Smart Billboards: Here’s How Static Billboards Can be Transformed by Data



As we begin to chart the road to recovery from the devastation that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused, most of the rhetoric around Out-of-Home (OOH) media have focused on the need to adopt programmatic sales.

Yes, the current situation, just by its gravity, has fast-tracked the conversations on OOH measurement and automation.

But it is important to recognise that a majority of OOH media sites are still static in nature.

Static or classic billboards will continue to attract a majority of OOH budgets. In fact, we love how Talon’s “Questions Advertisers Should Ask About Programmatic OOH” series provides a fitting perspective:

Of the 10 billion audience impacts or potential views that OOH provides in the UK, a mere 2.5% of these remain available for sale via Programmatic channels after traditional channels are factored in.


So Why Do Static Billboards Continue to be Attractive to Brands?

It may seem to us that large digital billboards continue to replace static hoardings. However, take a closer look and you will realise that these only cover a fraction of locations usually CBD-type areas.

Meanwhile, for the brand builders, nothing provides an “always-on” and premium presence like a large static billboard. It almost feels like planting a flag at that location and owning the space. This is especially true for iconic locations like city-centres and airport highways.

There are also brands with a physical presence that want to communicate that to the audience immediately around this location. An always-on presence makes perfect sense for this use case.

Finally, there is the undeniable impact that a large-sized creative has on the audience. Ocean Outdoor’s famed Neuroscience studies found that “The most spectacular sites impact the right brain in particular; demonstrating the overall emotional impact. Iconic sites work because of the emotional impact they make.”


But the Impact of Covid-19 has put the spotlight on Measurement.

With many campaign plans cancelled due to the lockdown measures, many of the premium static billboards have been left in a state of limbo:

  • What if a competitor takes over a favoured site?
  • What would convince a client to sign-up long term again?
  • Should media owners drop the prices for iconic sites?

Static historical traffic estimates can lo longer be used to justify a billboard’s reach. People movement will continue to remain unpredictable. Factors like the increasing number of professionals working from home and other social distancing measures will continue to stay in place.


In Adopting Location Data, Static Billboard Owners and Buyers have an Opportunity to Improve the Importance of this Medium.

1. Optimising for Incremental Reach

Static billboard buys are usually long term. The costs that go into production or printing are usually significant. For mainstream brands, this is usually a mix of iconic or central locations along with coverage on major commute routes.

The challenge during the planning phase is to maximise reach across the set of booked billboards knowing that the creatives may not change for some time. The example below shows an Incremental Reach analysis of sites booked over a campaign.

inncremental reach analysis

Incremental reach here refers to unique potential viewers each of the billboards contributes towards the campaign. If these data points are available during the planning stage, advertisers can prioritise sites that offer high incremental reach contributions and cut out those that offer negligible reach.


2. Extend to Digital

There are a great number of case studies showcasing that OOH and digital, especially mobile, work well together. While most of these have been about amplifying reach or using OOH to prime audiences, the execution still happens separately.

Location signals can help unify the understanding of audiences reached across OOH and digital. Site owners can enhance their static billboard offering by providing a digital extension to campaigns.

This could be as simple as providing mobile impressions to the same “primed” audiences or offer brand studies that result in qualitative feedback from the audiences who had the opportunity to see the billboard



3. Guarantee Audiences

During periods of uncertainty, unmeasurable spends are usually the first to get dropped. Site owners will continue to get requests for lower rates as advertisers cannot quantify the true impact on potential viewers of the billboard.

Armed with an understanding of audience movement around their sites, there is an opportunity to build an “Audience Guaranteed” product where a minimum commitment of audiences reached will be provided to brands who invest in the site.

This achieves two things. Firstly, the advertiser is assured of a minimum outcome and will be compensated for any shortfall. Secondly, the site owner is able to link their given rate to a specific outcome.


One may argue that the current situation has made static billboards worse off than their digital counterparts. With digital, you are still able to deliver campaigns remotely and tactically. Meanwhile, static billboards still require some form of manual production and installation processes.

This is the ideal opportunity for site owners to transform their selling process and for media buyers to use OOH location data to build outcome-linked media plans.


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