Bridging The Gap Between Social Media & Digital OOH


Illustration: Stephen Bernier

The integration of social media into outdoor advertising is not a new phenomenon, but has gained prominence with the growth of Digital Out-of-Home (Digital OOH) advertising. As the industry becomes more and more flooded with content, we are embracing change and innovative thinking that transforms the business in profound ways. [This all sounds great, right? Well it is, but there’s always a “but”.]  But as the industry grows, there are many learning curves that have created a gap between social media and Digital OOH. I’m going to tell you about a few that gripe me the most, and what we can do to help bridge the gap.


Social and Digital OOH integration is still fairly simplistic. For example, it might only include live tweets posted onto a billboard in Times Square. OOH has been trying to get people to engage by taking pictures, scanning QR codes, tweeting, and much more. But, this is what I like to call ‘lazy social integration’. Successfully integrating social media into Digital OOH results from a thoughtful strategy that best takes advantage that person’s particular mind-set, environment, and connection to the brand in conjunction with the screen location.  And let’s be honest, If an audience is to engage with a billboard, especially through social, there needs to something in it for them; a brilliant creative, an incentive, a reward, or even a moment of fame. When someone feels a part of a brand’s advertising, they feel more connected to the brand. They become the heart of the campaign.


From a marketing level, Social media and Digital OOH are still often regarded as separate campaign strategies and regarded very differently. The individual campaigns are managed by different teams, and often budgeted for separately. Digital OOH strategy has always aimed at getting maximum brand exposure in the minimum amount of time and social media content strategists can apply these same principles. Digital OOH and Social strategies need to be better aligned to help produce stronger and more effective integrated creative.


Thankfully, there are brands, agencies, and other pioneers in the industry that are pushing the boundaries of where social and and Digital OOH meet. A great example of one is when Manchester United partnered with Google + to create Google+ Front Row. This campaign enabled 24 fans to show their support and have their video streams featured live on pitch-side digital hoardings. Man U fans from around the world were beamed to the front row of Old Trafford for the premiership match against Liverpool. Man U fans from around the world could be seen reacting live to the match events with lots of cheering and jubilation as well as tense faces during the penalties. Google+ and Manchester Utd football club worked with adam&eveDDB who helped devise the campaign and Grand Visual who provided production and creative technology. I hope  to continue to see more innovative work like this as we continue to work towards bridging these industry gaps.


As many of us can probably relate, I tend to look at every advert I see and on my daily commute to Midtown from Brooklyn; I see lots. I’m going to say it now, (and probably a hundred more times) if I have to see another meaningless hashtag on a #ad I am going to #cry. These trendy rascals now basically exist on all aspects of advertising [and life in general] from TV commercials to digital ads to brand experiences, and much more. Rather than using a Hashtag to guide the audience to more content as a way to further engage with the campaign, they are just haphazardly thrown on the Digital OOH adverts as a way to make the creative appear more integrated. We need to provide real-time authenticity and let the audience drive and curate the conversation. If Digital OOH and Social teams worked together to think strategically on how this hashtag can drive this conversation I’ll be #happy.


A good example of a Digital OOH campaign that used a Hashtag to drive the conversation is at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, where Grand Visual and Clear Channel created the #CannesScan campaign. #CannesScan, was a live Twitter poll of the emojis being used in reference to all things #CannesLions during the world’s most important advertising event. The trending emoji was published regularly through each day on Le Grand Screen, a giant 16-metre-long digital billboard above The Grand Hotel. Rather than showcasing a live Twitter feed throughout the event, they instead showcased a summarized mood in one single emoji and it sure did make a stronger statement.


In summation, by nurturing a stronger connection between Digital OOH and Social Media we are not only creating stronger, innovative, and more creative campaigns, we are also driving the industry as a whole. This provides more appeal to brands and marketers to consider Digital OOH, with added benefit of increased results from a medium that has traditionally been difficult to measure.


Consider my tips on best practices to produce better social integrated Digital OOH campaigns.


  1. Social Media and Digital OOH strategies that align create stronger campaigns for both mediums to better reach their audiences.

  2. When using a hashtag, use it responsibly. It should be unique, allow users to easily engage, and extend the conversation in an authentic way.

  3. Let the audience drive the conversation, and encourage them to do so with strategies that provide meaningful incentives for participation.  

  4. Create shareable, and attention grabbing content.

  5. Be creative! Digital OOH is more than just a print ad displayed on a digital screen. It’s a world of possibility for creative execution to develop concepts that integrated various technology and data.


As much as I want to produce strong work, I want to see strong work.


-Stephen Bernier


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