Out-of-home advertising is nothing new. Take a look at historic photos of highways across North America, and it won’t be long before you come across a sight that’s all too familiar to drivers: the billboard. That form of advertising has been around since the early 1800s, and it’s certainly not going anywhere — some 15,000 new billboards are installed each year in the United States alone.

However, while billboards still have their place, it’s true that, for most brands, it’s not the most effective form of advertising. The biggest billboard advertisers tend to be huge corporations such as Apple, American Express, and Amazon, none of whom can be said to rely on advertising to drive consumer behavior, at least not when compared to other companies.

Thankfully, the out-of-home advertising landscape is shifting. The rise of retail media networks has made out-of-home advertising more reliable, effective, and advanced than static billboards. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at retail media networks, including what they offer, the technology that underpins them, and the challenges and opportunities they present.

The Evolution of Out-of-Home Advertising

Out-of-home advertising has come a long way in its several thousand years of existence. That’s right; several thousand years. You can trace it back to Ancient Egypt, but to keep things simple, we’ll focus this article on modern OOH advertising.

In the past fifty years, billboard advertising has been king. The issue is that, while this method could be effective, it came packed with limitations and challenges that blunted its impact. For one thing, traditional billboards are expensive. And second, there was very little targeting going on; you just have to hope that the right people see your ad.

Additionally, you’d be hard-pressed to call billboard advertising engaging. It may serve as good exposure, but they don’t drive action, and certainly not immediate action, as other advertising forms do.

So does that mean that OOH advertising is finished? Absolutely not — in the age of dynamic, engaging advertising, practical solutions have emerged..

The Rise of Retail Media Networks

Retail media networks have become prominent players in the advertising landscape, and it’s not hard to see why. Existing within retail spaces, that allow for effective, targeted advertising that’s much more likely to yield results.

It’s a view that advertisers agree with. The market is expected to reach some $100 billion in the next couple of years and will be responsible for a quarter of all digital media spending. In other words: it’s popular. It works within physical stores, on shopping apps, and directly on e-commerce stores; essentially, wherever products are sold.

This allows for a much more direct and engaging advertising process compared with the static, far-out-the-way billboard experience. And the beauty of retail media networks lies beyond simply the location of the advert (though that certainly helps); the type of advert also has an impact. A billboard stands still. A retail media network is technologically-infused and could include digital screens, dynamic content delivery, and interactive displays, to name just some common features.

Redefining Experiences with Retail Media

The number one way that retail media networks have transformed out-of-home experiences is that they insert branded messages into the shopping experience. Historically, advertisements would take place far from the purchase landscape — think of watching an advert on television, or driving past a billboard while still thirty minutes from the store.

Retail media networks bring advertisements to people just as they’re about to make a purchase decision. A shopper stepping into a busy store may well be overwhelmed by choice. The well-timed, well-placed advert might just make the difference between the consumer selecting one product over another.

A consumer views a billboard out of context; it’s just something that momentarily catches their attention while they’re driving. Retail media networks create an engaging experience for the consumer by placing the advertisement in context. The products they see advertised aren’t just an idea; they’re available for the consumer to purchase immediately.

Technology and Interactivity in Retail Media

In the ever-evolving landscape of the advertising industry, out-of-home and billboards continue to hold relevance and merit exploration, especially in the right contexts. The market for OOH advertising is robust, projected to exceed 45 billion U.S. dollars by 2028, showcasing its enduring significance. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that the technology supporting static billboards is straightforward, reflecting a traditional approach in an era where interactive features have become increasingly prevalent.

Retail media networks, representing modern solutions, address traditional challenges by fostering consumer engagement. Digital out-of-home advertising exemplifies this shift, transforming the mere act of viewing an advertisement into an interactive experience. A stroll through a contemporary shopping mall reveals a plethora of digitally-infused advertisements that captivate and engage consumers.

OOH advertisers can easily update their adverts, ensuring that they’re always relevant. For instance, an advert could be updated to reflect the local sports team winning a championship just moments after the game had ended. In the losing team’s city, they could update the advertisement with a note of commiseration. It allows for local market personalization in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible before.

Challenges and Opportunities

As we’ve seen, there’s much to love about retail media networks — and plenty of potential, too. They allow advertisers to reach consumers at the critical moment just before they make a purchase decision, and that’s something that just hasn’t been possible in the past.

There are privacy concerns for online retail media networks, and with technology improving all the time, it’s possible that’ll become a concern for out-of-home advertisement, too. Additionally, increased competition for these valuable advertising spaces may raise costs, and also increase the importance of creating quality, engaging advertisements.

But by and large, retail media networks should be welcomed by advertisers. If they can create easy-to-digest, information adverts and place them in the right places, then they should see a good return on their investment.