The 'Clickthrough' Of Digital Out-of-Home

The other day, I wrote a story for MediaPost's MediaDailyNews reporting on a new service digital out-of-home advertising aggregator Adcentricity announced that will add a suite of mobile applications, plug-ins, and enhancements to place-based media buys. The move is significant, not simply because it will bring scale and ease-of-use to the rapidly converging mobile and out-of-home media marketplaces, but because it recognizes the inherent synergies between the two location-based forms of media.

And the recognition from the point of view of place-based media, is that mobile is becoming the "clickthrough of digital out-of-home." It's a concept that the Adcentricity people would prefer to soft-peddle for the moment. At least until the industry and Madison Avenue can figure out a proper way of valuing the role of digital out-of-home advertising buys that come equipped with a means of clicking through and initiating a response or call-to-action.




Why? Because they've watched what's happened to the Internet very, very closely, and they've seen how it evolved from a cost-per-thousand (CPM) based medium to a cost-per-click (CPC), and ultimately to a cost-per-action (CPA) advertising model. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Direct response, and performance-based media, can be absolutely the right way of valuing media and measuring the return on advertising dollars invested for certain types of products, categories and marketing campaigns. Paid search is a good example. But the problem is that much of the rest of the Internet has gotten painted under that same brush stroke, and we are all witnessing a push to make online display advertising and even online video based on performance metrics, vs. Madison Avenue's traditional brand metrics.

That's bad, because it leaves a lot of media value on the table that cannot necessarily be proved via immediate responses to an advertising message. The current economic crisis is only accelerating the shift to performance vs. branding online. Coupled with technologies that are aggregating, parsing and retargeting audiences via broad-based and vertical advertising networks, online increasingly is looking like a distressed advertising market.

The trend toward performance metrics is something all of traditional media, including digital out-of-home, are keeping a close eye on, for several reasons. One is that all the growth in the advertising marketplace this year is coming from online. That's according to the latest edition of the quarterly tracking study from ZenithOptimedia Group, which predicted that online would be the only medium to see a net gain during 2009. But much of that growth, ZenithOptimedia predicted, would come from search and other performance-based online advertising models.

So if you're the TV industry, and you're on the cusp of finally rolling out some scalable, addressable TV advertising options, you've got to wonder -- and worry. And if you're newspapers, magazines, and radio, which are all in the toilet, you've got to see the writing on the wall, too. But if you're digital out-of-home media, which, with all due respect to ZenithOptimedia's estimates, clearly is also growing this year, you've got to stop and think about which model you will embrace, and where that will ultimately take you.

The truth is, all media are becoming digital. Even print-based media like newspapers and magazines, and even static outdoor billboards, thanks to new 2D codes and other technologies that are effectively giving them a return path with the consumer. But digital out-of-home media is already there - and, when augmented with a mobile application or device, it truly becomes the equivalent of the Internet in out-of-home locations.

Right now, and during the past several years that the digital out-of-home media marketplace has managed to organize itself into a genuine industry -- spawning a trade group like OVAB, and establishing standards, metrics, best practices, creative guidelines, and all the stuff that is making it akin to more established media -- its value system has been based on the value of the audiences it delivers and the relevance of the locations and mindsets it delivers them in. But if digital out-of-home clickthroughs become the new coin of the realm, the value equation will quickly shift from context to behavior, and if that sounds a little like déjà vu, it's because that is exactly what is happening with the Internet.

So kudos to Adcentricity for grabbing the mobile bull by the horns, but not letting it go charging, unbridled, out of the gate. Let's see where this thing goes, how it evolves, and how advertisers, agencies, programmers, distributors and venues all derive value by reaching consumers in new and more powerful ways.

Your thoughts?


Editor's Note: MediaPost is still looking for a few good ideas from people and organizations offering new digital out-of-home media and advertising models to present at next week's Digital Out-of-Home Forum & Expo in New York. If you think you've got one, please email Erik Sass ( ).

3 comments about "The 'Clickthrough' Of Digital Out-of-Home".
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  1. Chris Lorenzoni from Velti, April 15, 2009 at 4:33 p.m.

    Joe- thanks for this post, I have been speaking to many agencies about this very topic!

  2. Stephen Randall from LocaModa, April 15, 2009 at 8:14 p.m.

    Joe – Thanks for this blog and for this post.

    I’d like to get up on my soapbox and shout out….”if it isn't measurable it isn't monetizable.” As good a job as OVAB is doing to define DOOH standards of audience measurement, there isn’t an agreed DOOH concept for real-time metrics or anything resembling a clickthrough on the horizon.
    But I’ll be fair, the devil is in the details. The humble txt message CAN be used as a clickthrough when deployed as a narrowcast message but it rarely is.

    At LocaModa we deployed an award winning campaign for AT&T in 1,200 locations, across multiple DOOH networks. We were able to recognize engagement time (average 4 minutes on mobiles), unique clicks (300,000) and determine what locations and networks were the most interactive (eg Barcast in Boston, Zoom Media in NYC and Danoo in LA). This was even more effective because it was a cross platform deployment.

    However, many agencies and DOOH networks are too eager to grab short-term dollars at the expense of longer-term relationships (and ultimately greater dollars). They run a primitive and generic broadcast txt-to-win type campaign, deployed as a poster or video with a call-to-action. What’s not in the small print is that such a campaign is not capable of the same kind of clickthrough metrics as the AT&T campaign. A broadcast campaign can’t determine where the message was sent from or who sent it. The DOOH network and agency in this case really shouldn’t be surprised when their campaign doesn’t deliver and when their clients don’t renew.

    Adcentricity and SeeSaw have taken leadership positions on interactivity and real-time measurement in DOOH. They have had to as they are often competing for budgets that will otherwise be deployed on more measurable solutions. Several DOOH networks such as Clearchannel, Danoo and Barcast have pioneered interactivity and mobile clickthrough and are ahead in their thinking in my opinion.
    The future belongs to networks and agencies that embrace measurable media. DOOH is no exception.

  3. Salman Salim from OutDoorAdvertising, September 14, 2010 at 2:20 a.m.

    With the advancements in technology, digital out of home advertising made outdoor advertising hi-tech and effective even at night. According to several studies on advertising, it has been analyzed that visitors pay more attention to outdoor billboards as compared to other forms of media.

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