The Magic of Priming and How You Can Improve this Using OOH


"The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click on ads," a Facebook engineer has been quoted saying. More than US$300bn was projected to have been spent on digital advertising in 2019. Media spends continue to shift to digital.

This begs the question - what do we really know about the effectiveness of online advertising?

When was the last time you bought something you’d never heard of before just because you were awestruck enough to click on an ad while scrolling through your social media feed?

Jesse Frederik and Maurits Martijn’s piece on the Online Advertising “Bubble” reference a few experiments, which found the benchmarks that advertising companies use – intended to measure the number of clicks, sales and downloads that occur after an ad is viewed – are fundamentally misleading.

Advertisers cannot effectively distinguish between the selection effect - actions that users would have taken anyway - and the advertising effect - actions that would have never happened had the user not seen the ad.

Putting the Focus on Priming

Which brings us to the magic of priming. Before the click or web search, what has really gone into making us feel a certain way about a brand or product?

Remember Will Smith’s Focus, where he plays the role of a conman? In the most important scene, he places a high-stakes bet where he dares his opponent to choose a random football player. He’d win the bet if his companion, played by Margot Robbie, also selects the same player.

It turns out that his opponent had been primed throughout the day to select the “random” number 55 having seen it on an elevator poster, on light fixtures, on fans’ shirts and even hearing it in a Rolling Stones song.

Priming may not be an exact science. It doesn’t directly link to clicks or downloads. But there is no denying its influence. It is no surprise that even digital-only brands invest in place-based media to put their messages in the real world to aid this priming.

Improving Your Priming Strategy on OOH Media

Digital campaigns that include a layer of priming via Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising have shown better results. While it is difficult to link offline media to the last click or download, there are still a few ways to plan this priming better.

We have seen a whole slew of OOH planning tools pop up in recent months. Some have been developed by experienced OOH specialist agencies and now even programmatic players have launched their own tools in an apparent admission that location-based planning remains important to outdoor advertising.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering an OOH planning tool.

1. Can you automate site recommendations based on specific goals?

It is important to have access to a single view of all available OOH inventory on a platform that helps benchmark sites by the number of potential viewers, frequency of audience visits, dwell times, and types of POIs around the location.

2. Can you score site locations based on multiple factors?

No two OOH or place-based media sites are the same. There are multiple factors you could look at to score a site’s priming ability including the size, quality (for digital screens), clutter, viewable distance, and more.

3. Can you understand the Priming and Build these Audiences into your digital campaigns?

Finally, how can you use this information to extend this engagement to digital channels? We know that primed audiences or consumers who are already thinking about a certain brand or product are more likely to engage with it online. Knowing who has been primed and reaching them again on digital will improve the campaign’s effectiveness.

What impact does advertising really have? We’ll probably never really know. What we do know, though, is that no channel is impactful on their own. Priming consumers and having a physical presence around them will always remain important. And there are plenty of ways to improve this.

Ask us how.

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