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Billboards, stickers and other non-traditional ads grow in popularity as more brands diversify.

What happened

  • “Out of home” advertising—billboards, ads on public transportation and in other public venues like sports stadiums—now comprise 7% of total ad spend. This year, out-of-home will account for $38 billion in expenditures, up 3% from 2017 and up 35% since 2010. This avenue is growing in popularity among both digitally-native brands like Glossier and Facebook and long-standing brands like Nike and Coca Cola. Netflix and Alibaba have both invested in outdoor ad companies themselves while Google may soon debut a billboard product available through its own advertising business.
  • While the largest 2018 year-over-year growth in global advertising will still come from online channels (an anticipated 11.5% increase), out-of-home is expected to grow 3.1%—significantly more than advertising will grow on TV or radio. Forty percent of total ad spend is still directed to internet marketing and 33% to television.

Why it matters

  • This shift in the advertising landscape is largely explained by the rise in digital advertising costs; between 2012 and 2016, for example, the average price of a Facebook ad increased 9.6 times. As digital channels become increasingly saturated with advertisements, prices will continue to rise, forcing brands to look to other channels, including offline ones.
  • Billboards, however, can catch the eye of a large number of consumers, standing out thanks to their large scale. Paradoxically, however, it’s digital technology that is helping brands create thriving offline ads. Because the vast majority of consumers spend ample time on their smartphones, companies can utilize digital activity to locate the best spots to place their ads, both where they will garner the most eyeballs and target their demographic most effectively. Since billboards can now be digital, companies can experiment with various campaigns in one place, even altering the text so that it’s equally readable both in and out of traffic. Software also exists that helps companies purchase or sell advertisements, further streamlining the process.
  • At the same, while some brands go big, others are going small. While data-driven billboards are personalized insofar as they can more effectively target consumer groups, stickers connect with each shopper personally and allow customers to advertise the company themselves. Ouai, the haircare brand, Glossier, the beauty brand and Dripkit, the direct-to-consumer coffee brand, all send customers stickers with their ecommerce orders or hand them out at product launch events. Whereas the heritage luggage company Rimowa also sells stickers that customers can place on their suitcases, free options at these digital-first brands foster greater community and personalization, often highlighting other interests shoppers have outside of the brand itself. Plus, brands can easily digitize the stickers on Instagram, letting customers generate word-of-mouth growth without explicitly endorsing a corporate entity.
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