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Published on October 14th, 2019 | by Dan Levi

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OOH Gets Its Moment with Marketers

Dan Levi

Dan Levi EVP-CMO, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas


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Last week, the world of marketing and advertising was focused on Orlando for the ANA Masters of Marketing conference, the annual gathering of the industry’s top marketing professionals, and a universe of media, creative, data, AdTech and MarTech companies. The theme of the conference was “Driving Growth,” and as in past years, the highlight of the event was the inspirational presentations from CMOs who shared their stories of how they’ve launched, grown, and/or turned around businesses through smart and innovative applications of the art and science of marketing.

I’ve attended Masters of Marketing for the last six years or so, and every year I am simultaneously impressed and frustrated. The presentations always feature marketers who have challenged the status quo, taken risks and found success by not using the old tried and true marketing tactics. But every year, the CMOs of these innovative companies end up primarily showing TV commercials and video content as examples of their creativity and innovation. And as someone who has worked in the OOH industry for a while, I have always walked away frustrated that few of these marketing leaders show the role that OOH has played in driving success.

Wow, was I pleasantly surprised this year! Throughout the conference, some strong themes emerged that all point to opportunities for OOH to continue its fast growth and to maintain its position as a high-impact, creative storytelling medium that delivers measurable results at scale.

During an impressive presentation entitled “The Reinvention of Brand Building,” Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of The Proctor & Gamble Company, said, “The immutable laws of brand building don’t change. But how you do it has to change.” And that idea was reflected by numerous presenters who featured the role that OOH played as a primary creative storytelling solution, many from brands that had traditionally relied upon TV as their primary communication channel.

Presentations from the marketing leaders of companies including Target, Chipotle, Dunkin’, Ally, Anheuser-Busch and more shared how OOH was a key element of their advertising mix, and for the first time in my memory, all showed EXAMPLES of how OOH was able to effectively tell their brand stories with creative impact at scale.

But the value of OOH at Masters of Marketing went beyond photos of billboards on stage. Many of the presenters touched on the importance of ideas and strategies that make OOH a uniquely effective and impactful medium.

During a fascinating presentation about how brand experience is so critical for businesses as they build relationships with their customers, Alicia Tillman, chief marketing officer of SAP, said, “The product has become table stakes. The experience is the differentiator.” Her point was that brands can no longer just “run their ads;” rather, they need to focus on ensuring customers have positive experiences with brands to build strong brand relationships and credibility. And with consumers rejecting so many forms of traditional and digital advertising, OOH presents a highly creative, high-impact way to deliver brand messaging at scale, one that consumers consistently rate as a positive advertising experience that they enjoy. In fact, a recent study by Kantar Milward Brown showed that 55 percent of Gen Z respondents felt positive about OOH, nearly twice the percentage who felt positively about online search or mobile display ads. 

Data was a huge topic of conversation at ANA. Marketers are overwhelmed with data, and much discussion was around the difference between data – too much, not enough, not connected enough, etc. – and actionable insights. Marketers are looking for ways to separate the signals from the noise; to find the nuggets of truth that present opportunity. And they need these sources of insights to not be in siloed “walled gardens” but integrated, connected, giving a holistic understanding of consumer behavior in the real world.

On a related note, in a typically challenging and highly entertaining presentation from Gary Vaynerchuck, the outspoken chairman of VaynerX and CEO of VaynerMedia, he addressed the outrageous amount of advertising content that is created and never seen by consumers by saying, “The only way to build brands is to have people actually consume your story.”

Consumers are in control of what advertising they choose to consume, using ad blockers and commercial-free streaming to ensure intrusive advertising doesn’t interfere. Gary made a convincing argument that the old-school approach of developing an expensive campaign that is “on brand” and spending a ton of money to run traditional ads is antiquated. Instead, Gary challenged the conference attendees to really, truly understand how people are communicating and engaging with brands today, stating that marketers risk making a huge mistake if they don’t spend time observing how consumers want to engage with brands and each other in today’s social and mobile-led culture. By understanding behaviors and interests, how consumers engage with your brand and with their peers, marketers can identify creative opportunities to build brand meaning and value.

With that in mind, OOH is providing innovative data solutions that offer marketers heretofore unseen abilities to understand what people do in the real world and the role that OOH plays in their lives. Geopath, the non-profit, independent source of audience location insights, recently released an innovative new Geopath Insights audience measurement solution that leverages mobile location data to provide a much more accurate understanding of the audiences reached by OOH. Media owners are bringing to market bespoke solutions to help marketers best deliver messages to specific audience segments while measuring the impact of OOH campaigns. And unlike the “walled gardens” of much of the digital and mobile ecosystem, these data solutions are being provided in ways that allow advertisers to understand the impact of OOH as an integrated part of the media mix. 

After attending so many ANA events over the years, it’s exciting that these themes and insights – TV being disrupted by mediums that consumers prefer; the challenge telling brand stories at scale; understanding consumer behavior and interests to inform advertising; and the desire for actionable, data-driven insights – all point to opportunities for OOH to continue to grow as a core media buy. The core strengths of OOH – the ability to tell creative brand stories at scale, as a medium that consumers prefer – are now enhanced with a range of tools that are bringing valuable insights into consumer behavior, interests, mobility and the role that OOH plays in telling brand stories that have measurable impact on consumer behavior.

Dan is executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Clear Channel Outdoor. He is also the chair of OAAA’s Innovations Committee.

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