American Marketer


Why digital out of home, mobile and social should be BFFs

April 19, 2011

Jeff Atley


By Jeff Atley

This year will see a set of very different digital screen mediums all but collide – and that is a good thing.

Mobile marketing, location-based services, social media and digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising are all angling to reach, engage and influence consumers when they are off the love seat and going about their busy days. All of those mediums are more effective when they are working together.

The mediums could all get out their hankies, start dabbing tears, look at each other, and say: “You complete me.”

Here is why: No one of these mediums can be fully effective by operating in isolation. Location and mobile need awareness. Social needs people, lots of people. And DOOH – ad-driven digital screens in public spaces – wants and needs engaging content and the start of interactivity.

OOHs and ahhs

Far too many efforts across all these mediums leave observers with the sense that the strategists behind them did not actually have a strategy beyond using the technology and the medium. We all see QR code, SMS and location-based campaigns that look like token efforts, or clear evidence of dabbling and not much more.

These technology-driven mediums work when the content on all the different kinds of screens – from laptop browsers, tablets and smartphones to flat panels in public spaces and big LED billboards – are part of integrated media campaigns, and are working toward common, measureable objectives.

Consider this scenario: Two close friends meet several times a week for lunch, coffee or post-work drinks. They have a larger social circle, and like to meet new people and try new things.

Digital OOH screens those two see through a day drive their awareness of venues – such as restaurants and bars – where they might go. Social streams drive awareness of what other people are doing and where they are hanging out, along with what is going on. Location-based services that work off mobile pull people into venues, perhaps make offers to users, and check those people in.

As mediums working independently, the basic jobs will get done. Working together, though, is how real results can be driven.

We are starting to see integrated efforts that activate and round up the engagement cycle for active consumers, with DOOH screens as both a catalyst and an information hub.

People are seeing screens just about everywhere they go these days.

Arbitron’s 2010 study of place-based video – different term, but same thing as DOOH – showed roughly 70 percent of Americans see place-based video screens each month, and more than half every week. The screens – in bars and cafes, elevators and gas pumps – are now ubiquitous.

Networked so they can be changed or updated on the fly, usually hyper-targeted by location, demographics or audience profiles, and ready to run rich media, these screens are the ideal activation points for campaigns.

These screens can drive sign-ups, downloads, check-ins, friends and follows at the optimal locations, and do it with the breadth of information and flexibility no amount of tent cards, window stickers, poster or handouts will ever do.

Then at venues, they pull all the mediums together on screens.

Think about the impact of a wireless carrier that launches a new shopper-focused, location-based service that sees consumers opting-in to have discounts and offers pushed to their handsets as they move around through their days away from home.

Nothing will drive awareness and understanding of the value proposition of those digital coupons or incentives more quickly than DOOH, because of the targeting and immediacy.

Screen 3

Moderated social streams can be pushed onto digital OOH screens in venues where the mobile coupons are redeemed, to show the tweets of happy customers who jumped on the offer. Back-office integration means screens by venue, network type or broadly, can show dynamically how much money has been saved through redemption – which can drive more usage.

Pulling in customers drives awareness and loyalty, and location-based marketing efforts. Those screens, venue by venue, can show check-in numbers and trigger more activity.

The big point here is that activity and interactivity with one screen drives activity with another screen.

Effectively marketing to people outside the home means giving them information and offers that are relevant at that time and that place. The screens start a connection, and working together, build on that connection.

It is starting to happen, and it will soon be fundamental.

Jeff Atley is cofounder and chief marketing officer of Adcentricity, New York. Reach him at