everyday environment.” 

Why out-of-home advertising remains a key medium: 

Digital opportunities are increasing at an astonishing rate. 

From large jumbotrons to tiny personal screens. (For example, tableside), digital boards provide the opportunity to tell your story with multiple visuals and with unprecedented resolution. Or to run multiple ads at a single location, with the ability to change messaging in real-time. 

Serialization

Modern branding is about storytelling. Brand advertisers are desperate to find new ways to tell their stories in no-miss ways. Out-of-home provides the opportunity to engage audiences as the stories evolve from board to board. 

Targetability

Evolving targeting technologies “allow brands to communicate relevant messaging to relevant audiences in a more engaging and contextual way. Whether increasing overall awareness or targeting defined audiences, OOH allows brands to communicate directly to consumers more effectively with reliable accountability and to achieve higher ROI.” With new buying platforms (that replace gravely-voiced media mavens), advertisers can now create media RFPs with very specific targets in mind vs. the time-honored tradition of “driving the boards.” 

Localization

Online education, except for a few super-players, is local. Most online students tend to enroll at an institution that has bricks and mortar within 50 miles. Well placed OOH can give an institution a local presence, allowing it to expand its marketing footprint. Conversely, well done out-of-home can revitalize the presence of the local provider by building a newly relevant opportunity for engagement. 

Does this mean that we expect that OOH will supplant search, social or digital display advertising? Absolutely not. By combining out of home and mobile media, we can drive relevance, reinforce our messages, extend our reach cost-effectively, and provide targeted frequency.  There’s a reason that Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube all dedicate huge portions of their advertising budgets to OOH. They know that OOH drives more search traffic per dollar spent than any other medium. 

Let’s talk about how OOH can become an important part of building your brand, driving traffic to your site, making your marketing dollars work harder to achieve your enrollment goals. Drop me a note at: randy.burge@stamats.com 

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