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MarTech Musings with Accretive Media Founder Craig Benner

OOH and its more recent technologically-enabled and data-driven cousin DOOH are in the midst of a ‘re-imagining’ by marketers. The sheer technological innovation, availability of locational and mobile data, and omni-channel environment has given marketers new ways to make the most of this exciting not-so-new medium. Craig Benner, CEO of Accretive Media tells us how.

Marketers of a certain vintage would recall the days of OOH, when we would need to book ‘billboards’ well in advance of launch date, pepper the highways and countryside with our messaging; and pay exponentially more for ‘high-traffic areas’. In the age of ‘digital transformation of everything’, of course, you either transform or you disappear. OOH has undergone a transformation too, and its present-day alter-avatar is DOOH, which believers say is digital, programmatic, measurable, and apparently (still) highly effective. Today we have everything from AI enabled talking signboards to self-changing bus shelter signboards and interactive kiosks. Obviously, this merits a deeper dig; so we got in touch with Craig Benner, ad industry veteran and now founder of Accretive Media, a programmatic DOOH advertising platform. Edited excerpts from the conversation.

1. From Reach Quantity to Reach Quality: the evolution of OOH

The use of data, targeting technology, and analytics by the OOH industry is driving a shift from sheer reach to quality of reach, segmentation, and a better understanding of ad effectiveness. Tell us more about this evolution.

The industry has long boasted that out-of-home drives results, but our inability to prove out that fact has held us back while other more accountable mediums grew.

For me, coming from a digital background where we would measure EVERYTHING, I remember announcing our DOOH platform to industry friends and getting sarcastically asked “do you already have the guys in the trench coats ready to count the people walking by your signs?”  It was all in good fun, but it made it crystal clear they didn’t understand that we were in the middle of this medium’s reawakening.

Fast forward to today and we’re doing things more advanced than we used to do in digital. And we’re driving results that other channels wished they could achieve. This is all enabled by better access and availability to data and technology – and frankly more attention and buzz around out-of-home in general; which you can’t block, can’t fake, and can’t fully avoid.  In a complicated media landscape in which brands are desperate to connect with often overwhelmed and distracted consumers, intelligently executed out-of-home is a breath of fresh air.

2. DOOH Metrics, Measurement and ROI

Ok so let’s get specific then. What metrics can marketers track to demonstrate ROI of OOH today, that they couldn’t in the past?

In 2018, Accretive’s work on Ticketmaster during the NFL Draft to raise awareness of TM’s official NFL ticketing agreement delivered measurable results too. Accretive leveraged outdoor roadside billboards to blanket the ‘hot zones’ of AT&T Stadium, DFW Airport, and Downtown / Uptown; and screens at bars/ casual dining to reach engaged fans in town for the event. This 4-day campaign, aligned with the draft, utilized custom creative that dynamically changed based on the specific pick. For example, when the Jets selected Sam Darnold with the third pick, the creative said, ‘The NFL Selects Ticketmaster, the Jets Select Sam Darnold.’ Hundreds of creatives ran over 7 rounds of the draft.

The results: • 3.42% web visitation rate • 0.081% conversion rate • 190% lift over control group (web visitation)  • 43% lift over control group (conversions)

Frankly, up to a couple years ago, you couldn’t really measure anything with out-of-home. And everything you could measure were estimates that had a bunch of asterisks next to them (Ed: Sounds a lot like Advertising in general!). Out-of-home was a subjective purchase, a location-based real estate play. Metrics included estimated reach, maybe some rough rating points that were modeled off of estimated reach. Today, with the right platform, most common digital metrics should be available.The key to DOOH is the linkage between physical world and digital identity, and the more advanced platforms are making this a priority .

So, how do we demonstrate outcomes from OOH that will move the needle from the 4% allocation that we’ve been stuck at seemingly forever?  In addition to the typical foot traffic reporting which is now in its maturity, things like website visitation, online sales, tune in, offline sales, return on ad spend, and more are becoming available. Every time these reports are surfaced, we see that OOH performs fantastically versus other channels because it’s a high view, high impact, high success format that is hard to ignore.

3. Can OOH connect the online and offline world of the consumer?

Picking up on your point about DOOH connecting the online and offline world effectively  can you give us some real-life examples or use-cases of that being done successfully in today’s omni-channel, multi-device world?

If I were to straw poll 100 people and say which was more influential, a 14×40 foot billboard on the 405 freeway during rush hour or a 3×2 inch banner ad on a desktop browser 2,000 pixels below the fold that may or may not have been served to a human’s computer, its pretty obvious what the answer would be.

One specific use case is a CPG advertiser we are currently working with. They are launching a new product in select US markets and are using a combination of DOOH and mobile retargeting to create awareness, generate product trail, and ultimately develop frequent purchasers. We started the project by identifying household CEOs (household CPG purchasers, generally moms), then identified where those consumers spend their time relative to our DOOH screen footprint. From there, we are targeting this segment via specific screen types more conducive to that product segment (billboards, gas stations, malls, gyms, etc.) and reinforcing the message via mobile to consumers already exposed to the DOOH ads. The mobile retargeting includes an added incentive of a coupon to induce action/immediate purchase. From there, we will take offline sales data and measure how the DOOH ads drove in-store purchase and ultimately ROI. This is in addition to the simple mobile engagement metrics we will measure.

This whole exercise will allow us to truly understand the relationship between DOOH venue type exposures, mobile interaction, cross-channel frequency, and the client’s goal – product purchase. This capability didn’t exist last year, and these are the types of use cases that are going to move our industry forward and push DOOH further into the spotlight.

4. But…there is always a but....

Sounds like DOOH combined with the new wave of mobile marketing/ locational data could be powerful. But in practical terms, what are the challenges with OOH that still need to be addressed? 

It’s ironic that while the average brand spends roughly 4% of their measured media budget on OOH, digital-first, progressive brands like Apple, Facebook, and Google spend over 3 times that. In fact, some reports have Apple spending over 20% of their media budget on OOH; they are locked and bought in. These are digital businesses – some of which make their living on digital advertising – but they still see the power of out-of-home. It’s an interesting phenomenon. 

There are actually 2 challenges that we now face, and they are somewhat related. The first, and probably biggest, is the fear of change. Out-of-home advertising has been around forever, so naturally the industry is taking a slower, more measured approach to changing the way it is bought.  It’s similar to how the newspaper industry approached online, then ultimately programmatic  the entire industry isn’t going to shift overnight from location and vanity-based buying to audience-based buying. It’s going to take some time, despite the numbers continuing to prove out the value of a more data-driven approach.

The 2nd challenge is a more nuanced one. There is a silent bifurcation within the industry about where DOOH should fit, and it could be disruptive.

Is it ‘just another channel’ that can be jammed into the larger omni-channel DSPs? The people in this camp prefer to commoditize the channel before we actually see what it can do so they can get to and control the budgets.

On the other hand, there are those who ask if the uniqueness of the medium – both static and digital out-of-home – should be preserved until it can demonstrate its value on its own – before getting absorbed as ‘just another digital touchpoint’?  So – rather than subordinating it to other channels now, should we allow the medium to mature and develop and then figure out optimal ways to integrate it into omni-channel strategies?

5. DOOH as the future – and the future of DOOH

What OOH trends are you most interested in over the next 3-5 years? What will the industry look like?

First and foremost, I’m excited to see out-of-home finally start to enter the mainstream with TV, digital, etc. This will bring more budgets, more entrants, and more innovation to space – which will benefit the entire industry.

Platforms and media owners that have access to differentiated, high fidelity data will be able to do very impactful things with OOH creative.

Second, I’m bullish on customized creative. As OOH is still a one-to-many medium, it’s not about individual personalization, but about contextualized experiences that will induce better engagement with the screens/boards .  Right now, we already have weather and other basic data-driven content triggers; I expect this to be a huge opportunity going forward.

As for the future state, in 5 years, out-of-home will represent well over 10%, of an advertiser’s spend. It will be a foundational element of a brand’s communication strategy. All advertisers will be focused on omni-channel targeting and measurement, and OOH will be responsible for driving a significant portion of the results. Being able to marry the artistry of this big bold medium with the science of data, targeting, attribution, measurement, et al will have advertisers questioning why they didn’t invest more in the medium sooner.


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