How to Succeed in the Evolving World of Digital Video

city square with electronic billboards

The Screens Aren’t Just in Your Pocket – They’re Everywhere

By Ryan Bricklemyer, VP of Ad Operations and Product at Octopus Interactive

I spend a lot of my day looking at screens. My work plays out on a desktop or mobile, and they represent the most essential channels I use throughout my day. But in reality, my eyes and mind engage with a number of additional screens on a regular basis. When I went to the gym this morning, a branded streaming channel served music videos, sports highlights, weather and ads. When I take a rideshare or taxi, there’s often a screen in front of me, at eye-level. The New York City subway is full of digital screens showing maps and advertisements. They’re on top of taxis, in the grocery store, at the gas pump/charging station and, of course, billboards next to the interstate.

The category as a whole is Digital Out-of-Home, or DOOH, and it presents an ever-growing array of opportunities for advertisers. Because digital video is the most valuable and effective messaging medium, that’s the type of advertisements you’ll see on most of these screens. In a world of omnichannel campaigns and programmatic execution, it makes perfect sense for advertisers to conceive of a campaign with creative that can be segmented, tweaked and redeployed for each channel. The 30-second TV spot becomes the 15-second YouTube pre-roll and the 6-second social post with minimal hassle.

Given the costs and opportunities involved, I’m impressed by how often I see advertisements that miss the mark on DOOH channels. Most DOOH screens don’t play sound or provide interactivity, for example, and yet I often see ads there that haven’t taken this into account.

Video in DOOH can drive brand awareness and even performance that isn’t possible elsewhere, precisely by virtue of existing someplace meaningful in the physical world. Here are some factors to consider, however, for advertisers that want to get the most out of it.

Tailor for the Setting(s)

As noted above, many DOOH channels don’t play sound, although some do. Similarly, many have the same display ratios as you see on TV, but some do not. An ad that relies on audio is clearly going to be wasted on a digital subway poster or a billboard. Likewise, appropriate lengths vary on DOOH channels, and a 30-second ad that’s appropriate for a captive audience in the back of a taxi or waiting in an airport lounge might not perform well for foot traffic passing a street kiosk or bus stop.

This dynamic flips the script on a number of tried-and-true advertising practices. One of the biggest and most influential advertisers of the past decade has been insurance company Geico, whose mascots and gimmicks likely live rent free in the brain of anybody old enough to remember them. Remember the Geico Gecko, Cavemen, “Hump Day!” and “Scoop there it is?” Of course you do!

One of Geico’s famous campaigns was to make their advertisement seem like it was promoting something else wholly unrelated to insurance, then pull a bait-and-switch with their tagline, “…but I did save a lot of money on car insurance by switching to Geico.” The audience has been suckered, and the brand and message resonate (along with the Geico logo visible at the end) by virtue of the strong emotional impact of having been tricked.

Much of this wouldn’t work in traditional OOH channels – even DOOH channels – in particular the practice of waiting until the end of a 30-second spot to show the actual brand message. With an audience that’s typically in transit between destinations, a large number of impressions will be missed by those who passed by before the logo appeared on the screen. Working with partners that best fit the goals of the creative will greatly increase performance. Many of the platforms in the space can help identify partners that work well for your campaign.

Add a Performance Channel

DOOH sometimes gets overlooked in multichannel campaigns because of the myth that it is  difficult to measure. While measurement has been available for some time, features like on-screen QR codes and interactivity have added a performance element to what would otherwise be largely a brand-building channel. Creative methods for capturing data can add performance outcomes to DOOH that are easy and immensely valuable.

Digital video that appears on screens other than a phone, desktop or CTV can deliver an impact that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Catching consumers in a moment of movement from point A to point B can overcome the “banner blindness” and cynical dismissiveness that jaded digital natives carry with them in their typical online sessions. As we enter a holiday season where people will be emerging from their houses, it’s worth thinking about DOOH as brand awareness that can include a clever layer of data-driven performance on top. In an era where prices for everything, including advertising, is rising, every little bit of efficiency helps.