One of the biggest questions that the AdQuick team receives is how to quantify the return on investment for outdoor ad campaigns that include billboards, street furniture, digital signs, transit systems, and other ad units.

As a growth marketer, you’re under pressure to show that your campaigns are profitable. You don’t have time to chase moving targets. You don’t have resources to wait on false promises that aren’t going to add value to your organization. Your company trusts you to make good decisions. A defined process for experimentation is crucial to this process.

That’s why, as a marketer, you need to be testing new initiatives on a continuous basis. The process involves taking small, calculated risks into untapped channels for quality traffic. Rather than taking big bets on one opportunity, you need to diversify your risk across multiple campaigns. The process is similar to investing — put your dollars in different buckets so that you can maximize your success of finding an upside. Given today’s advertising landscape, you can test a new campaign, on a new platform, in a matter of clicks.

So how do you know if out of home (OOH) is the right channel for your marketing goals — and worth devoting your valuable resources and headspace? To help you answer this question, here’s a look into AdQuick’s process for measuring ROI for every campaign that runs on our platform.

First, we narrow down the strategic goals of your campaign

This step involves getting clear on the timing, budgets, ideal target markets, and audience targeting parameters that are necessary to help you run an effective campaign. At every step of the process, we take a data-driven approach including building lookalike models to help you understand how to best reach the right people.

To establish the right parameters for your campaign, we analyze historical data from digital channels to determine an ideal audience profile. From there, we use Census data, along with other sources, to identify the best places for you to run your campaign. We use variables such as the following to make our best judgment calls:

  • Household income data
  • Zip code
  • Age demographics

Now, we triangulate data across campaigns

Using experimental best practices, we form a hypothesis for where your campaign will be most successful and create a heat map to help determine the ideal placements for your campaigns.

From here, we can reference data from past campaigns to help you make the right judgment calls for your copy, messaging, and timelines. Our goal is to develop the most concrete possible picture so that we come from a place of precision rather than throwing darts in the dark.

Next, we optimize costs

Remember that there are two sides to your ROI picture — what you expect to spend and what you expect to generate in terms of incremental returns to your business.

One of the steps that AdQuick takes, before running any campaign, is to negotiate costs with our partners and vendors. We are in an effective position to take these steps because the out of home landscape, in general, is fragmented. Because of market fragmentation, costs have the potential to bulk up.

Because of our unique role in the OOH ecosystem, and the number of campaigns that we broker, we’re able to find opportunities for cost reductions, bonus space, extra time, and other efficiencies. For this reason, it’s always less expensive to advertise through the AdQuick platform than to work with the media networks, directly.

With this cost-picture in-hand, we are able to work with customers to generate hypotheses around campaign outcomes.

At this stage, we may run a pre-test

One of the ways to strengthen a campaign’s integrity is to run a pre-launch test. Often, this process takes the form of a quantitative survey or digital campaign. The goal is to help you establish a baseline in answering the following questions:

  • To what extent are people aware of your company or product, prior to you running your campaign?
  • Does your messaging make sense among your target audience, or are there points of confusion?
  • Will your visual concepts be effective in capturing your audience’s attention?
  • What variants are winning from A/B tests and why?
  • A pre-test is only necessary if there’s a need for further clarity around your campaign parameters. Depending on your understanding of your target market and how confident you feel about your marketing investment, we may be able to skip this step.

Before launching we finalize your conversion goals

Before we launch your campaign, we’ll conduct a conversion optimization gut-check on your creative. We’ll make sure that messaging, visuals, and calls to action align with results for your company that you can measure. Example goals include:

  • New customer sign-ups
  • A lift in inbound web traffic or inquiries
  • A noticeable life in brand awareness
  • Redemption of promotions
  • Direct response actions through SMS

At this stage, we may recommend subtle adjustments to your creative. It is crucial that we cover our bases because, unlike a digital advertising program, we won’t be able to make changes once a campaign is in deployment. We take an extra step to ensure that you are truly ready to launch.

Your campaign is running — now what?

During your campaign, there are a few signals that we monitor, to understand how people are responding to your campaign, in the moment. This perspective will give your team a close-to real time feedback loop that is similar to the benefits of running a digital media program. Here are some of the things that we monitor:

  • Direct response actions via SMS, which can help inform digital re-targeting campaigns
  • Mobile location data to approximate visibility and foot traffic around an ad
  • Social media shares, especially in conjunction with relevant hashtag campaigns
  • Immediate-term brand lift to website traffic and overall improvements to the entire marketing funnel from specific DMAs and geographies

During the time that a campaign is running, marketers can take action by reinvesting this data into digital marketing channels. Repetition is effective for reinforcing a message. Don’t bombard your audiences, but help ensure that they are building a memorable connection with your brand. A billboard is more effective, for instance, when you see the same message on a channel like Facebook.

Think of this strategy as a “reminder” or “ah-ha” moment to be an extra source of support to otherwise scattered minds.

The weeks following your campaign are important

When your campaign is done, it’s not actually “done.” This is the time that you need to analyze your results. That’s because outdoor ads tend to have a ripple effect — it may be a few weeks before you see any impact to your core brand, at all. That impact also includes the potential for a ripple effect through additional word of mouth and social media shares. So, it’s important to conduct a thorough analysis. Steps include:

  • Running a brand lift study to see if your company, product, or service is more memorable
  • Whether a business experienced a change to its core metrics
  • Whether there was variability over time
  • If there is a lift in sales related to any particular DMAs

This long-term understanding will help your company create a predictable, repeatable, and quantifiable process with your outdoor ad campaigns — similar to any other marketing channel. This perspective will enable you to plan campaign strategies over a longer-term horizon, in a more systematic way.

Final Thoughts

Out of home has the potential to be one of your most effective marketing channels. But planning an effective campaign requires a high degree of strategic, quantitative precision. Marketing is about people, and digital channels are not always the most natural way to capture attention spans in-the-moment. With out of home, as with any other marketing channel, it’s critical that you take a careful and calculated approach to scaling. Over time, you’ll be in a position to run ongoing campaigns, just like any digital. After all, our digital and physical worlds are blending, right?


Contributors Statement

This blog post was a collaboration between the AdQuick team. Chris Gadek, John McClung, and Jack Gaylor contributed to this piece. Payton Biddington created the visuals.If you'd like to learn how out of home can work with your unique marketing campaign and business, send a quick email to requests@adquick.com or call (213) 986-6179. We'll reach out with case studies and recommendations tailored to you.

Disclosure

The opinions expressed are those of the authors. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. Please be sure to consult with your internal team of stakeholders to assess your specific needs before adapting any practices from this blog, as your own.