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Can Micro Targeting Of Digital Billboards Help Brands Save Money?

There are many ad-hoc definitions of marketing propping up columns in dog-eared magazines and online articles, and a lot of them preach that it is about “talking to consumers” or “delivering on-brand purpose”. However, the reality is that marketing is far less fanciful and should serve realistic and measurable objectives. Marketing professor and consultant Philip Kotler described marketing as:

“…the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit”.

The last part of Kotler’s definition is the most important – at a profit. As a means to an end, marketing is all about the bottom line. Often the approach is taken that if one wants to increase on productivity, the best way is improve sales. Alternately, one can tackle this issue and cut the wheat from the chaff by discarding processes or interactions that are unprofitable.

How Could Micro Targeting Help Save Money?

At one point this type of advertising may have seemed like a Minority Report-inspired fever dream, but the advent of big data has allowed this method of advertising to flourish. Micro targeting can be defined as any marketing activity which uses consumer data in conjunction with demographic analysis to present consumers with tailored adverts. It can be used in simple ways, such as tweaks to the copy, or it can be more complex and present different consumers with entirely different advertisements, both in terms of message and medium.

The term personalisation is often used to describe tailored messaging. However, it can be more accurately thought of as the application of consumer data to marketing communications. Thinking from this perspective, digital display advertising stands to cut down on its spend by significantly reducing the number of people to whom certain adverts are displayed. At the same time, programmatic Out Of Home (OOH) advertising need not cost as much as traditional display advertising as the advert can be interchanged with others deemed more relevant depending on who happens to be passing by the location.

Jaguar launched a campaign earlier this year in Moscow which used digital billboards fitted with machine learning cameras capable of targeting ads at specific drivers. The campaign reported 22,000 impressions and the British car manufacturer argued that this was equivalent to the number of impressions it would have seen from an online campaign.

American economics academic Michael E. Porter said that strategy is all about deciding who not to target. Although programmatic display advertising cannot be classed as strategy, it follows the same principle nonetheless. With digital impressions under increasing scrutiny, OOH advertising could pave the way for a cost-effective means of display advertising. By taking the ads away from people who are unlikely to contribute revenue, campaigns can be focused on those who are in the core demographic and therefore more likely to act upon the ads.

The Problem With Programmatic Online Advertising

An estimated $16.4 billion is set to be lost as a result of online advertising fraud in 2017 alone, and the ongoing revelations regarding Facebook’s slipshod handling of its own metrics do not make for easy reading either. OOH digital advertising using micro targeted ads could help to bridge the gap between the programmatic and traditional display advertising. Whilst it will be argued that OOH advertising cannot accredit views to the same extent as online advertising, the statistics against this medium paint the picture of an industry that is blind to its own failings.

The short amount of time that consumers have to process smart digital billboards doesn’t necessarily matter. Research into the processing speeds of the human visual system has shown that we are able to recognise complex images in under 150 milliseconds, and while adverts may also contain copy which will add to processing time, especially if sentiment analysis is considered, two seconds would appear to be enough time to process a simple message.

The Potential Pitfalls (And How Jaguar Avoided Them)

As with many programmatic implementations, the potential for being very creepy is always lurking just around the corner. Mini developed technology to address drivers directly and Renault also scanned number plates to make references to individual cars. Renault’s Head of Marketing Communications said that consumers expect content to be “relevant” and this would allow them to subvert any lingering doubts about the technology’s invasive means.

Whether consumers expect this or not seems to be more a question for them, but personalisation in this instance doesn’t need to regurgitate specific data points to work well. The type of campaign Jaguar has rolled out feels less invasive because, despite the fact that it may rely on more data points than the other campaigns mentioned here, it doesn’t feel the need to shout about how clever it is to consumers.


Using programmatic advertising could help marketers to save money on campaigns in the future by refining the target consumer and avoiding the misleading impressions rendered online by bots. The dog days of online display advertising are drawing to a close and marketers wishing to boost revenue rather than sales would be wise to consider this approach in the future.

Have you used programmatic OOH advertising in the past? How did its results compare to traditional OOH campaigns you have seen before? Start the conversation on Twitter @mporiumgroup.

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