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PPC Online meets offline

PPC: online meets offline

Has the time come for billboard advertising to embrace online paid search practices?


With Google’s domination over the online world, it seems that there is little room for any further expansion. In fact this couldn’t be further from the case; more and more the line between offline and online is becoming blurred. As such, traditional offline advertising mediums such as television sets and billboards can readily become connected, giving a whole new realm for the online giants to expand into.

As Google claims, “We no longer ‘go online’, we live online”.

Traditional TV advertising still largely works on a pre-bought basis where factors such as viewing rates and demographics are pre-assumed for the ad slots chosen. This is fundamentally different from the programmatic way of buying ad space in online display advertising, which takes on the much more powerful method of using these factors in real time to decide how much an advertiser should bid on the given ad slot.

The question is exactly which targeting factors would be leveraged by advertisers to decide which ad slots to pay for programmatically, and also how much they should pay for each. Viewer volume estimates can be compiled in real time, but engagement metrics can be more difficult at first glance. But then again we are in a constantly connected world. IAB’s most recent estimate of the percentage of people using a secondary device whilst watching TV stands at 70%, rising to 87% for 16-34 year olds.


I can’t see it being much longer before one of the online giants turns their interest to this huge opportunity to bring online techniques to the offline world


From the levels of social media activity surrounding particular TV shows, it can be determined how engaged viewers are, and whether your advert would be right for them. Further to this, due to the relative accuracy of demographic insights from social channels, this could be plugged in to see which demographics are interacting most with the TV programme with the ad slot on offer, to determine if this is a demographic that would be relevant for your advert.

As YouTube advertising already uses a real-time bidding model, which is widely used on internet-connected televisions, it doesn’t seem like we’d have that long to wait before this proliferates throughout television advertising. The technology and data are both ready for this next step, it just needs driving forward. ‘Programmatic TVs’ using similar models are already being used in Asia, we shouldn’t have to wait too long until we see this idea take hold here.

But what about other traditionally offline advertising platforms? One of our Paid Search Specialists theorised about the evolution of in-game advertising back in 2013, and how ads could be personalised for gamers whilst blending into the game’s natural landscape. While this may still seem a way off, the possibility for billboard advertising embracing online practices may be just around the corner.


gaming image

Image source: The Drum


While companies such as Clear Channel are helping to bring billboards into the digital world, the practice of buying ad slots is very similar to traditional TV advertising, with slots bought in advance. Bringing this into the real-time auction based model would give even more exciting opportunities for targeting people in the street. Weather related factors could be used to determine whether advertisers want their ad to show; bad weather often means fewer people would be available to view the ads, however, for some businesses selling raincoats this would be an ideal opportunity to advertise. This would lead to a much more relevant ad experience for the audience in the offline world.

As well as just using these factors to determine whether or not to advertise at that time, they can also be used to create a personalised ad experience. Location specific statistics can be integrated from databases to dynamically personalise billboard ads when the potential ad inventory covers the whole nation.

For example, an ad could be created such as ‘Did you know? 56% of Liverpool residents could save up to £3500 on their home insurance when using exampleinsurance.com!’


digital billboard

Clear Channel is pioneering digital billboards


The first real-time bidding billboards were set up in 2015 in USA, but it remains very much on the fringes. I can’t see it being much longer before one of the online giants turns their interest to this huge opportunity to bring online techniques to the offline world. While it has been theorised for some time that this could be possible, all the pieces now seem to be in place for this advertising revolution.


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