I’ve always loved Advertising Week. It’s an opportunity for the top minds in the marketing and advertising world to get together, discuss best practices, and share (okay, brag about) the great work they’ve done over the last year. And the thing I like best about Ad Week is that over the last ten years since its inception, technology increasingly has had equal time alongside creative—this year was no exception. There will always be a need for creative content in the industry; the question is really how those of us on the technology side of the industry can better target and deploy it based on data.
For this very reason, in our programmatic age, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s announcement that it would launching the "#EverywhereUR" campaign, in conjunction with Aerva, Clear Channel Outdoor, and others—timed precisely to the Advertising Week kick-off—was disappointing.
The campaign was certainly creative—socially focused, encouraging sharing of photos through Twitter—and there was some technology in play, in that these images were deployed near-instantly across many different locations. But there’s nothing novel about that technology, really. We already see this on TV: if you watch ESPN in the morning, you might see a ticker at the bottom of the screen showing aggregated tweets from viewers using the same hashtag. And anyone who’s ever Instagrammed knows how easy it is to push a picture to thousands of screens in a manner of seconds.
Not Just Content—Context
While a nice platform for digital signage, the OAAA campaign was really no different from one big-screened Snapchat. All it really did is let people see themselves, fleetingly, on a billboard. While digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising has often been purchased for vanity reasons in the past, what was disappointing is this campaign reinforced such antiquated behavior.
There was a huge missed opportunity here to show the right photos at the right time. With more than half of Americans owning smartphones, each of which generate massive amounts of location-based data, there’s an immense amount of information OAAA and its partners could have used, if they wanted to, to intelligently target their content.
Say for instance that they knew (based on aggregated, non-uniquely identifiable mobile data) that at 7 p.m. most foot-traffic in Times Square is flowing north and west, toward where the majority of the Broadway playhouses are. Perhaps instead of a selfie shot at 42nd and 6th, a photo of the cast of The Book of Mormon or Annie or Chicago advertising post-show dinner and drink specials. Or, if marketers wanted to target native New Yorkers who find themselves (likely unwillingly) in Times Square, they could have used mobile data to determine when the highest concentration of non-tourists is likely to be in the neighborhood, and targeted them with an ad accordingly; something like: “you don’t have to brave Times Square to live in New York.” Both of these options would still allow for the fusion of ad creative and ad tech—but they would require a lot more of the latter—providing, I think, a lot more room to expand the former.
A Wise Investment
The OAAA’s #EverywhereUR project didn’t just fail to demonstrate the full array of technology available to location-based advertisers: it also didn’t give potential advertisers any real incentive to increase spend on location-based campaigns. The screens were showing the exact sort of media that could just as easily—and far more affordably—have deployed via a mobile campaign, so why look to digital billboards? Sure, the content could be updated automatically and in real-time, but in the age of real-time bidding and targeted programmatic buying, so could content on other screens—content that has some data behind it.
So for those of you who came across the OAAA billboard in Times Square last week, here’s my question: in that prime location, would you rather invest in a massive Snapchat, or a visually arresting, data-driven campaign with a message, based on data, that reaches the right audience at the right time?