Apr 24 2023
Ben Larrison

What Is Digital Out-of-Home Advertising?


Billboards are one of the oldest advertising formats known to humankind. The first American “large format” billboard made its debut all the way back in 1835, spreading the word about a circus in New York City, and with the first leasing of a billboard in 1867, a cornerstone of the out-of-home advertising industry was born.

Of course, we’ve come a long way since those early billboards for “horse blankets and rheumatism pills,” and today, digital out-of-home advertising (or DOOH advertising) is a uniquely agile way to reach consumers.

So, how does digital out-of-home advertising differ from traditional out-of-home advertising, and how should marketers embrace it within their media mix? Read on to find out.

What Is Digital Out-of-Home Advertising?

Let’s start by defining the baseline of traditional out-of-home advertising, which is essentially any ad you might see (you guessed it!) outside of your home. Common examples include billboards, ads on public transit, signs at a sporting event, or banners at the airport.

Digital out-of-home advertising, meanwhile, expands upon this field by adding a digital element. So instead of, say, a static printed billboard along the side of the highway, you might have a giant screen displaying a rotating series of digital advertisements to passing drivers. If you want to see just how much digital has changed the OOH landscape, just look at present day Times Square!

DOOH has also brought us innovative new ways of advertising, particularly using video. You know those little screens that keep you entertained in the back of a taxicab? Or that play above the pump at a gas station? Both are prime examples of how digital OOH advertising can help marketers reach captive audiences.

And just how popular is DOOH among advertisers? We’ll let the numbers speak for themselves:

What Is Programmatic Digital Out-of-Home Advertising?

Programmatic digital out-of-home (aka pDOOH) includes any DOOH inventory that is purchased programmatically. It offers advertisers all the same benefits of DOOH and allows them to harness the power of real-time bidding (RTB) to activate their DOOH campaigns in an automated and data-driven way, typically by using a demand side platform (DSP).

Here are some key stats marketers should know about pDOOH:

  • In 2022, pDOOH ad spend grew 116.3% YoY in the US. In 2023, it is projected to grow an additional 48.2%.
  • By 2025, US ad spend on the channel is expected to surpass $1 billion.
  • Though it makes up only a small portion of total out-of-home ad spend (5.2% in 2022), it is growing rapidly—and this growth is only expected to continue.

Why Is Digital Out-of-Home Advertising Important?

Let’s take a quick look at three major reasons why digital OOH is an important part of any marketer’s media mix:

Flexible Timing and Targeting

Unlike traditional out-of-home advertisements, digital OOH ads can rotate and change over the course of a week, day, hour, or even minute—all allowing advertisers to better target and reach specific audiences in specific areas at specific times. So if you wanted to, say, reach commuters heading home from the finance district at rush hour, digital OOH can empower you to do just that. And because DOOH technology supports programmatic advertising, marketers have even more control over the placement of their ads.

Not Home? Not a Problem.

In pre-pandemic times, consumers spent 70% of their waking hours outside their homes. As the world steadily gets back to normal, people are anxious to return to the world outside those four walls, and digital out-of-home ads are an ideal way for advertisers to grab (and keep!) a customer’s attention when they’re out in public.

Interactive and Engaging

Some of the most innovative examples of digital OOH advertisements take advantage of modern technology to create dynamic, interactive campaigns that take audience engagement to the next level. Whether by harnessing the power of virtual reality (VR) or artificial reality (AR) to create an immersive experience, utilizing QR codes to compel viewers to take immediate action, or using video capabilities to captivate, DOOH gives advertisers the opportunity to engage audiences in unique ways.

How Does DOOH Fit Within the Customer Journey?

TikTok, and CTV, and Pinterest—oh my! With a seemingly ever-expanding list of devices and channels to connect with audiences, today’s consumer journey is complex. And given how much time people spend on their personal devices, many marketers might wonder: How does DOOH, a channel that does not live on mobile phones, laptops, or tablets, enhance the customer journey?

First, DOOH gives advertisers the opportunity to connect with audiences when they may be less reachable on their personal devices. This could be when consumers are out-and-about in the city, at a sporting event or concert, or shopping at a mall or grocery store.

Plus, DOOH ads allow advertisers to connect with consumers in contextually relevant environments. With digital screens popping up virtually everywhere, there’s a wide variety of places to connect meaningfully with audiences. Advertisers can take advantage of this and place their ads in moments that are meaningful to audiences. This might look like:  

  • A snack food company targeting video ads to gas pump screens
  • A clothing retailer targeting screens in the mall where their brick-and-mortar store is located
  • A supplement company targeting screens located in gyms, fitness centers, or doctors’ offices
  • An automotive dealership targeting screens located at a relevant sporting event (e.g., NASCAR, Formula One)

Thanks to its ability to reach customers in a variety of places, and particularly the places in which people are less active on their personal devices, DOOH advertising can significantly enhance the customer experience.

Wrapping Up: Digital Out-of-Home Advertising

If you’re looking for a way to shout your brand’s message from the rooftops—both literally and figuratively—digital out-of-home might just be the answer. It offers advertisers a significant opportunity: Connect with audiences, in relevant environments, through an engaging and memorable medium. As such, it’s no surprise that DOOH is growing rapidly and that more and more advertisers are embracing it in their campaigns.


Want to learn more about how to incorporate DOOH to your media mix? Our Media Strategy & Activation Team can help.

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