What is the future of Out of Home advertising (OOH?)

What is the future of Out of Home advertising

What is the future of out of home advertising? At Bubble we always endeavour to keep you abreast of the latest developments in out-of-home advertising (OOH), so here we peer into the future of the sector and take a look at recent developments that look set to shape its destiny.


Spotify’s “Thanks, 2016. It’s been weird” campaign saw the music streaming behemoth dig deep into its vast user behaviour databanks to form the basis of a series of witty and irreverent outdoor slogans on large digital billboards throughout Europe and America.

This involved some of the following messages being broadcast via digital displays:

“Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?”

“Dear person in the Theatre District who listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack 5,376 times this year, can you get us tickets?”

“To the 1,235 guys who loved the “Girl’s Night” playlist this year, we love you.”

This fusion of aggregate and individual data mining and digital exposure will only become more commonplace as we move into the brave future of OOH.

Intelligent data use

Intelligent data use not only makes creative, personalised messaging a possibility, it’s also more effective when integrating mobile data. Data from EE demonstrated that a trial Lenovo campaign resulted in a 200% increase in unprompted advert awareness and a 150% boost in online searches.

We’re also beginning to see the use of weather data in targeted campaigns like this new winter OOH campaign for Baywatch. The billboards access weather data via RSS feeds to trigger a series of weather-appropriate creatives:

  • If snowing: “Snow sucks. Summer is coming. Baywatch – May 26.”
  • If temperature drops below zero degrees: “Frost bites. Summer is coming.”
  • Between 1 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit: “Damn it’s cold. Summer is coming.”

An ActionAid campaign made more serious use of weather data, with digital sites in Piccadilly using Met Office data to automatically disrupt the ad schedule to display messaging raising awareness of serious flooding in Bangladesh.

We live in a world where millions of consumers are coming to expect responsive, data-specific content. For the most part OOH advertising has not offered that. But the future looks set to be one of seamless integration of intelligent data use to deliver targeted, context specific out-of-home advertising to global audiences.

Beacons of the future

Bluetooth beacons are another relatively new piece of tech that look set to dominate the future of OOH. These inconspicuous little cubes can detect when a smartphone is within range and send data to mobile apps. This means a customer visiting a retail outlet can be greeted with a message informing them about an in-store offer, a new product range, time limited discount etc.

The current tech is used for what’s known as “proximity marketing” and works within a range of about 50 meters. Expect these beacons to become much more ubiquitous in the OOH arena, with tourism marketers engaging with tourists in their vicinity, roadside billboards responding in real time to gridlocked commuters, geo-targeted campaigns in shopping malls, airports, festivals… and much more.

Digital horizons

Kinetic Worldwide predict a 40% increase in UK digital inventory by 2020, what will no doubt be part of a global surge in digital-out-of-home (DOOH) use.

As the technology advances it will also become more commonplace and affordable. Digital advertising tends to be the domain of big hitting corporate brands and DOOH conveys a high degree of prestige. As digital tech becomes more ubiquitous it will become a more familiar part of the media landscape. This will lose some of the prestige impact enjoyed by brands with epic marketing budgets, but will open up a whole new horizon of possibility for startups and small-to-medium-sized businesses.

Greater social and mobile integration

cartoon people on laptop and ipads connecting to social media

The world of passive roadside billboards and static street signs will give way to a highly integrated world where social media and smartphones are seamlessly integrated into an holistic OOH experience.

Clear Channel’s Connect Mobile Platform gave us a taste of what that might look like. Launched in 2013, the Connect network enables smartphone users to engage with ads via QR codes and NFC, to purchase vouchers, download music and video, open URLS and so on. There are now over 25,000 panels featuring interactive tags in the UK, and an ambitious roll-out in place to 75,000 sites in 23 countries spanning 5 continents.

We’ve already written about how companies like KFC have been integrating street panels with ‘snap to unlock’ technology in partnership with with social media platforms like Snapchat to combine static street advertising with a more interactive, digital experience befitting a millennial mindset. It’s only a matter of time before the lines between OOH and mobile; print and digital; AR and real word are not so much blurred as interwoven into an integrated OOH-mobile tapestry.

Direct response

The OOH future means more real-time responsive ads. The Sun exploited this with their Euro 16 campaigns using real-time data to reference that evening’s games. Their “Tournamental” campaign ran on 700 DOOH sites across the UK, including pubs. Sun writers provided real-time headlines responding to the events of the Euros as they happened. Some of the over-400 unique real time messages included, “Hungary out on the Goulash tonight”, and, “There’s no Iceland 2-For-1”. Not particularly culturally sensitive, perhaps, but certainly an on-brand and tech savvy development we’ll no doubt see much more of in the future.


Statistics portal Statista predict that OOH revenue would grow from 10 billion dollars in 2015 to 18.5 billion dollars by 2020, with digital platforms accounting for around 40% of that.

Around 80% of American consumers noticed a billboard ad in 2016, with 370,000 billboards in action across the country.

Given that America counts for such a high proportion of global OOH, and taking into account the fact that OOH is the only traditional marketing medium to grow significantly in recent years, we can expect the rest of the world to start to play catch up in the field of OOH in future.

A good indicator of this can be seen in the fact that China saw an 8.4% growth in forecast all-round ad spend in 2016, versus 6.2% growth in the US. As other traditional ad mediums like newspapers and magazines drop away, so perennial mediums like OOH should see funds reallocated their way.


For such a long time advertising has entailed a passive user experience. Here are some out-of-home ads that give us a glimpse of a more interactive OOH future:

  • A Reebok outdoor ad with integrated speed camera: people were encouraged to run past the ad in an attempt to beat a 10.5 mile an hour pace and win a pair of trainers.
  • Netflix billboards: viewers could tweet in support of their favourite Daredevil characters who would then enact damage on rival character’s billboards.
  • A Women’s Aid billboard used facial recognition technology to heal an image of a woman’s bruised face the more people looked at the panel, as part of the organisation’s “Don’t turn a blind eye” campaign.

Consumer Recognition

Human eye with barcode - consumer recognition technology

Consumer recognition technology represents some of the more sci-fi of OOH technologies in development. Anonymised gender, age, facial expression, and audience composition data can be detected by increasingly sophisticated recognition technology.

The possibilities are already quite staggering. A recent test of this tech took place in 2016 when Posterscope USA placed 8 digital screens in a mall in Santa Monica. The screens could detect whether consumers were alone, part of a couple or family, or out with a larger group. They could even detect whether a customer was smiling or frowning. Aware, no doubt, of the dystopian potential of such technology, all data was anonymised and none of it was stored.

These are just some of the trends in out-of-home advertising that we anticipate to play definitional roles in a bright and dynamic OOH future.

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