New Rules For Data In OOH Advertising

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is the only major form of traditional advertising that is growing. Unlike TV, radio, and print publishing, which have all lost share of ad spend as traditional formats go digital, the reverse has been true for OOH.

When billboards or bus shelters go from paper to pixels, revenue potential increases as more ads can be rotated in and more dynamic formats can be utilized.

OOH now stands at the precipice of becoming a true data-driven medium. This is a moment of reckoning, when the OOH industry can learn from the mistakes of the online world -- or be doomed to repeat them. As new rules for data and advertising start to emerge in the online space, here are three areas where the OOH industry should likewise look to raise the bar on privacy, ensuring that data does not become a four-letter word:  

Minimize the data footprint. In the online world, the collection and use of data have been arguably indiscriminate, the result of an “if-it’s-allowed-then-do-it” mentality. The OOH bar needs to be higher. The scope of data collection and use should be limited not merely to what is allowed, but to what is allowed and minimally required to operate the business.

Location data, if collected and shared, should be obfuscated and imprecise. Cameras should never be used to identify specific individuals or vehicles. Data should be stored for the bare minimum of time necessary (and far less than the one- to two-year standard for online). When it comes to data collection, retention, and sharing practices, less is more.

Be fully transparent with data practices. Arguably the biggest failing of digital advertising to date has been the longstanding practice of disclosing data practices to the minimum degree required. The OOH bar needs to be higher. Any conversation about data and privacy has to begin with trust, and there can be no trust without understanding what is done (and not done) with the data. That means creating a privacy policy that explains, clearly and in detail, everything the company does with user data. Conversely, if it’s not in the privacy policy, it shouldn’t be done. This kind of radical approach to transparency is where the online industry is moving with efforts like GDPR, but the OOH industry should simply start there.

Do not target individuals with advertising. This principle is a true departure from online. In the online world, there is typically one person consuming content and advertising on a personal device, and advertising often follows people around on those devices. The OOH bar needs to be higher.

Imagine if that pair of shoes, rash cream, weight loss supplement, or pregnancy test that you browsed online, now followed you around in public space, where those ads are seen by the people around you and can’t be blocked. That’s not just the stuff of “Minority Report” futurism; today’s real-time technologies could theoretically accomplish this. Doing so could violate people’s expectations of privacy in public space and lead to the kinds of negative consumer experiences we’ve seen online, or worse. The OOH industry should simply refrain from the practice of targeting specific individuals with advertising in public space.

The OOH industry stands poised at a transition: from a historically data-poor medium to one that is about to join the big data revolution. It has a unique opportunity to learn from the past, standing on the shoulders of online advertising to proactively raise the bar when it comes to the collection and use of data. The right set of choices now can benefit consumers, drive continued OOH revenue growth, and set an example for the rest of the advertising industry.

1 comment about "New Rules For Data In OOH Advertising".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, June 28, 2018 at 7:12 p.m.

    And I'd add make sure that your reach data doesn't exceed the population as a large online company regularly reports.

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