Technology radically changed advertising. You do not even have to look as far back as the television ads of the 1960s to see the significance of those changes. Advertising technology has raced forward every year for the last decade to become one of the most futuristic industries there is today.
Ten years ago, advertising was just finding its legs on the internet. There were banner ads, pop ups, and endless email distributions. It was an era of blind advertising where companies treated the online space like the real world. Advertising was about as targeted as billboards: if there was a high volume of traffic, that was all that mattered.
But in the last ten years, technology has empowered advertisers to become incredibly specific with how they target potential consumers. They can aggregate search data and social media data to paint incredibly precise pictures of who people are and what they want to buy. Gone are the days of blind advertising online. But while advertising technology raced forward online, it stalled in the real world.
Billboards became digital, but they never became smart. Physical store locations still hang signs in their windows to lure customers in, but have no idea who the customers are. Advertising in the physical world is ready for modern technology, and it may finally be getting it. These are three advertising trends that are revolutionizing offline marketing:
Billboards project a static piece of marketing to the crowd of people that can see it. Whether that crowd is Generation Z kids in a mall or Baby Boomers stuck in traffic on a freeway, the ads they see are not customized to them. But new technology is allowing advertisers to aggregate a huge volume of data in real time about the people who are in close proximity to billboards and that is changing everything.
The technology is called targeted Digital Out of Home (DOOH) and it is effective because it can capture smartphone IDs when they ping wifi routers. Those smartphones are then matched to existing advertising IDs that catalogue online search and social media data. The result is an immediate profile of a whole crowd.
"Maybe the crowd is primarily millennials, or spanish speaking soccer moms, or people shopping for a new car of a certain household income; the digital signs can immediately serve an ad that best fits the demographic that is actually looking at it," explains Jonathan Frangakis, co-founder and CEO of DOOH targeting company Mira. "This all happens in near real time. More specifically, aggregation, scoring and ad serving happens in less than a second, so the digital billboard is always adapting to aggregate crowd profiles."
This technology does not mean that billboards will suddenly begin to serve ads based on your specific profile, but it will aggregate your profile with a crowd of others. That is a huge opportunity for marketers who have not been able to target demographics in real time in offline environments until now.
As good as online marketing is at targeting customers, it does have a blind spot. A huge percentage of total commerce still takes place "offline", meaning at physical stores. That does not mean that the ads are not effective, just that it is hard to track their actual success.
New advertising platforms in the online to offline (O2O) space are bridging that gap. There are a litany of platforms and none has emerged as the clear leader, but the concept is that users would connect their credit cards to the platform and then continue browsing the internet and shopping like normal. What changes is that when the consumer uses their credit card at an offline store, it can be traced back to an ad that they saw online.
Connecting online ads to offline sales has been called a trillion dollar idea and it makes sense why. If advertisers could only pay for ad impressions that turn into sales, then they would functionally have a guaranteed ROI.
Okay, so connecting a specific sale to an online ad is great for marketers, but what about the $7.3 billion spent on offline marketing? How can advertisers calculate the effectiveness of those marketing expenditures?
New technology is working to unravel that mystery, too. The space is new and is not technically called offline to offline, but the attribution model effectively does just that. Companies offering this service use algorithms and data captured from online searches to calculate the likelihood a consumer saw a TV commercial or billboard prior to making a purchase.
While not as proactive as targeted DOOH or Online to Offline technologies, it is nonetheless a critical piece in connecting offline advertising to actual revenue. Marketing in the modern era requires actionable data, so efforts to retroactively establish what inputs drove a particular purchasing decision are becoming more important. "
The offline world is getting the technology treatment that the online world has had for years now," says Frangakis. "Advertising offline is not becoming obsolete, in fact in the coming years it could see substantial growth as advertisers begin to adopt these new technologies and data strategies."