Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) – Gateway Into the Future

busy street with multiple bright digital billboards

Remember those magical newspapers with moving pictures and talking paintings in the Harry Potter world we all know and love? Well, it’s not just fictional anymore. Along with the development of technology, marketing is continuously changing and growing, with channels like social media and digital out-of-home (DOOH) leading the way. While DOOH was introduced into the marketing game not too long ago, unlike traditional media like newspapers, it has seen an  impressive rise in popularity in the past decade. In order to fully understand the potential of DOOH, we need to get an all-round idea of how it works. This article will dive deeper into DOOH, its features when compared to other media, possible setbacks, the best way to utilize it, as well as some iconic examples of how it is being applied around the world.

What is DOOH?

Digital out-of-home is a subcategory of the existing OOH ad world, with the main difference of utilizing ad tech software to elevate the marketing game to a new level. In a way, it can be considered as a crossbreed of traditional OOH and social media, as it brings the favorable parts of online networks into the real world while still inheriting some of the outstanding features of traditional OOH.

Similarities to printed OOH

No ad-blockings

There is a growing trend of excessive ad-blocking apps/web extensions in order to get rid of unwanted mobile ads.The 2019 infographic by GlobalWebIndex shows almost half of the Internet users are using ad-blocking services, with 44 percent claiming the ads are too intrusive. DOOH is the perfect solution to this flaw of online advertisement. Being outside without the possibility of being blocked or ignored, it can easily reach thousands of people in the span of mere minutes.

Blending in

digital billboard by outdoorplus

One major reason why mobile ads are often frowned upon by consumers is because of how disruptive they are. They push products primarily by either constantly displaying an ad in the corner of a  web page or app, or the ad is constantly booting up for a few seconds every few minutes. This kind of advertising functions on the concept of being direct and pushy, hence people have negative towards them a lot of the time. DOOH, on the other hand, utilizes its outdoor feature to be able to stray from the limited, small, portable screen. It also has the ability to blend in with its surroundings, creating a much more subtle and natural way of advertising that is not abrasive to turn people away even before the message is delivered. 


When compared to traditional media, like television, DOOH (and OOH in general) can be much more cost-effective. PJSolomon’s monthly report for July 2019 has shown that, when comparing the five primary advertising channels (print, OOH, online, radio, and television) OOH’s CPM (Cost Per Mille/Thousand Impression) rate is only a little higher than online media, but with a much better percentage of advertising effectiveness. DOOH, while the cost is on the higher side of the spectrum, has proven to be the most effective method to make consumers remember a product. COOMB has also pointed out that, through over 600 econometric studies, OOH has one of the top 3 media revenue ROI and consistently outperforms other channels when being used in a media mix.

What makes DOOH stand out


art installation billboard named Wave in South Korea

One of the best features that sets DOOH apart from its umbrella category is that it can be integrated into an  interactive marketing campaign. This is possibly the most advanced way to do marketing at the moment. Using movement-tracking or touch-sensors, the core idea of interactive advertising is to “invite” people to collaborate with the ads, creating a unique and immersive experience. Getting rid of the passiveness of traditional OOH, along with the forceful feeling of online ads, DOOH is perfectly poised to shift control back to the consumers, letting them have a more relaxing and exciting ad viewing experience.

Greater Visibility

One limitation of printed OOH in comparison with online ads is that it can only stand still. With the help of technology, digital OOH has overcome this problem as advertisers have the freedom to change its display. Its form can vary greatly from the original still ads to moving pictures to even short-length videos, depending on the purpose of each campaign and the creativity of the marketing team. Even in its simplest form, which is still images, DOOH still holds an advantage over printed OOH, as it can endure natural elements better, all the while giving the ad a bright and fresh look.


Generally, younger people are more easily distracted, so a dull-looking still image may lose them in seconds. While printed OOH reaches the mass audience, this can cause setbacks with the youth. In contrast, vibrant and moving ads can help to keep them entertained longer and peak their interest more. DOOH also has a modern and futuristic feel that certainly anticipates this age group much more.


Multiple digital billboards lining up on the paveway

As mentioned earlier, OOH media as a whole beats other media when it comes to revenue ROI. In addition to that, DOOH also reduces the cost of human labor, printing, and installing still ads, which means an advert can be put up much faster and in a more cost efficient way. Moreover, due to the fact that the ads are digitized, companies have a much easier time tracking and managing their ads in real-time. There is an abundant number of ways to make use of DOOH features. For example, movement sensors can help gather information about the demographic that has interest about the ad displays – who watches them or for long they catches one’s attention.

Minor Setbacks

Of course, DOOH is not a flawless marketing medium. The same report from PJSolomon has pointed out that the cost for DOOHis quite high among other forms of media. A large part of this is due to the initial cost of installing electronic boards. A digital display can cost from $9 up to $32 per CPM, while that of printed OOH is only around $2-4. Another hindrance that companies may run into is possible tech malfunction.

How to do DOOH

crowded street at night in Japan with multiple digital billboards lighting up the area

Because of the high initial cost, companies need to be extra careful with their marketing strategies to utilize DOOH to its maximum. If and when it is done well, DOOH can bring in ROI much greater than just using traditional OOH. With all of this in mind, how do we create a successful DOOH campaign? The answer lies in these important tips.

Research, Research, Research: As DOOH offers a more personalized experience, it is more crucial than ever to conduct thorough research on the target audience, what they like, what keeps them entertained and focused, and what gets their attention.

Tracking Engagement: A good way to track engagement is by integrating interactive tools, like QR codes or hashtags. With a more advanced campaign, using movement recognition for example, it is easy to take advantage of what printed OOH doesn’t have – the technological part – and keep track of the interaction traffic of each individual ad setup. We’re in the technology era after all, why not use tech to its best potential?

Programmatic DOOH: Programmatic DOOH is the use of automation in the buying and selling process of DOOH. This helps companies be in control of when and where their ads play, as well as reach their desired target audience . There are multiple ways of leveraging programmatic DOOH; for example, the ad can change up its content based on the weather or it can be equipped with interactive elements, like eBay’s 2018 campaign.

A Little Bit of Everything: Let’s not forget that, while DOOH is proven to be highly effective, a smart mix of a few different mediums can help boost a campaign to its fullest potential. Studies have shown OOH in general has the ability to boost other media greatly up to more than 300 percent.

Real-life Examples

Interactive Facial Recognition Billboard

This brilliant interactive digital project for GMC SUV in 2016 is said to be the one of the first marketing campaigns in utilizing facial recognition features. As shown above, the ad received real-time information through a camera and promptly “directed” the ad to run according to its audience. It could recognize age, gender, and some basic movements, like smiling, and it integrated interesting ideas like a staring contest.


Taking the global pandemic into account, Grant Visual created a DOOH campaign earlier this year to spread the love and connect people around the world. People taking part in the campaign have the option of donating to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to get the change of having their photo displayed in a city of their choice with the hashtag #SendingLove. With more than 70 media owners backing this campaign in over 150 cities globally, this campaign is the biggest user-generated content marketing campaign to date.

NCDV ‘Drag Him Away’

This is a powerful campaign made back in 2012 by the U.K.’s The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV). The ad first appeared on one digital billboard, portraying a woman being scolded by an aggressive man with the message urging people to report domestic violence by going on the NCDV website. When a passerby did as followed, it separated him away from the woman with its core message. This successfully embedded the idea in the public’s mind that even small actions can make an impact.


Digital out-of-home has been thriving more than ever in today’s modern world. While there are still slight setbacks, its advantages are undeniable in the marketing world. It is safe to say that DOOH is here to stay and is our gateway into the future of marketing.

Two girls standing in front of a digital billboard of the movie Despicable Me 2

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