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Outdoor: an old medium just got a face lift.

It’s summer, and what media are particularly strong in the summer?  Well if you said outdoor and radio, then you must be listening in to my Summer Media Planning class.  Recently while lecturing about media selection, we covered the strengths and weaknesses of each media class.  Just like every tool in your tool box, all advertising media have strengths and weaknesses. Outdoor is one that I particularly enjoy talking about. 

Outdoor is exciting.  It is big and it is bold.  Outdoor advertising is one of the oldest advertising media.  Remember the Burma-Shave campaigns along country roadways?  Advertising students should be familiar with this one.  This use of the multiple consecutive, continuous message billboards was a successful advertising gimmick during the early years of the automobile, drawing attention of passers-by that were curious to discover the punch line.  Today we would call this a teaser approach.  But it worked and it ignited a full blown industry of advertising that today has continued to evolve with modern technology.  Digital outdoor advertising is new and it is an exciting way to combine the benefits of the past with the flexibility that new technology offers.

Advertising Age, recently reported about these changes in the article “Inside Outdoor Advertising’s Digital Makeover” by Abbey Klaasenan and Andrew Hampp, June 14, 2010. “Technology is transforming this old-as-the-ages ad channel into something far more interactive, whether its billboards that change color or shift shapes, or bus shelters that interact with the mobile phone in your hands.”  Yes, outdoor advertising is changing; it now offers the flexibility of changing your message throughout the month, day or even by the day-part.  Sell coffee and rolls in the morning, and push burgers and fries at noon.  Television stations and newspapers can use this medium to promote the late breaking news story of the day.  Throughout the country, local police departments are entering into partnerships with outdoor advertising companies to post the pictures of people wanted for arrest, and we have certainly seen how outdoor can assist with Amber alerts. 

Outdoor advertising could always generate word of mouth or media buzz.  Remember radio station personalities perched on top of billboards raising money for charities, or three dimensional billboards?  Those of you in Lincoln, do you remember the giant football that looked like it crashed into the billboard near the stadium, promoting TierOne Bank?  Yes, I was involved in that one.  In large markets, outdoor advertising is draped on the outside of skyscrapers.  It has always generated the wow factor and word of mouth.  But now, outdoor advertising can start to be personal and interactive. 

The benefits of outdoor combine with the truly impactful digital revolution.

A recent study by Arbitron, a media research company, found nine out of ten people notice the advertising copy on digital billboards some or most of the time.  Nearly two out of three find digital billboards to be a cool way to advertising and recall for specific brands hit 50% for some advertisers. (Source: Outdoor Advertising Association)

Outdoor advertising has been measured with traffic counts.  Simply put, the traffic that goes by a billboard is estimated and converted into a Daily Effective Circulation.  We call this the DEC we use that number to compare one location over the next.  We use those numbers to estimate how many consumers we are reaching with our message.  This is the way it has always been done,  but that is changing too.  A new method or process has been introduced as “Eyes On.” This new metric system will measure audiences likely to see an outdoor ad, with rich demographic and ethnographic data.  Instead of just looking at how many eyeballs had the opportunity to see the ad, we will be able to learn more about who is likely to see our message. 

Now, how does this new measurement work?  It is complicated.  Ad Age reported about this too, in “Outdoor Ad Industry Finally Gets its improved metrics” by Andrew Hampp published March 30, 2010.  I will attempt to simplify: it combines eyetracking, circulation and travel survey data to provide the Eyes On rating.  Now it may be awhile before this new system is available in our local markets, but it is coming.  As the digital revolution continues, watch how creativity and technology can combine for outstanding results for advertisers.


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