Sign of the times
Sign of the times
Innovations developed by online advertisers are working for billboards
Times Square pre-neon
PEDESTRIANS STROLLING down 8th Avenue in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood will be struck by the cast-limestone façade of the Hearst Magazine Building. Commissioned by William Randolph Hearst in 1926, the 40,000-square- foot (3,716-square-metre) art deco building is adorned with fluted columns and statues and topped by a 600-foot (183-metre) glass and steel skyscraper. Another conspicuous feature is a vast digital screen transmitting advertisements from BuzzFeed, ESPN and Vice. This blend of history and modernity is emblematic of the outdoor-advertising business itself, which, despite being one of the world’s oldest forms of marketing is embracing digital technologies.
当行人漫步在曼哈顿中城八大道位于地狱厨房这一段，会被赫斯特杂志集团大楼（Hearst Magazine Building）的混凝土石灰石外立面震撼。这栋大楼由威廉·伦道夫·赫斯特（William Randolph Hearst）于1926年委托设计，3716平方米的装饰艺术风格建筑带有凹槽柱和雕像。在它上面是一栋183米高的玻璃和钢结构大厦。它的另一个突出特点是一块巨型数字屏幕，不断播放着来自BuzzFeed、ESPN和Vice的广告。这种历史与现代的混合是户外广告业务本身的典型特征。尽管这种广告是世界上最古老的营销形式之一，但它正在拥抱数字技术。
Most forms of conventional advertising—print, radio and broadcast television—have been losing ground to online ads for years; only billboards, dating back to the 1800s, and TV ads are holding their own (see chart). Such out-of-home (OOH) advertising, as it is known, is expected to grow by 3.4% in 2018, and digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising, which includes the LCD screens found in airports and shopping malls, by 16%. Such ads draw viewers’ attention from phones and cannot be skipped or blocked, unlike ads online.
Billboard owners are also making hay from the location data that are pouring off people’s smartphones. Information about their owners’ whereabouts and online browsing gets aggregated and anonymised by carriers and data vendors and sold to media owners. They then use these data to work out when different demographic groups—“business travellers”, say—walk by their ads. That knowledge is added to insights into traffic, weather and other external data to produce highly relevant ads. DOOH providers can deliver ads for coffee when it is cold and fizzy drinks when it is warm. Billboards can be programmed to show ads for allergy medication when the air is full of pollen.
Such targeting works particularly well when it is accompanied by “programmatic” advertising methods, a term that describes the use of data to automate and improve ads. In the past year billboard owners such as Clear Channel and JCDecaux have launched programmatic platforms which allow brands and media buyers to select, purchase and place ads in minutes, rather than days or weeks. Industry boosters say outdoor ads will increasingly be bought like online ones, based on audience and views as well as location.
That is possible because billboard owners claim to be able to measure how well their ads are working, even though no “click-through” rates are involved. Data firms can tell advertisers how many people walk past individual advertisements at particular times of the day. Advertisers can estimate how many individuals exposed to an ad for a Louis Vuitton handbag then go on to visit a nearby shop (or website) and buy the product. Such metrics make outdoor ads more data-driven, automated and measurable, argues Michael Provenzano, co-founder of Vistar Media, an ad-tech firm in New York.
这是有可能的，因为广告牌公司声称，即使没有“点击率”信息，它们也能衡量广告的效果。数据公司可以告诉广告商有多少人在一天中某段时间里走过某个广告牌。广告商可以估计出在看到一则路易威登手提包广告后立即到附近一家商店（或网站上）购买的人数。纽约广告科技公司Vistar Media的联合创始人迈克尔·普罗温扎诺（Michael Provenzano）认为，这些指标让户外广告更多由数据驱动、更自动化，其效果也更易测量。
As the outdoor-ad industry becomes more data-driven, tech giants are among those to see more value in it. Netflix recently acquired a string of billboards along Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, where it will start advertising its films and TV shows. Tech firms, among them Apple and Google, are heavy buyers of OOH ads, accounting for 25 of the top 100 OOH ad spenders in America.
The outdoor-ad revolution is not problem-free. The collection of mobile-phone data raises privacy concerns. And criticisms of the online-ad business for being opaque, and occasionally fraudulent, may also be lobbed at the OOH business as it becomes bigger and more complex. The industry is ready to address such concerns, says Jean-Christophe Conti, chief executive of VIOOH, a media-buying platform. One of the benefits of following the online-ad trailblazers, he notes, is learning from their blunders.