Troy Yang
Mar 30, 2021

As outdoor life resumes in China, now is the time to invest in DOOH

China has one of the world’s largest OOH markets, and although more complex than other regions due to the ‘Great Firewall’ and a myriad of publishers, the outlook for DOOH advertising is promising, argues Hivestack's Troy Yang.

As China has been successful in containing the spread of Covid-19, the public is beginning to resume outdoor activities. Here, people walk through Nanjing road in Shanghai on January 21, 2021.
As China has been successful in containing the spread of Covid-19, the public is beginning to resume outdoor activities. Here, people walk through Nanjing road in Shanghai on January 21, 2021.

The OOH market in China is valued at around US$9 billion, with DOOH estimated to be worth 30% of that figure. DOOH spend is expected to continue along a growth trajectory, while its static outdoor counterpart—with the exception of large format billboard ads—is set to decline, a position that bucks global static OOH forecasts and is testimony to the singularity of the Chinese environment. While pandemic-related restrictions drove indoor media consumption and CTV ad spend last year, Chinese consumers have now resumed their outdoor lives and activities, making this the right time to focus on DOOH.

GroupM estimates OOH in China has a higher daily reach than TV among users in the 15-45 age bracket, ranking second only to the internet. Just as they do with CTV, advertisers can reach engaged audiences with relevant messaging by using innovative digital out of home (DOOH) technologies, such as programmatic and data-driven targeting, to further increase the impact of their campaigns.

The opportunity presented by outdoor advertising is not lost on some of the country’s largest businesses with many exploring the opportunities offered by DOOH inventory. This includes Alibaba, which has invested $1.43 billion in Focus Media, the largest out-of-home advertising network in China. Baidu has placed $300 million in Xinchao Media, the country’s leading DOOH media owner, and Tencent has invested an undisclosed amount in Tikin Media. JD.com, the nation’s leading one-stop ecommerce platform—often referred to as the Amazon of China—is also one of the country’s top DOOH advertisers.

As the local digital audience continues to grow, OOH inventory is attracting demand from Western brands such as Estée Lauder, Tesla, Walmart and Procter & Gamble. With mobile and digital channels driving user engagement and media consumption, DOOH is increasingly becoming an essential medium for advertisers and brands to deliver impactful cross-platform campaigns.

Following a long period of being stuck indoors and staring at screens, people are keen to get outside and reclaim their lives—presenting an opportunity for Western brands and Chinese publishers to capitalise on the power of programmatic DOOH and attract the attention of those with screen fatigue looking for an escape.

The adoption of programmatic technology, which brings advanced capabilities including data-driven audience targeting, measurement, accountability and automated buying, makes DOOH a powerful performance marketing channel.

Chinese DOOH publishers are proactively looking for new technology and innovative ways to help brands drive better online and offline integration with measurable results. DOOH media is already being traded programmatically, which is opening up new opportunities for Chinese publishers to monetise inventory from Western brands. Some DSP operators are pushing this transformation and are already up and running for Western brands to reach Chinese audiences.

Just as the convergence of traditional and digital channels is driving a surge in CTV advertising in China, digitalisation is set to drive significant growth in DOOH over the coming year. While more transparency, accountability and standardisation will inevitably be required as the ecosystem matures, the technology already exists to aggregate inventory and data capabilities through programmatic.


Troy Yang is managing director of North Asia at Hivestack

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