The Expert Guide to Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) Advertising

January 12, 2024
20 minutes

Let’s paint you a picture: you're walking down Times Square or Piccadily Circus, impressed by the dazzling LED billboards that seem to stretch right up into the heavens. Each display competes for your attention, trying to lure your eyes from one spectacle to another.

Now, what if we told you that the same billboards can not only recognize the type of audience in proximity but also alter the advertisement in real-time to best suit their interests? No, this isn't science fiction—this is Digital Out of Home (DOOH) advertising, and it's shaping the future of how brands engage with consumers in the public sphere.

From high-traffic urban spaces to the screens in your local cafes, DOOH is everywhere. Whether you're a brand marketer looking to level up your game, an advertiser seeking to diversify your portfolio, or just a curious enthusiast wanting to understand the future of public advertising, you've come to the right place.

Ready? Buckle up, because we're about to enter the DOOH world.

Where does DOOH fit in today's advertising landscape?

DOOH has emerged as a vital component for any forward-thinking advertising strategy. Here are some key reasons:

  • Hyper-targeting capabilities: DOOH allows advertisers to target audiences based on specific geographies, times of day, and even weather conditions. This ensures that the message reaches the right audience at the right time.

  • Seamless integration with mobile and online platforms: One of the most compelling aspects of DOOH is its ability to work in tandem with mobile and online advertising strategies. Through the use of QR codes, social media hashtags, or even augmented reality, DOOH can create an immersive cross-channel consumer experience.

  • Measurability and analytics: Unlike traditional out-of-home advertising, DOOH provides a plethora of analytics, including impressions, consumer engagement metrics, and more. This data-driven approach enables advertisers to continually optimize their campaigns for better ROI.

  • Flexibility and real-time adaptation: With DOOH, you're not locked into a single message for an extended period. Advertisers can quickly adjust their campaigns in real-time, responding to current events, consumer feedback, or inventory levels.

  • Sustainability: Digital screens are more eco-friendly compared to printed billboards. Not only does this resonate well with environmentally conscious consumers, but it also offers long-term cost-effectiveness.

What is Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) advertising?

Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) Advertising is a modern extension of traditional Out Of Home (OOH) advertising. While OOH encompasses billboards, transit displays, and other large format ads placed in public spaces, DOOH adds a digital twist to this time-tested advertising medium.

Instead of static print ads, DOOH enables advertisers to display dynamic digital content on electronic screens, often with the ability to change the displayed content in real-time. This advanced form of advertising is usually executed on LED billboards, digital signage, kiosks, and even digital bus stops.

Key features of DOOH advertising

  • Dynamic content: Unlike static billboards, digital screens allow for changing visuals, videos, and even interactive elements.

  • Real-time updates: Messages can be adjusted instantaneously based on time, weather, or other conditional triggers.

  • Targeting: Geo-fencing and other targeting options can ensure that the ad reaches the most relevant audience.

  • Data-driven: Modern DOOH platforms often provide analytics and metrics to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns.

The evolution from traditional OOH to DOOH

The transition from traditional OOH to digital isn’t just a technology upgrade; it's a paradigm shift in how advertising operates in public spaces. Traditional OOH has been around for decades and is one of the oldest forms of advertising. It has relied on the mass reach of large, static displays that capture eyeballs but offer little in the way of flexibility or audience targeting.

DOOH, on the other hand, revolutionizes this by introducing elements of digital advertising, such as real-time bidding (RTB), programmatic buying, and data-driven targeting, into the OOH landscape.

Not only does this make the advertising more efficient, but it also opens up creative opportunities that were impossible or impractical before. For example, an ad could change based on the weather, the time of day, or even current events, making it much more relevant and engaging.

Milestones in the evolution

Core components of DOOH

When you strip it down, the essence of DOOH comprises three core components:

  • Hardware: This includes the digital screens themselves, whether they are large LED billboards, digital signage in a mall, or screens in elevators and taxis.

  • Software: A comprehensive software platform controls the display, distribution, and timing of the digital ads. These platforms are increasingly sophisticated, allowing for programmatic buying and real-time analytics.

  • Content: Last but not least, the digital media assets—be they images, videos, or interactive elements—make up the content. It's essential for this content to be high-quality, engaging, and, where possible, personalized to the audience.

The benefits of DOOH advertising

Now, let’s get down to the juicy part. What’s the fuss with DOOH? Where does the fascination stem from? Yes, DOOH is an impressive visual delivery of ads but the allure goes well beyond that. Marketers are captivated by the benefits potential of the technology.  

Highly targeted advertising

  • Geo-targeting: Traditional billboards can't distinguish between a local resident or a tourist passing by. DOOH allows advertisers to tailor messages based on location data.

  • Audience segmentation: With advancements in AI and machine learning, DOOH platforms can analyze foot traffic to gauge demographic information like age and gender, allowing for highly targeted campaigns.

  • Time-sensitive targeting: You can set your ads to appear at certain times of day or during specific events, increasing the relevance of your message.

Combining these sophisticated targeting options, you can ensure your marketing messages reach the most relevant audiences at the most opportune moments.

Real-time analytics and insights

  • Live dashboards: Real-time analytics dashboards allow you to track engagement metrics immediately, enabling you to adjust your campaign on the fly.

  • ROI tracking: Advanced tracking features can measure the direct impact of your DOOH ads on sales or web traffic, offering a clearer picture of your return on investment.

  • Consumer behaviour analysis: Advanced analytics tools can provide insights into how consumers interact with your ads, whether they pause to watch your ad, or if they engage with interactive elements.

The power of real-time analytics cannot be overstated. Immediate access to data can drive actionable insights, making your campaigns more effective as they run.

Flexibility and scalability

  • Easy updates: You can swap out digital creatives in real-time, responding to market conditions or consumer feedback without incurring printing costs.

  • Scalable campaigns: A single campaign can be effortlessly scaled across multiple locations or demographics with just a few clicks, offering unprecedented reach.

  • Multimedia options: Unlike traditional billboards, DOOH allows you to utilize video, interactive elements, and even augmented reality, giving you creative freedom.

This flexibility is unmatched in traditional advertising mediums, offering you the agility to adapt in our fast-paced digital world.


  • Reduced production costs: No need for physical materials like paper or paint, reducing both costs and waste.

  • Programmatic buying: Automated purchasing options make it more efficient to bid for ad space, often reducing overall costs.

  • Optimized spending: The granularity of targeting and analytics ensures that your marketing budget is utilized to its fullest extent, reducing wasted ad spend.

In the long run, DOOH can provide a more cost-effective ROI compared to traditional out-of-home advertising.

Greater engagement and interactivity

  • Interactive elements: Touchscreens, QR codes, and augmented reality features can create a two-way dialogue with consumers, increasing engagement rates.

  • Social media integration: DOOH campaigns can be integrated with social media, encouraging real-time sharing and interaction, which amplifies your message organically.

  • Visual impact: The sheer scale and vividness of digital screens can make your ad more eye-catching and memorable, especially when enhanced with motion graphics or interactive elements.

Engagement is the currency of modern advertising. The interactive capabilities of DOOH allow advertisers to transcend the traditional boundaries of the medium, creating more meaningful connections with consumers.

Types of DOOH advertising formats

Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) Advertising has evolved far beyond traditional billboards by the roadside. In today’s interconnected world, DOOH comes in many formats, each with unique benefits and targeting capabilities. Tip: It would be a great idea to check our blog post on the Best-Performing Banner Sizes For Digital Advertising In 2023.

Let’s delve into some of the prominent types.

Billboards and street furniture

  • Traditional billboards: Even though they are digital, their grandiosity can mimic the impact of traditional billboards.

  • LED screens: More dynamic and vibrant, ideal for capturing attention in high-traffic areas.

  • Street furniture: Includes bus shelters, kiosks, and benches, providing a more localized advertising approach.

Now, let's see what numbers say about the impact of different DOOH advertising formats.

Source: OAAA’s latest Nielsen studies

In the example below, Hjärtat, Sweden's leading pharmacy chain, ingeniously used smoke detectors to target anti-smoking ads straight to Swedish smokers. The mechanism was simple yet impactful: whenever the smoke detector sensed tobacco smoke, it activated a digital display featuring a coughing person. This approach made the campaign deeply relevant and resonant.

Transit advertising

  • In-bus/train screens: Often found in public transportation, providing captive audience exposure.

  • Taxi top screens: Mobile screens on taxis, good for reaching a geo-targeted audience.

  • Station billboards: Strategically placed in high-footfall areas like train stations or bus stops.

Transit advertising is not just limited to static images; it also includes short video clips and animations. The ability to change your advertising message in real-time is a game-changer, especially during peak commuting hours.

Retail and point-of-sale (POS)

  • In-store screens: Situated near the cash register or throughout the store to promote impulse buying.

  • Interactive kiosks: Provides customers with information, often related to the advertised product.

  • Digital price tags: Newer but increasingly popular, allowing for real-time pricing changes.

Retail and POS DOOH formats are particularly effective for driving immediate actions and can even be integrated with mobile technologies. For instance, QR codes displayed can lead a shopper to an exclusive online coupon.

Digital signage in events and stadiums

  • Jumbotrons: Massive screens that are typically used to showcase high-profile ads during big events.

  • LED ribbons: Wrapped around the arena, providing a 360-degree advertising experience.

  • Interactive displays: Often used in trade shows or expos, where attendees can engage directly with the brand.

DOOH plays a vital role in stadiums and events, enhancing the user experience while providing significant brand exposure. The key is to create engaging and entertaining content that adds value to the event-goers' experience.

Famous DOOH examples

Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) advertising has produced some of the most iconic and memorable campaigns over the years. These examples not only showcased the creative potential of this medium but also leveraged technology to interact with audiences in innovative ways. Let's delve into a few examples that have set the bar high in the DOOH industry.

Times Square Takeover

  • Brand: Coca-Cola
  • Year: Ongoing
  • Impact: One of the most iconic digital billboards in Times Square, New York City, belongs to Coca-Cola. The curvy screen creates a visual spectacle, featuring real-time content and interactive elements, often celebrating holidays, major events, or social causes.

Reactive Weather Ads

  • Brand: British Airways
  • Year: 2015
  • Impact: In a creative marketing move, British Airways installed interactive digital billboards in London's Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick. These screens displayed a child pointing upwards whenever a BA flight passed overhead, along with details such as the flight number and its destination. The ingenious combination of live data and audience engagement garnered multiple accolades for the campaign.

“Look At Me” Campaign

  • Brand: Women’s Aid
  • Year: 2015
  • Impact: This emotionally impactful campaign featured images of abused women that would heal in real time as more people looked at the billboard. Utilizing facial recognition technology, the campaign sought to engage the public in a dialogue about domestic abuse, proving that DOOH could also serve as a platform for social change.

How programmatic DOOH is changing the game

Programmatic Digital Out of Home (DOOH) advertising is not the future but the present. This innovative technology has significantly disrupted traditional advertising models, making the process more agile, data-driven, and measurable.

As opposed to manual bookings and one-size-fits-all campaigns, programmatic DOOH brings the power of real-time bidding and targeted messaging to the expansive canvas of out-of-home media spaces.

What is programmatic DOOH?

Programmatic DOOH is the automated buying and selling of digital out-of-home advertising. Leveraging software platforms, it allows advertisers to bid on digital billboard space in real-time, similar to how programmatic online advertising operates. Key features include:

  • Real-time bidding (RTB): Advertisers can bid on available digital billboard spaces in real time based on specific audience criteria.

  • Audience targeting: Utilizes data analytics to target particular demographic groups, locations, or weather conditions.

  • Flexible scheduling: Campaigns can be tailored to run at specific times, making optimal use of budget and maximizing ROI.

  • Performance metrics: Provides advertisers with real-time data analytics to measure the effectiveness of campaigns.

Benefits of programmatic DOOH

The advantages of programmatic DOOH are manifold. These benefits help it stand out when compared to its traditional counterparts.

  • Efficiency: Programmatic DOOH eliminates the need for back-and-forths between media buyers and sellers, making the process more efficient.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Real-time bidding often results in better price optimization. You pay precisely for what you need.

  • Granular targeting: Fine-tune your campaigns to target specific audiences based on various factors like demographics, location, time, or even weather conditions.

  • Greater engagement: Dynamic, real-time content adjustments means ads can be more engaging and relevant to the viewer.

  • Measurability: Unlike traditional OOH, programmatic DOOH offers detailed analytics that help in understanding the campaign's effectiveness.

Challenges and how to overcome them

While programmatic DOOH is revolutionary, it's not without its challenges. Here are some common hurdles and how to overcome them:

  • Data privacy concerns: Ensure your campaigns are compliant with local and global data privacy regulations like GDPR or CCPA. Work only with platforms that adhere to these laws.

  • Inventory quality: The novelty of programmatic DOOH means that high-quality inventory can sometimes be limited. Research and choose reliable platforms and publishers with a premium inventory.

  • Cost barriers: While programmatic DOOH can be more cost-effective in the long run, initial setup costs can be high. Plan your budget accordingly.

By integrating programmatic DOOH into your advertising strategy, you're not only keeping pace with industry advancements—you're also leveraging a highly effective, targeted, and measurable medium for your marketing messages.

Programmatic DOOH case study

Established in 2014 in Germany, foodora is an online meal delivery service has since extended its reach to ten other countries.

The challenge

While foodora had garnered popularity for its delivery service, the pick-up feature had remained relatively under the radar. The internal team was keen to shift this narrative.

Campaign Objective: Boost recognition and utilization of foodora’s pick-up service.

Target demographics: Time-crunched business professionals in Germany, both existing and potential clients.

Generally, the team found success in conventional digital advertising methods, focusing primarily on online and mobile programmatic display buys. For this particular initiative, however, they aspired to employ a more creative and targeted strategy.

The Solution

The company employed Demand-Side Platform (DSP) to integrate digital outdoor displays into their campaign for more targeted exposure.

Featured locations: 50 digital screens situated in office complexes operated by ECN.

Selected cities: Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg.

The campaign's messages were tailored based on various dynamic data points provided through the DSP:

  • Weather conditions: Promotions for delivery were featured during rainy weather, whereas sunny conditions prompted messages for the pick-up service.

  • Time-specific messages: The campaign altered its focus according to the time of day, highlighting quick lunches, afternoon snacks, or convenient dinners.

  • Nearby restaurants: Some ads were localized, suggesting restaurants in the immediate area for pick-up.

Besides the digital screens situated in corporate settings, geolocation data was used to activate complementary online and mobile ads. Anyone near a digital screen received mobile ads to augment the campaign's reach and frequency.

With over 107,000 ads displayed and a million impressions achieved, foodora's integrated programmatic advertising campaign effectively met its objectives.

Measuring the ROI of DOOH campaigns

Measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) for DOOH campaigns can be both challenging and rewarding. Unlike traditional Out Of Home (OOH) advertising, where metrics are often limited to impressions or estimated footfall, DOOH offers the potential for more refined, data-driven measurement.

The key to a successful DOOH campaign is not just about designing eye-catching visuals; it's about understanding your audience, setting the right KPIs, and using the correct tools and platforms to measure them. Here's a closer look at these aspects:

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

When you're aiming to assess the ROI of your DOOH campaign, your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be your guiding light. Here are some KPIs to consider:

  • Impressions: Measure the number of times your ad has been viewed. This gives you an initial idea of the reach of your campaign.

  • Engagement: Beyond impressions, engagement metrics like dwell time or interaction rate can offer deeper insights into the effectiveness of your creative content.

  • Conversion rates: Ultimately, you want your impressions to turn into sales, leads, or other conversion forms. Track these through QR codes or through targeted URLs that you feature in your DOOH ads.

  • Cost per engagement (CPE): This metric helps you understand the efficiency of your campaign in terms of costs associated with each engagement.

  • Audience data: Modern DOOH platforms can integrate with location data, WiFi analytics, and even facial recognition to provide detailed audience demographics.

ROI in DOOH case study

A great way to comprehend the ROI potential of DOOH is by examining real-world examples.

To boost winter sales for Sprite, Seagram's, and Fresca, Coca-Cola collaborated with Volta Media on a Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) advertising campaign. The effectiveness of the campaign was assessed using location-specific retail data across the U.S. For more precise sales attribution, Volta Media partnered with marketing services firm Quotient.

The campaign was a financial success, generating $2.51 million in sales attributable to the ads. Additionally, it achieved a Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) that was 56% higher than the average ROAS for all of Coca-Cola's food and beverage DOOH campaigns.

The advertising also drew in new customers, with 8.2% of purchasers new to the featured brands and 7.6% new to the product category.

Future trends in DOOH

Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) advertising is poised for significant transformations. Advances in technology, increased mobile engagement, and a focus on sustainability are set to redefine how marketers approach DOOH. In this segment, we'll discuss four pivotal trends shaping the future of this advertising sector.

Integration with mobile and web

The lines between different advertising mediums are blurry. One of the most exciting trends in DOOH is its increasing integration with mobile and web platforms. Here's how this is expected to play out:

  • Geo-targeting: DOOH displays will become smarter, using geo-targeting to show relevant ads depending on the viewer's location, synced with their mobile device.

  • Interactive QR codes: QR codes on DOOH displays will become more sophisticated, offering promotions that can be instantly redeemed via mobile phones.

  • Data-driven personalization: Integration with web analytics will allow advertisers to display personalized content based on a user's browsing history and preferences.

  • Cross-platform campaigns: Marketers will execute more holistic campaigns that move seamlessly from DOOH to mobile to web, creating a unified brand experience.

Artificial intelligence and DOOH

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will drive much of the automation and personalization in DOOH advertising. Key trends in this space include:

  • Dynamic content adaptation: AI algorithms will dynamically change the content based on real-time factors such as weather, time of day, or even current events.

  • Audience measurement: AI will provide more precise analytics about who is viewing the ads, including their demographics and behavior, thus enabling better ROI calculations.

  • Programmatic buying: Machine learning algorithms will help in the real-time auction of DOOH ad spaces, making the buying process more efficient and tailored.

Virtual reality and augmented reality

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will introduce new layers of interaction and engagement in DOOH advertising. Some trends to watch for:

  • Immersive experiences: Brands will use VR to offer fully immersive, 360-degree ad experiences within public spaces.

  • Augmented reality filters: DOOH displays may feature AR filters that enable consumers to visualize products in a real-world setting via their smartphones.

  • Interactive demos: Both VR and AR can be utilized for on-the-spot, interactive product demonstrations, enhancing consumer engagement and retention.

Sustainability and eco-friendly displays

As with many industries, sustainability is becoming a significant focus within DOOH. Here's what's on the horizon:

  • Low-energy displays: The development and adoption of low-energy, perhaps solar-powered displays, will cut down on electricity costs and carbon footprints.

  • Recyclable materials: More vendors will manufacture their displays from recyclable or biodegradable materials.

  • Sustainability metrics: Platforms will offer analytics not only on ROI but also on the environmental impact of a campaign, helping brands to align with eco-friendly goals.

Tips for creating a successful DOOH campaign

Running a successful DOOH campaign is an intricate balance of multiple factors, from understanding your audience to creative strategies, budgeting, and ongoing optimization. In this ultimate guide, I'll provide actionable tips and best practices in each of these areas.

Understanding your audience

Before you even think about launching a DOOH campaign, you need to know who you're targeting. Understanding your audience is the bedrock upon which your campaign will be built.

  • Demographics and psychographics: Gather data on the age, gender, location, and interests of your target audience. The more specific you get, the better.

  • Consumer behavior: Leverage existing data or surveys to understand the behavior of your audience—when are they most likely to engage with DOOH media, and where are they most likely to see it?

  • Context: Are you targeting commuters in a subway or diners in a restaurant? Knowing the context can help you craft more impactful messages.

Remember, DOOH allows for dynamic changes. This means you can alter the message based on real-time data, so make sure you’re continually updating your audience persona.

Creative strategies and best practices

Once you have a grasp on your audience, the next step is to create compelling content. Your creative strategy should not only be eye-catching but also provide value to your target audience.

  • Keep it simple: DOOH messages are often viewed in passing, so get straight to the point.

  • High-resolution images and videos: The bigger the screen, the more important the quality of your images.

  • Interactive content: If possible, leverage touchscreen functionality or QR codes to engage the audience further.

  • Dynamic creatives: Use real-time data to change creatives dynamically. This could be as simple as displaying the current temperature or as complex as real-time stock updates.

Budgeting and planning

The success of a DOOH campaign is not just about throwing money at it; it's about smart budget allocation.

  • Channel selection: Different channels have different costs and reach. Opt for the one that aligns with your objectives and audience.

  • Frequency and timing: Don’t blow your entire budget in the first week. Plan out your campaign to run during optimal times for your audience.

  • ROI metrics: Clearly define KPIs that will determine the success of your campaign and help you adjust your budget as needed.

Testing and optimization

A DOOH campaign is not a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. Ongoing testing and optimization are crucial.

  • A/B testing: Create variations of your ad to understand what resonates most with your audience.

  • Real-time analytics: Many DOOH platforms provide real-time analytics. Use this data to tweak your campaign as it runs.

  • Feedback loop: Consumer feedback can be a goldmine of information for campaign optimization. Consider conducting surveys or focus groups for more qualitative data.

In closing: The future is digital, and it's out of home

As we come to the conclusion of this comprehensive guide on Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) advertising, it's crucial to understand that this isn't just a subset of the advertising world—it's a frontier that's evolving right before our eyes.

The beauty of DOOH lies in its amalgamation of classic out-of-home strategies with the advanced targeting and analytics of digital advertising. It represents a harmonious blend of the physical and digital worlds, providing advertisers an unmatchable opportunity to connect with consumers.

In a landscape increasingly defined by clicks, swipes, and ephemeral content, DOOH offers something tangible yet dynamic, a palette upon which the modern marketer can paint their most compelling campaigns.

Antonis has a decade of experience in marketing. From blog posts to newsletters, he is responsible for (almost) all things content at Eskimi. When he is not typing away, he is searching for new restaurants or adding more travel destinations to his bucket list.
Antonis has a decade of experience in marketing. From blog posts to newsletters, he is responsible for (almost) all things content at Eskimi. When he is not typing away, he is searching for new restaurants or adding more travel destinations to his bucket list.
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