Angeline Lodhia
Aug 28, 2019

What can online advertising companies learn from out-of-home?

The GM of Inskin Media argues against the received wisdom that OOH is for brand-building while digital is not. The problem, she asserts, is the industry selling itself short.


As of 2019, Asia Pacific is the largest region for out-of-home advertising, with nearly $13 billion in sales in 2018, according to a report from Magna Intelligence and Rapport. It is also the region with the highest OOH share (7.8% on average vs 5.6% globally).

This growth is tied directly to the fact that OOH has primarily positioned itself as a clear-cut brand-building medium. Meanwhile, digital internet advertising repeatedly sells itself short to potential clients by focusing too much on its ability to drive short-term performance online, and not highlighting its powerful brand-building capabilities. 

The rise of programmatic and the ‘’quick-fix’’ culture around valuing efficiency over effectiveness is contributing to this severely limited perception of digital marketing.

But just like OOH, digital advertising has significant brand-building potential, and deserves to be recognised for the role it plays in the modern media plan. It just needs to be positioned correctly along with granular and reliable reporting. 

A unique advantage

There is ample opportunity for brands to create an effective and differentiated message within the digital space, through a number of unique avenues that are only available via online channels. 

And because of its many moving parts, digital offers advertisers an element of flexibility that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere. As a result, the customer can receive a much richer brand experience. 

Brand marketers frequently make the mistake of treating digital brand-building and direct-response campaigns in the same way. However, these campaigns usually have different aims and must be constructed in distinct ways. Different formats and best practices need to be employed depending on the campaign goal. 

There’s no reason, however, why a ‘traditional’ performance-based campaign cannot be supported by a separate digital brand-building strategy. However, brand-building initiatives will only be at their most effective when afforded independent consideration.

Better reporting

A significant barrier to digital’s ability to offer a legitimate brand-building solution is the way in which investment in this area is often reported.

Adspend reports are often broken down into a small number of components such as search, social and display; but these do not include all aspects of digital or offer enough granularity to give insight into each medium that digital advertising offers. For example, standard display, native, video and rich media are all separate elements of display that can be used to achieve different goals—and therefore should be reported on individually. 

In addition, the industry is in need of different metrics for performance and branding campaigns to reflect the different goals they aim to achieve. For example, conversions/sales is the desired outcome of most performance campaigns. Brand-building strategies, on the other hand, should be more focussed on driving brand metrics. 

While it’s not easy to measure ROI on OOH campaigns, this industry continues to thrive because it knows exactly what it has to offer and how to present it to clients in the boardroom. If, as an industry, we effectively communicated the benefits of digital advertising for performance and brand campaigns separately, we could see a greater share of advertising budgets and a better use of digital.

These discussions are already being had, with the likes of the IAB UK’s recent don’t be a #clickhead campaign,  which acknowledges the limitations of CTRs as a success metric and encourages advertisers to explore more effective measures. On the brand-building side, there is the growing use of eye-tracking technology from companies such as Lumen that can track attention levels, as well as a variety of means to conduct brand lift studies. 

OOH knows its speciality is brand-building, and while it may overlay conversion elements (such as directing consumers to a nearby outlet), its principal story is clearly built around branding. It’s an approach the online advertising community could benefit from. 

A unified voice

Digital brand-building is a fast-evolving sector, and marketers still have a lot to learn when it comes to pitching in this space. But many brands are already using the medium to tell stories and build communities with consumers at a scale that simply isn’t possible through any other marketing medium.

If we want the industry to recognise this, however, we must do a better job of drawing greater attention to the unique, long-term benefits of the offering. The key to that is getting our stories straight and using metrics that present this in a clear and definable way.

Angeline Lodhia is general manager of Inskin Media Asia.

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