Over the past several decades we have all witnessed the power and evolution of digital advertising overwhelming other media and leaving them far behind. In some countries, such as China, the share of Internet advertising accounts for 90% of all media dollars, while in the US Digital advertising will take home 61% of the share leaving just 2.3% to Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising, according to statista’s 2022 forecast.
Now, the OOH industry, with its show-stopping capability of delivering digital signs in the physical world, has to compete with all other advertising channels for its share of the digital pie. It is time to change OOH’s game rules to fit into the new era of technologies and innovations.
In this article, I want to share with you how Billups is leading the charge in OOH innovation.
In 2023 Billups will celebrate its 20th anniversary, turning another page in its history of inspiring development from its roots as a small OOH media planning and buying company in Portland growing to one of the largest and well-known independent OOH Specialists in the US and beyond. For the past several years, the company’s strategy has been a combination of first class managed services and its own patented measurement studies and platform technologies. This has led Billups through several acquisitions and many new hires to become a technology-focused business with global presence from Portland to New York to Amsterdam and Dubai.
Billups is reinventing Out-of-Home planning and placement for the performance age. Blending art and science, Billups leads the industry with patented scientific targeting, accurate Out-of-Home measurement and an AI-powered recommendation engine. Billups supports advertisers, agencies and media owners through services and platform technology that make out-of-home as automated and attributable as the most effective digital ads.
We believe that in this high technology era of targeting accuracy and massive digitalization there are several keys to our success:
- Automation. Fast and accurate planning and decision making mechanisms, powered by science and embedded into the platform provide a single unified experience for buying outdoor ads across static and digital in all kinds of formats and regions.
- Measurement accuracy. Data and science delivers you maximum efficiency on strategizing what, where and how to do your OOH placements and allow you to evaluate the impact of your creativity on visitation and sales lifts for further improvements.
- People. Robots and algorithms are just tools and instruments in the hands of professionals. You always want the personal touch of a human to talk to and share with at the end of the day.
Challenges and Solutions
Invented thousands of years ago, outdoor advertising is the oldest media channel. It is no surprise that it is one of the most traditional and conservative among the channels. That may be one of the reasons there are so many challenges in OOH innovation, but on the other hand there are also many new opportunities to the companies that can overcome them. Here are some challenges and our solutions.
1. Too many Formats to be Classified. In our attempt to create a global planning & buying OOH media platform we have to face diversity of sizes, media types and formats in different countries and their naming conventions. Markets are very localized and fragmented which requires a lot of effort and an experienced team to gather inventory information for our catalog. We have to validate every single unit that we add and cooperate with local market associations and Out-Of-Home organizations to make sure we have accurate and relevant information.
2. Many Media Owners still use Time-Consuming Manual Processes. There are many suppliers who still track availability using Excel. As more inventory is added, it’s getting harder to update information and track changes. Confirming bookings is also very time consuming. As a solution to this we've built the inventory management platform that allows suppliers to submit their static and digital inventory to us and keep it up to date.
Screenshot of Billups Platform.
3. Measurement Currency. Audience targeting and measurement is essential for display advertising and it is becoming incredibly important for OOH campaign planning. It is the only way to differentiate one Billboard from another when you look at your campaigns through online dashboards. Many brands are not buying locations anymore. They now buy audiences and they are keen to measure the results. We use our audience data every time we plan OOH campaigns and we aim to have every single campaign measured and every single ad unit verified.
Billups Exposure Dashboard (in beta).
4. Transparency and Openness. As I already mentioned, it is people who make decisions on where and what to buy. Those decisions are based on trust and experience. The last one is not only the knowledge you have but your emotions and feelings. Great results can be gained through the service and product combination that works fast and accurately. It is another reason why we believe that providing clients with real-time availability and transparent pricing can be a game changer for OOH. You can easily find those examples in other areas, like hotel or apartment reservation services or e-commerce marketplaces. We have seen cost transparency working for Programmatic DOOH and we are working to make it available for traditional OOH buys as well.
5. Market Entry Price and pDOOH. Outdoor for most of its recent history was treated as a premium and expensive media. Small and midsize businesses weren’t spending much on it due to the lack of flexibility and high price for the cycle. That is changing now with pDOOH as it provides flexibility in planning, such as day parting and budgeting. You don’t have to buy a full loop on a digital screen, but just a few hours a day. On the other hand, the big brands from overseas can run cross border campaigns from their HQ just as they do for Display advertising or even as a part of their omnichannel campaign. We see great potential for pDOOH development and growth, but at the same time we believe that a true OOH campaign is a cocktail mix of classic impact volume, creativity in design and programmatic notes to deliver tasty messages to the right audience at the right time.
Our Way to Innovation
The solution to these challenges is not only in getting the best in class engineering and science team to develop a suite of tools, but in ongoing education and market collaboration. We have developed our own tools to address every challenge mentioned above with a unique solution, but at the same time we keep investing in the education of our managers so that they can understand every new innovation and remain up-to-date on the workings of OOH.
We participate as members in multiple local and global outdoor advertising associations and organizations, where we share our knowledge and experience, and we call you to do the same. This collaboration can bring more trust and verification to the market and for the market.
You can find many definitions of Innovation in different words with a common meaning, but I’d like to add one of mine to the list:
“Innovation is a way of solving challenges by keeping up with the progress.”
Dmitry Semenov is the Head of Innovation at Billups. For the last 10+ years he has developed global advertising products in Web and Out-Of-Home international markets. He has co-founded, invested and exited several successful startups mostly involved in Programmatic Ad Serving, Affiliate Marketing and Workflow automation.