A shift in the outdoor digital space
The next monumental shift in outdoor digital occurred in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted OOH like no other media. Ad spend was estimated to be down by up to 40 per cent, indoor ad spaces remained mostly dormant due to closures and work-from-home policies, downtown city cores were eerily quiet, and ad buyers needed flexibility to adjust their campaigns based on ever-changing government rules. Static OOH billboards were not ideal for that, but outdoor digital certainly was. This was the perfect storm for a tool borrowed from the online digital world to take hold and provide fuel for outdoor digital’s growth. Yes, we’re talking about programmatic. While programmatic platforms existed prior to 2020, the pandemic changed its adoption by ad buyers and media owners, which resulted in a significant increase in revenue. It gave buyers the flexibility they needed along with the added benefits of audience targeting, dynamic scheduling, and easy access to outdoor digital inventory across all markets and OOH companies.
At the same time, OOH companies, along with the Canadian Out-of-Home Marketing and Measurement Bureau (COMMB), the industry’s measurement body, placed an increased emphasis on data. The industry has been making significant strides in this area and getting away from generic and non-descriptive traffic numbers by location to providing audience demographics, store lift, mobile re-targeting, and attribution models. Later this year, COMMB will unveil a new data set for its members, including detailed audience profiles by location, enhanced traffic measurement, average vehicular speeds, home origin DA, and more. Having standardized outdoor digital data and audience tools, for both ad buyers and sellers, will prove to be a game changer. Programmatic and data are two of the fundamental reasons why outdoor digital is projected as one of the leading media growth categories worldwide for 2022 and beyond.
In the last decade, there have been three major OOH transactions related to outdoor digital. The first was Bell Media’s acquisition of Astral in 2012. The second was in 2017 with Bell Media (Astral) acquiring Cieslok Media. The third was also in 2017 with Outfront Media acquiring Dynamic Media. As with any industry, as competitors become acquired, new ones arise. Through the last few years, key players like VENDO Media have risen, along with several independent regional and local operators. If we learned anything through the pandemic, it was that local or community-based OOH advertising is more important than ever, especially as audiences move away from big cities. It is the very reason that companies like VENDO are building out a Canada-wide model with expansive coverage in primary and secondary markets. They’re adopting the early Astral strategy of “if you build it, they will come.”
So, what happened to those digital board sites from the early years? Well, here is the interesting part—almost all of them are still around today, but with different owners. They are bigger, brighter, and shinier. They are also now all standardized in size. Everything old is new again, just like the OOH industry. One of the oldest advertising formats is hot again, and its rise is all because of digital.
Sylvio Deluca is COO of VENDO Media and formerly vice-president of sales at Media Alternatives.
One comment on “Outdoor digital boards: Welcome to the evolution”
“It is hard to imagine it was 23 years ago that the very first outdoor digital board went up in Canada”. Yes it is hard to imaging because it wasn’t. The first advertising billboard in Canada was installed in 1995 on the Dartmouth Sportsplex in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia by an Halifax, N.S. based electronic sign advertising company called BrightStar.