Emerging technologies and their impact on digital out-of-home advertising

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Change is the only constant in today’s fast-paced digital world. And emerging technologies are driving the bandwagon of innovation, impacting industries across the board — including digital out-of-home advertising.

From augmented reality experiences at retail stores to AI-powered ad targeting on public transportation, these advancements are changing how brands connect with their ever-moving target audiences.

In this article, we’ll delve into the impact of these emerging technologies on DOOH advertising and offer tips for staying competitive in a constantly evolving landscape.

What is digital out-of-home advertising?

Out-of-home advertising is a form of advertising that reaches consumers while they are outside of their homes. Also known as outdoor media or OOH advertising, this strategy uses billboards, bus/train wraps, street furniture, and other physical structures to display advertisements while consumers are on-the-go.

Now, advertising outdoors is nothing new. Traditional OOH advertising has been around for decades, but the introduction of digital technology has taken this form of advertising to a whole new level. 

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising uses digital screens, often connected to the internet, to dynamically display ads in public spaces. This form of advertising offers numerous benefits to marketers, including the ability to target specific audiences and deliver personalized messages, as well as the flexibility to quickly and easily update content according to current events or changes in campaign strategy.

For example, a restaurant chain can use DOOH advertising to display different menu items and promotions in distinct areas, based on demographics and preferences within the locale — like when McDonald’s UK used weather-reactive DOOH advertising for its seasonal frozen drink promotions. 

When temperatures rose above 22 degrees Celsius, the campaign creative would switch to showcase the refreshing and cooling options available. And when temperatures soared above 25 degrees Celsius, signage would automatically update to include text detailing the current temperature and location. This type of customized, timely advertising is just one of the many benefits that DOOH offers to marketers looking to engage and connect with their target audience.

Emerging technologies impacting DOOH

As digital out-of-home advertising becomes more popular and widespread, emerging technologies are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Today, three technologies are currently driving innovation within the DOOH industry: QR codes, AI, and the metaverse.

#1: QR codes

A study published by Alfi, an AI enterprise SaaS advertising platform, has found that an overwhelming majority of senior executives believe that QR codes will become increasingly popular in DOOH in the next two years. Nearly 98% of those surveyed expect an increase in QR codes appearing in DOOH campaigns. These sobering numbers indicate that, according to those in positions of power, QR codes are here to stay and their adoption is all but inevitable.

QR codes are one of those technologies that, once you start using them, you wonder how you ever got by without them. Not only do they allow you to track who is engaging with your content and when, but these squiggly line squares also open up a whole world of possibilities for interactive experiences.

From virtual scavenger hunts to journeys through augmented reality universes, to tailored experiences based on individual consumer data, QR codes add a layer of interactivity and personalization that can take DOOH projects to the next level. 

Take, for instance, KFC UK’s 2016 DOOH campaign featuring QR codes that, when scanned with the Snapchat app, unlocked a branded filter offering in-store deals and promotions.

This campaign was the first to use the “snap to unlock” feature in the UK, demonstrating how QR codes can seamlessly blend the physical and digital worlds for a truly unique and effective campaign.

As QR codes continue to become more widely adopted and integrated into DOOH campaigns, brands and advertising professionals must explore all that QR codes have to offer if they want to put their best foot forward. Fortunately, the Internet has dozens of QR code generator options, making it easy for anyone to jump on the QR code bandwagon and design their own interactive campaigns.

However, just slapping a QR code onto a billboard is not enough. QR codes should be thoughtfully woven into a larger campaign strategy, creating an experience that adds value for the consumer while driving tangible results for the brand.

#2: Artificial intelligence

Another emerging technology set to make waves in DOOH is artificial intelligence (AI). A new report from Allied Market Research shows that the global DOOH market is expected to grow from $18.80 billion in 2020 to $58.67 billion by 2031. And much of this growth is being fueled by the incorporation of AI technologies into DOOH campaigns.

AI can be used in various capacities within DOOH, from optimizing ad placements and targeting specific audiences to personalizing and customizing content in real time. AI can also gather huge amounts of data, providing insights into your moving audience’s behavior and preferences.

One example of AI in action is GMC’s interactive DOOH campaign for their Acadia SUV.

The brand used AI-powered facial analytics technology to detect audience demographics and even their emotions. The display then served up a personalized video ad, which could be anything from a video ad to a game of Simon Says, based on the viewer’s data. 

This level of personalization and interactivity is becoming more and more necessary in today’s crowded advertising landscape, and AI is helping DOOH keep up with the demands of consumers.

#3: Metaverse

For those not familiar with the term, the metaverse is a virtual reality world where users take control of avatars and interact with each other in a live setting. Think along the lines of the virtual world in Ready Player One, but on a smaller scale (for now).

And while this technology is still in its infancy, the potential for metaverse integration in DOOH campaigns is undeniable. Imagine being able to interact with a virtual version of a brand’s store or product, or even be transported into an alternate (virtual) reality for a fully immersive brand experience.

This kind of interactivity and immersion has the potential to take DOOH to the next level, creating unforgettable experiences for consumers and driving tangible results for brands. A great example of metaverse integration can be seen in the latest campaign by BON V!V Spiked Seltzer.

Passersby could scan a QR code on the OOH printed mural to activate an immersive Web AR retail experience. Users could then tap-to-place a fully functioning, virtual 3D BON V!V vending machine and browse the different flavors, choosing their favorite and watching it get dispensed in a cool animation. 

Following the entertaining animation, they were given the choice of directly buying the product, or viewing a map that would show the nearest store where they could pick up their spiked seltzer.

In another example, Burger King’s recent “Burn That Ad” AR campaign allowed users to burn a competitor’s advertisement using their AR app. 

As the augmented reality flames lick at the competition’s ad, a coupon for a Whopper appears. It’s a fun way to take out the competition and drive sales in one fell swoop.

As you can see, the potential for brands to wow consumers and drive results through metaverse integration in DOOH advertising is huge. And as technology continues to develop and become more accessible, we can only imagine the exciting campaigns that lie ahead. 

What do leaders need to know?

Now that we’ve explored some of the emerging technologies set to shake up the DOOH advertising world, let’s talk about what marketing managers need to keep in mind as they navigate this ever-changing landscape.

Start with an ethical foundation

With the rapid advancements in DOOH tech, brands and advertising professionals can easily get caught up in the hype and rush to incorporate flashy new tactics into campaigns. But in the midst of all this, leaders in DOOH must prioritize ethical considerations and ensure they are not infringing on consumer privacy or exploiting the technology in a manipulative way. 

That means being transparent about data collection and usage, and constantly reevaluating practices to ensure they align with ethical principles. Taking these steps at the beginning will set you on the path to successful, sustainable campaigns in the long run.

Focus on the consumer experience

Ultimately, the goal of DOOH campaigns is to engage and appeal to consumers. Marketing leaders in this space are always advised to put the end user first, considering their wants and needs so as to enhance their overall experience with DOOH. 

This may involve incorporating interactive elements or personalization, creating a seamless cross-channel experience, or finding unique ways to surprise and delight consumers. However you approach it, putting the consumer first will result in more successful campaigns and a better return on investment.

Prepare for future disruptions

The DOOH, like every other marketing and advertising medium, is being disrupted by new technologies and innovations almost every day. For those in charge, keeping up with industry trends and anticipating disruptions are crucial strategies to stay ahead of the game.

The future may bring advancements in AI and automation, new forms of interactive technology, or expanded opportunities for personalization and targeting. Future-minded leaders will actively seek out these developments and think about how they can incorporate them into their strategies to drive successful marketing efforts, while those who fail to adapt may get left behind. 

Be mindful of your resource limitations

While being forward-thinking and ambitious will take you far, it’s equally important to stay grounded in the reality of your present circumstances. In other words, you have to understand the capabilities of your team and recognize the limits you have to work within.

Focusing on what’s attainable with your current resources and making the most of them while managing this project would help you create more DOOH projects while also protecting you from the disappointment of failing to reach overly ambitious goals. So, prioritize the DOOH strategies you know will be feasible and achievable with your existing capabilities and save the rest for when you have the bandwidth to tackle them.

The future of digital out-of-home advertising

The future of DOOH belongs to emerging technologies that enhance the consumer experience and offer new possibilities for targeting and interactivity. Technologies like QR codes, artificial intelligence, and metaverse are just beginning to be integrated into DOOH advertising, but they hold the potential to transform the medium in exciting and unpredictable ways. As these technologies develop and improve, DOOH will become an even more impactful and dynamic form of advertising. 

Will Fastiggi
Will Fastiggi

Originally from England, Will is an Upper Primary Coordinator now living in Brazil. He is passionate about making the most of technology to enrich the education of students.

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