In the course of my daily travels on the web, I came across WPP's 2005 Interim Results, reporting the usual slew of information including earnings, business segment profitability, growth areas and the like. And while it's nice to see that the company is doing so well (net earnings up over 45% to $253M on $4.7B in revenue), what really caught my eye was a paragraph towards the bottom stating that, "clients are seeking new ways of reaching the consumer and finding new geographic growth opportunities. Satellite and cable television, outdoor and out-of-home advertising and radio in traditional media and more importantly direct, internet and interactive are taking a growing share of client spending...."

WPP has been fairly bullish on the concept of digital retailing (as I've mentioned before in "Ad Execs Excited by Digital Media Networks" and "Digital Media Networks Catching on Fast, According to UK Researchers"), so this shouldn't come as a surprise. However, it did get me thinking about what kind of medium an interactive kiosk or an in-store TV display really is. On the one hand, these devices fall under the umbrella of out-of-home media (at least according to Wikipedia's definition of the term). Placed in public or semi-public places, kiosks and digital signs are meant to appeal to users outside of their homes. On the other hand, it's hard to argue that captive audience networks in waiting rooms and interactive kiosks that deliver instant coupons or affinity services aren't extensions of classic direct marketing techniques.

Regardless of whether we look at these technologies as out-of-home advertising media or direct marketing tools, the primary benefit that they bring is the ability to measure playback, interaction and even audience viewership. I wrote about measurement techniques just a few weeks ago (in "Measuring the impact of dynamic digital signs and interactive kiosks"). is also in the middle of publishing a series of articles on measuring digital signage viewership. These articles feature a number of technical innovations and best practices to make measurement-taking easier and more accurate, and they include cool examples of real-world networks to boot.

Even with the latest tools in hand, it's hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison between digital signs and kiosks and traditional out-of-home media. Depending on the type of installation, many digital retailing networks will deliver a CPM somewhere between traditional out-of-home media like billboards and fliers at $2-$8 CPM, and more standard advertising fare like TV commercials and newspaper ads, which average $22-$28 CPM (all of these numbers come from the OAAA). But WPP's claim that both of these areas are growing (and getting a bigger share of ad dollars) means that the digital counterparts to these traditional techniques will likely grow as well. Bringing the individual targeting capabilities of direct marketing together with the benefits of place-based media, it's easy to understand why the big guys like WPP are starting to take notice of our industry.


+1 # scott 2008-01-03 05:03
enjoyed your article. what are your thoughts on other alternative forms of ooh, such as scooter advertising? a stylish and unique, in your face approach to advertising, that limits the choices a consumer can make about viewing yor ad, i.e. tivo, digital radio, online news, by bringing the message to them in an impactful, yet unaggressive way?
+1 # Bill Gerba 2008-01-03 12:50
Hi Scott, There are a lot of "experiential marketing" experiments going on out there. I've seen everything from hot air balloons to regular people covered over with LCD screens and sent out into the world, so scooter advertising (which would just be another form of mobile billboards, in my mind) doesn't seem too strange. In each of these cases, you're of course trading message availability for impact, since a moving billboard might be eye-catching, but it's hard to impart a lot of information to a viewer, and the message is never in the same place twice, so you essentially have to track both your message and your potential audience at the same time. That having been said, I'm a big believer in getting the right message to the right person at the right place and time, so armed with sufficient information, I think that mobile billboards will continue to play a role, albeit a niche one.
0 # Anoo 2008-11-16 03:55
I think everyone is following the [[|mobile billboards]] way of advertising. People are selling space on their cars as advertising space.

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