OOH is the new black

Abdallah Jbilou
Nov 5, 2017 · 6 min read

When, a few months ago, I decided to leave my job at one of the hottest French startup (big up to papernest and its amazing team led by Philippe de la Chevasnerie & Benoît Fabre!) to join JCDecaux, the global leader in outdoor advertising, as a Marketing Director for Central America, many of my friends couldn’t believe it. And to be honest, I couldn’t blame them: tech is cool, startups are cool, getting in is very tough; once you are in, you are not supposed to leave, let alone to join a “traditional” media.

However, I truly believe Out of Home (OOH) has a bright future ahead. In the following text, I aim at explaining the fundamental trends transforming this century-old industry, putting digital technology, data and social at the heart of its future.

Increasing urbanisation and an unrivalled ability to make the most of digital and social innovation bring OOH advertising back to the top.

OOH advertising — which targets consumers while travelling, shopping or otherwise engaged away from home — is one of the oldest known forms of advertising. Having come full circle, Out of Home is poised to once again become the medium for mass communication.

Four main factors are driving this development in my view:

1. OOH reaches more people thanks to increasing urbanisation

By the end of 2017, it is estimated that some 55% of the global population will live in cities, up from 49% just 10 years ago. And by 2030, nearly 2/3 of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Globally, all future population growth will take place in cities, especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Asia and Africa, this growth will signal a shift from rural to urban growth, changing a millennia-long trend. This leads to greater mobility, more on-the-go audiences. OOH thus offers a constant presence for a brand, a way to stay connected to consumers when they are on the move and are not online.

Consumers are in a different frame of mind when away from home or office, and near the point of sale. This is when people commonly make buying decisions — and OOH advertising ensures that potential consumers have a particular brand top of mind.

2. OOH’s success at integrating with digital technology is unrivalled by other traditional media

Along with increasing urbanisation, a second crucial factor driving OOH’s renaissance is that of all traditional media types, it is by far the most successful at integrating with digital, social and innovative technologies. Figures for advertising revenue growth across OOH, TV, radio, and newspapers (from PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2015–2019), put OOH in the lead. The study also notes that ‘by converting panels to digital, providers can vastly increase their revenue by displaying multiple ads of higher quality in the same space. This process will drive an impressive CAGR of 13.2% in Digital Out of Home (DOOH) advertising revenue.

Many bulletins and posters are now digital and interactive, displaying real-time web, social, and mobile messaging. Street-level kiosks, bus shelters, and shopping mall displays are often video monitors and interactive touch screens. Smartphones have become the mobile link to OOH search, social media, downloads and transactions, and can even act as credit cards. And emerging technologies like location-specific targeting and augmented reality are beginning to transform the opportunities OOH advertising provides.

“I think it’s fair to say digital and digitalisation is the primary driving force for the future of Out of Home in terms of attracting advertisers.

In addition, social and digital media can leverage OOH to increase their reach. While outdoor advertising benefits from the social relevance and engagement offered by social media, the latter in turn gains from the large audience appeal and massive viewership provided by outdoor advertising. Various social media platforms can be included into the creative design of the many Out of Home formats available, and so reach consumers multiple times throughout their day.

With the growing use of social media as a free way for brands to interact with consumers, Out of Home advertising can be a strategic media choice and a valuable seeding tool.

JCDecaux continues Oxford Street OOH overhaul with synchronized digital bus shelters following its award of the world’s largest bus shelter advertising concession in 2015.

3. Online strategies are amplified by using OOH methods

Several online strategies can be amplified through the addition of Out of Home methods. To begin with, it can be used to drive website traffic as shown by Smarter Every Day - Drive to Web”, a JCDecaux study part of the Study & Data program of the company.

Google Home turns JCDecaux bus shelters into a Smart Home in Chicago. — It is a perfect example of a tech company leveraging the power of OOH for “incarnation”.

Similarly, OOH can be used to increase social media engagement. According to BrandRepublic’s Wallblog, a recent study by Kinetic Worldwide found that of 1,200 social media users, “39% have previously shared OOH content on social media and a further 71% would be willing to, but only if it appealed to them personally”.

Including social media specific ‘language’ can steer attention to a campaign and gain trending status. Incorporating the ubiquitous hashtag, which serves as a global connector across social media, can drive conversation, harness public support, and garner attention to brands, as can the addition of the logo of a social media site, a URL, or “Find us on Facebook” to a display’s text.

Land Rover’s #Hibernot campaign with JCDecaux in UK

Out of Home can also serve as a public venue for user-generated content to increase social engagement, both on and off-line. For example, Land Rover’s #Hibernot campaign with JCDecaux in UK was all about seeing winter in a different light and celebrating it. The DOOH concept integrated an Instagram feed of user photos tagged #Hibernot. Moderated images displayed on digital Rail and Roadside sites. Some images even made various billboards look like windows, displaying the view behind it but through an Instagram filter — all playing on the idea that winter is as great as how you look at it.

Finally, by incorporating a call to action in the creative of an OOH campaign, it is possible to drive website traffic and online search behaviours. 1 in 7 search queries is on a mobile device, and 60% of mobile searches are location specific. (According to a Posterscope USA OOH consumer survey, 23% of 18–34s search while on the street; 26% search while travelling on a bus/train/car; and 26% shop while on their mobile). Similarly, OOH can drive online purchases (74% of those who saw the OOH campaign for an online takeaway brand ordered food from the website, according to JCDecaux.)

In short — ongoing urbanisation, along with out of home’s success at integrating with innovative technology suggest that, at a time where most other mediums are struggling to integrate digital and are experiencing exceptional fragmentation, OOH is poised to become “the new black”.

4. OOH’s advertising revenue growth is outperforming other traditional advertising media

The claim that OOH is “the new black”, is backed up by further information from PWC’s Global Media and Information Outlook, which notes that total global OOH advertising revenue stood at some US$38.1bn in 2016 and is set to grow at a 4.6% CAGR to reach some US$45.4bn in 2019.

Similarly, Digital OOH (DOOH) revenue will replace physical OOH revenue in countries with mature OOH markets. DOOH advertising revenue totalled US$13.5bn globally in 2015. This will grow strongly to reach US$18.04bn in 2019. However, in mature markets like in Europe and the US, this growth will largely come at the expense of physical formats.

OOH is, once again, the medium of choice, because it drives online and digital engagement, as is evidenced in global trends. It also reaches an ever expanding audience, thanks to urbanisation.


Thank you for reading.


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Abdallah Jbilou

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Marketing Director JCDecaux Central America | Ex-papernest | Le Wagon alumni #Batch39 — I have a passion for technology & innovation. [All views are my own.]