Beer, Donuts and Digital Billboard Advertising

This blog post, written by Watchfire Digital Outdoor Vice President of Sales Darrin Friskney, recently appeared in Digital Signage Today:

Budweiser was an early adopter of digital billboards.Flat. Stale. Boring. No, I am not talking about the beer and donuts. But, could these words apply to digital billboard advertising? In fact, these words are just one of many reasons billboard operators have upgraded from the inflexibility of static billboards, with messaging that cannot be changed for weeks, or even months, to digital billboards.

Digital billboards have opened a world of possibilities for advertising: the ability to display fresh, timely, vibrant and varied messaging. Unfortunately, some advertisers design their digital billboard messaging with a static billboard mindset, relying only on one display image, or focusing on a general branding message instead of a dynamic approach including a mixture of specific promotions and branding.

With the increasing popularity of digital billboards, the challenge now is how to take full advantage of digital billboard messaging and stand out in a crowd — and not seem flat, stale and boring — especially among other digital billboards. The key is conditional content, which is a remarkable tool that lets advertisers use RSS feeds to trigger promotions or messages created in advance to be run in a specific situation. Conditional ads can be based on weather conditions, sports scores, stock quotes — even tweets. They work like an if-then statement. For example, if the Bulls win, then the billboard will display a message congratulating the team and promoting a $1 draft beer special.

Conditional content is a powerful selling point for digital billboard operators, giving them the opportunity to help their clients make the best use of their advertising dollars and offer a tool that is not available on every digital billboard. These are just a very few of the innovative ways conditional content could be used, including some of the best examples I have seen.

Creating a silver lining

Advertisers can design their messages to change based on current weather conditions. A rainy day sparks rain-related ad images, sponsored by advertisers promoting umbrellas, windshield wipers, and restaurants and venues with valet service.

Driving impulse purchases

Some of the nation's most recognizable fast food chains have created innovative campaigns tailored to the current temperature. When temperatures soar above a certain degree, they advertise their ice cream, and when temperatures dip below a certain level, they advertise hot coffee.

Perfect timing

Conditional content can also be tailored to upcoming weather forecasts. What better time for a retailer to advertise their stock of snow blowers, shovels, snow tires or winter coats than when a snowstorm is approaching?

Instant communication

Imagine a coffee shop with a surplus of donuts in the afternoon. The shop sends out a quick tweet about half-price donuts, and a billboard message is automatically generated to advertise the special. Because Twitter followers can be spread out over a wide geographic area, having the ability to communicate with potential customers already in transit and near their location is invaluable.

Incredible versatility

These examples are just the beginning of what is possible. Radio stations can display the title and artist of the song currently playing on their station; walk-in clinics display their current wait time; and local newspapers display current headlines. Versatility is a great advantage to conditional content. Many of the biggest advertisers in the industry — fast food chains, state and multistate lotteries, and national retail chains — have utilized conditional content in their campaigns. Yet, it is just as valuable and impactful for smaller-scale advertisers.

If you are exploring how to incorporate conditional content into your business as an advertiser or billboard operator, be aware that not all conditional content programs are built equally. It is important to understand exactly what features are available with the software and how many pre-designed campaigns are allowed. Whatever you do, do not leave this remarkable tool in the digital advertising arsenal on the table.

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