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Digital Out-of-Home vs. Traditional Advertising — Which is Best for You? For small and medium-sized enterprises, digital out-of-home advertising offers an opportunity to compete with bigger organizations on their own turf.

By Gino Sesto Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Investing in this medium is a tall order for smaller budgets, so assessing whether it's practical for your business is vital.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Capturing fleeting consumer attention is every marketer's aim. Advertising has gone through multiple iterations over the years to do so successfully. Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising has emerged as an attractive option in modern marketing. Offering a blend of traditional presence and innovation, this medium beats the traditional static, conventional out-of-home (OOH) methods and embraces the flexibility of digital technology.

For small and medium-sized enterprises, DOOH offers an opportunity to compete with bigger organizations on their own turf. However, investing in this medium is still a tall order for smaller budgets, so assessing whether it's practical for your business is vital.

The low-down on DOOH

Digital out-of-home advertising is changing the game because, unlike old-school ads that never change, DOOH ads can switch out their message to match current events. Think of big digital screens in cities, bus stop ads or ads on benches that people can interact with.

The ads can use touch screens, show different messaging depending on who's looking, and work with mobile phones. This kind of advertising is becoming more popular than static OOH, with the money spent on it expected to grow by 11.6% CAGR to $56.67 billion in 2030.

Counting cost considerations

Investing in DOOH advertising requires a sizeable outlay of money upfront, mainly because of high initial technological infrastructure and content creation costs. However, over time, it can be more budget-friendly than traditional outdoor ads. An Outdoor Advertising Association of America study shows that DOOH offers a high return on investment, with every dollar spent yielding an average of $5.97 in sales. You don't have to keep paying to create new posters; the ads stand out more than online adverts that get lost in a sea of pop-ups and banners.

Related: COVID-19 Transforms Out-Of-Home Advertising

Targeting and personalization tactics

DOOH advertising also enables marketers to get really specific about who sees their ads and when. It uses data to show ads tailored to the time of day, the passers-by, and their behavioral patterns. This level of personalization means ads hit home more often because they speak directly to the right people. And because it's so on target, it works better, with this "smart targeting" method capturing consumers more effectively.

Flexibility and dynamic content

The flexibility of DOOH advertising compares very favorably with traditional OOH marketing. Digital media allows marketers to switch things up quickly. Where the message on a static billboard takes time and labor to update, DOOH ads can change instantly to match what's happening right now. Advertisers can react to events, weather, the amount of traffic or even the latest social media buzz. This quick changeability makes ads more relevant, attracts more attention and boosts engagement.

Related: Refresh Your OOH Advertising with These 5 Custom Strategies

Real reach and engagement

DOOH advertising shines when it comes to getting your message out there, especially in busy places where many people move around. You'll catch more eyes by putting digital ads in these spots than traditional ads. And when ads are interactive — think touch screens or augmented reality — people don't just look; they get involved. That means they're more likely to remember what they saw. Research by Nielsen found that 75% of people remembered a digital ad they saw in the past month, and that number increased for interactive ads.

DOOH isn't just about reaching many people; it's about connecting with them. Research has found that contextual Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) messages can deliver a 49% increase in overall campaign effectiveness across various metrics, demonstrating its potential for higher engagement and better ROI than traditional Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising.

Measurement and ROI matters

Figuring out how DOOH ads are doing can be challenging, but new technology makes it easier to get insights. Digital technology includes sensors and other options to track how many people view them and for how long.

This information helps businesses understand whether they're getting their money's worth. Plus, with options like mobile tracking, marketers can see if someone who saw an ad outside goes into a store. These new tools have made it substantially easier for advertisers to see if DOOH ads are working and to feel more confident about spending their budgets.

Related: Why Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing Marketing

Integration with digital strategies

DOOH ads work hand in hand with online and mobile ads to create a smooth customer experience, no matter where they are. Imagine a consumer sees an ad on a digital screen in the city, and the same message pops up on their phone. This kind of teamwork between different ad types can make a brand stick in the prospect's mind.

Using options like QR codes on DOOH ads, marketers can get people to interact with ads immediately, perhaps to make a purchase or download an app. The Nielsen study also showed that 75% of respondents recalled seeing a digital billboard in the past month, while 60% noticed one in the past week.

Challenges and Limitations Line-Up

DOOH advertising isn't without challenges. Some places have strict rules about what you can show and where you can show it. Concern exists about the energy big screens use and the light they emit. Making ads for DOOH requires a lot of work and technical know-how, and keeping all that tech—like sharp screens and internet connections—running smoothly can be tough. A survey of more than half of people in the ad business says dealing with the technology can be a hurdle. So, while DOOH has its perks, it also comes with a list of issues to consider to ensure it's worth it and done correctly.

Should you do DOOH?

DOOH advertising offers a compelling blend of reach, engagement and targeting capabilities, enhanced by integrating broader digital strategies. While it requires a higher initial investment, its potential for engagement and long-term savings could offer a better ROI than traditional OOH. However, the simplicity and lower upfront costs of conventional OOH may still appeal to certain advertisers, especially those targeting areas where digital displays are less prevalent or where regulations make digital advertising more challenging. Which option will work best for your company?

Gino Sesto

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


Gino Sesto is the Founder of DASH TWO, a media buying agency in Los Angeles specializing in out-of-home advertising & digital advertising.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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