The Drum: Eyes not necessarily on the road: How driverless cars will revolutionize OOH advertising

By: Lisa Lacy

As driverless cars ascend from Elon Musk’s lips to God’s ears, the out of home (OOH) industry is on the verge of a renaissance perhaps unseen since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the interstate highway system in 1956.

That’s because captive consumers who no longer have to pay attention to the road are prime targets for advertising and the static OOH assets that might otherwise have gone the way of the dinosaurs suddenly have renewed potential.

Here’s how OOH asset providers and ad tech companies plan to make the most of this moment.

WiFi access yields better UX

Per Ian Dallimore, director of digital innovation and sales strategy at outdoor advertising company Lamar Advertising, Lamar sees an opportunity to provide WiFi to consumers in self-driving cars via its inventory of 325,000 billboards.

In other words, the OOH provider sees potential in making the experience of riding in a car more pleasant for passengers while also presumably making itself a more competitive option to advertisers who could, in theory, tap into WiFi to enhance their own executions.

However, it’s unclear when something like this would be available and how Lamar would ensure an uninterrupted WiFi connection between billboards.

Location, location, location

For his part, Dan Hight, senior vice president of channel partnerships at mobile location platform xAd, noted the key to success in the driverless era is making the best use of the time consumers spend in their cars and this, in turn, puts more emphasis on location-based advertising.

“I don’t think [digital is] a replacement for out of home – it becomes another screen advertisers can reach,” Hight said.

Put another way, when campaigns incorporate location-based data, such as which consumers can be found in particular areas and where the right place to put a billboard might be, marketers are more likely to hit the holy grail of right consumer, device and moment.

Partners in crime

But it also means there’s an opportunity for OOH companies to partner with auto manufacturers and ad tech firms to pair billboard messages with mobile and in-car offers.

“We’re talking with a set of different companies like Tesla, Ford, and BMW and saying, ‘If your refrigerator knows you’re out of milk and will let your phone and vehicle know today, why couldn’t it somehow talk to a digital billboard you are driving past?’” Dallimore asked.

Andrew Miller, vice president of innovation and product engagement at OOH media company Outfront Media, noted that Outfront has launched such an effort in the form of geofenced billboards with xAd in which consumers who pass by see a brand message on a billboard and also receive “the exact ad” on their phones, or what Miller called “mobile small format OOH.”

“The two mediums reinforce each other,” Miller added. “So if you’re not driving and you’re in the car and it’s connected, you see in real time the ad on the billboard as you drive through that particular geofence if it’s targeted to you…and I think it’s the perfect combination. There are now many, many case studies that allow us to show that mobile is much more effective when reinforced by OOH than if you buy mobile on its own.”

These case studies include Pandora, Metal Fortress Radio and Cupid’s Undie Run.

Cindy Gustafson, chief strategy officer at media and marketing services firm Mindshare, concurred that OOH will evolve into extended connectivity.

“As people are passing these units, sequential or complementing messages can also be simultaneously served on their phones, tablets, laptops, etc. during their commute when they don’t have to keep their eyes focused on driving,” she said. “Ultimately, for marketers, the takeaway is this: there’s a lot we can do with OOH to help bring a brand’s proposition to life and engage consumers – but we need to keep pushing on the potential of what is expected in this medium in order to capture consumers’ attention, exceed their expectations and leave a lasting impression.”

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Posted on August 4, 2016 .