Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is the world’s oldest advertising medium. Though it may be a little late to the party, OOH is finally making a push into the digital landscape in a way that will transform our streets, public transit systems and other outdoor spaces. Digital technology is transforming all aspects of marketing to become more relevant, personalized, data-driven, and measurable.  Certain OOH ad companies are bringing dynamic creative and actionable data to a traditionally static industry. Exterion Media, Europe’s largest privately held out-of-home advertising business, is one of them.
Billboards and other outdoor spots have long been able to deliver messages where they are most relevant, but digital now allows brands to deliver them when (and to whom) they are most relevant. Exciting applications of “eye tracking, facial/gender/age recognition, beacon technology, location and geo-gating, dynamic content and social media integration” have already increased interest in OOH in recent years.  Additionally, in the increasingly crowded and chaotic world of digital advertising, marketers are concerned about whether or not ads are actually seen by consumers. As consumers start to experience “advertising fatigue” (the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau reports that 22% of UK adults now use adblocking software), OOH can shine as a “100% viewable medium” with a large-scale audience.  OOH media companies have the opportunity to grab a greater share of marketing budgets by showing brands the power of digitized OOH.
SIGNS OF CHANGE
Exterion Media is using technology to inform, create, and sell OOH in the digital age. The company’s key strategies involve (i) using technology to research the effectiveness of OOH (ii) forming strategic alliances with communications and analytics companies to gather and layer data for implementation and (iii) developing a proprietary platform for changing the way OOH media is sold.
(i) In March 2016 Exterion Media (formerly CBS Outdoor International) won the £1.1bn Transport for London contract, giving it the advertising oversight of more than 400 stations on the London Underground and the most valuable out-of-home contract in Europe. The company’s research, dubbed “The Engagement Zone”, used eye tracking and skin conductance response data, as well as interviews and surveys, to learn about the effectiveness of digital OOH. Findings suggest that, at least in the London Underground, engagement levels were found to match that of TV advertising at 16% and far surpass that of online video at 9%. 
(ii) Exterion is seeking to “build a complete picture of how Londoners behave” and inform digital marketing strategy through its strategic partnerships. The first is with digital communication company Telefónica UK, with whom Exterion has built its “Audience Behavioral Insights (Abi)” tool. The tool is based on anonymous aggregated data from 25 million of Telefonica’s O2 customers as they journey through the tube. The data collected includes mobile activity, CRM data, and app and web usage.  “This is used to offer information including station entry/exit, demographics, interests, locations and time of travel, as well as detail such as when international visitors are at Zone 1 stations.”  Exterion is also working with data agency Beyond Media to analyze consumer payment data along commuter journeys.  Brands wishing to engage in OOH advertising can use this data to tailor content to the right consumers at the right time. In collaboration with the Kinetic agency, Exterion is experimenting with beacons across its established network of bus and rail signage. The beacons “act as a digital conduit between passengers’/shoppers’ mobile phones and the posters they pass by.”  Companies can send targeted and timely content to passengers as they browse on their phones.
(iii) Exterion is also developing a programmatic buying platform set to launch in 2017 to allow clients to bid on ad space in real-time. Using the behavioral data discussed above in combination with this platform, clients can quickly place ads in relevant locations. 
A MOVING TARGET
Despite the recent progress in digitizing the OOH advertising space, many “campaigns continue to be simple ‘linear’ ad spots played out in a loop” on a digital screen.  The true power of digital in this industry goes far beyond this – to using technology and big data to interact with customers in real-time. To encourage adoption of OOH as a viable marketing tool, Exterion is investing in the technology, but now it needs to align itself with forward-thinking brands. By preparing successful integrated campaigns for companies such as Virgin Atlantic or Spotify, Exterion can gain the credibility and exposure that it needs to bring other brands on board. Given its role in collecting increasing amounts of personal consumer data, Exterion must also help brands navigate the murky waters of hyper-targeted advertising.
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