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What are DOOH Ads & How to Launch a DOOH Campaign in 2023

May 26, 20229 min read
Kate Novatska
Kate Novatska, AdTech Expert

Once being stalled by the strict restrictions of the pandemic, digital out-of-home advertising is close to resurrection in 2023. DOOH ads will propose a refreshing angle of digital experience to the ever-growing regiment of banner-blind web surfers and device-fatigued remote workers.

Good news for DOOH: due to the previously unseen regulations, 2020 bitterly revealed how much we need outdoor activities and how tired we got from our devices.

This led to 48% of the surveyed intending to go for a walk or hike more often and 39% trying to have less mobile screen time during the day, as said in OAAA research. Here is a breaking fact: 42% notice OOH ads more than before the pandemic.

Consumer attitudes and shifts in the ad tech industry always go together. And here again, post-pandemic tendencies reignited advertisers' interest in the digital-out-of-home trend. 40% of the remaining DOOH yet-adopters will consider getting in, while the rest of the professionals who have already traded out-of-home advertising in the past 12 months will continue to do so.

post-covid DOOH consumer attitudes

Still, Yahoo's research shows that 54% of advertisers find buying DOOH media difficult, especially if they need to establish partnerships with multiple publishers. Have you ever found yourself doubting, too? That's OK. We're here to shed light on both benefits and obstacles to launching DOOH campaigns for you.

Definition: What is Digital Out-Of-Home Advertising?

Before we dive into DOOH advertising, let us look at its classic older sibling — out-of-home advertising, which has always been a strong tool in traditional advertising.

OOH includes all forms of advertising that consumers find outside of their homes. Some of the most popular OOH media include billboards, ads on street furniture such as bus shelters, transit-based advertisements in the airport or the subway, posters in sports arenas, shopping malls, and more. OOH does not necessarily mean that it has to be outdoors. It simply means that you see the ad in a location outside of your home.

By definition, DOOH ads are OOH ads that use digital screens instead of static billboards and are placed there via digital advertising platforms.

DOOH vs. OOH: The Winner is Obvious

Digital-out-of-home and regular out-of-home bear the same goal: to grab the attention of a passer-by and introduce them to a specific brand. If being placed in a specific location, they may also lure the person into a physical shop and therefore increase sales of that venue.

Yet, one of them is placed on a chunk of paper, metal, or plastic, while another sits inside the digital screen. So, here are obvious differences:

Placement Price

Traditional out-of-home offers a relatively cheap placement. But that's only at first sight: imagine all these operational costs the business pays to physically replace the ad to change the message.

The initial cost of implementing DOOH is relatively high, but the ROI is also higher with lower operational costs, varied content, and increased flexibility in campaign creatives. DOOH can be instantly replaced and adjusted to the place, time, and event.


As for targeting, it's based on a pure guess in regular OOH. No historical data is available because there are no targeting algorithms except for the brains of the “billsticker.” Before each OOH campaign launch, media agencies and brands analyzed locations and made conclusions based on their individual experience, not on the gathered data.

DOOH programmatic campaigns allow for a data-based approach to targeting since advertisers can use mobile location data to define real-world movement patterns of their audience. Mostly, it's anonymized GPS data that shows which locations the user visits frequently, thus drawing conclusions on their interests.

DOOH location data categories

You build audience heatmaps and start targeting users at specific places and at a specific time. If a screen in a preferred location is available, a demand-side platform will programmatically bid on impressions on that screen.

Should we say that the superpower of DOOH here is retargeting? It may be impossible to target ultra-precise audiences with out-of-home creatives, but retargeting is a wonderful option. Geofencing is the top choice here: you show the ad on a DOOH screen in a certain location and then retarget people within a 100m radius on their mobile.


We can’t compare DOOH vs. OOH in terms of performance. With regular out-of-home advertising, measuring results is nearly impossible. Unless you mount a micro webcam behind each billboard and then manually count each pair of eyeballs staring at the ad.

The answer to how to measure DOOH effectiveness is still yet to be fully understood. But, the location data here comes to the rescue again. Location data companies utilize GPS, Wi-FI, and Bluetooth technologies to collect data points and then provide them to the advertisers.

Programmatic platforms that support DOOH placements may generate reports based on these data points, count impressions, and provide some inventory forecasting.

Benefits of DOOH Advertising Over Other Digital Channels

While the internet and popular social media platforms are massively saturated with digital advertising, DOOH campaigns stand out. The novelty and charm of fully virtual advertising are gradually reducing since mobile screens are fully integrated into people's regular lives.

DOOH campaigns, with their creative combination of traditional and digital advertising tools, have become attractive and effective advertising tools that brands can use. Here are the advantages of DOOH technology for both users and advertisers:

Better Reach-Quality Ratio

Hyper-relevant digital ads based on behavioral targeting might work best for conversions. OOH campaigns always performed well in increasing brand awareness. DOOH combines both: it allows you to apply targeting to an extent and provides better campaign reach.

62% of people on Earth are avid ad skippers. We bet: a similar percent uses an ad blocker and never receives the message meant for them. And most of us suffer from banner blindness, which is more of a psychological shield against a modern-world data avalanche. With large format DOOH, the use of such loopholes to evade ads is impossible.

OOH cross-channel campaigns efficiency

What’s even more, DOOH technology perfectly complements the digital mix of web, mobile, and social media channels. It was found that combining regular digital campaigns with OOH can increase overall campaign reach by up to 300%.

Can’t Be Skipped

Nuff said: even if you wanted to get close and skip or scroll, DOOH screens intentionally lack screen sensors. Users will be glued to the screen until the ad ends, as it occurred with good old linear TV advertising.

Cookieless and Privacy Compliant

Even though DOOH utilizes location information, it does not use any personally identifiable data to target the user. The industry experts predict a spike in contextual targeting usage and displacement of behavioral. Digital OOH almost completely relies on the context, bypassing the need to know people’s identities, which is achieved by gathering 1st-party data or asking for consent required for 3rd-party cookies collection.

But once the cookies are gone, it will be either 1st-party data or contextual data to enrich your campaign targeting. DOOH is bulletproof against any privacy-related changes, so painful for any other digital channel.

Perfect Place & Day-Parting

The idea of promoting business products near its physical store with OOH signages, posters, and leaflets is as old as the hills. Moreover, marketers of the past were quite good at linking places to the audience, e.g., subway to job seekers, office elevators to coffee drinkers, or highways to families looking for new home furniture. DOOH levels up this idea, transforming it not only into a well-placed ad but also a timely ad.

The ad appears on the screen when the target user is most likely around, thanks to the dynamic nature of DOOH ads. Utilizing big data, advertisers define the best time to show the creative and “book” screen time for their campaign.

Example: we have a DOOH screen at the shopping center entrance. The language school, gym, and billiard club are located in the same building. Among several creatives to show, we prioritize them this way:

6 - 9 AM 9 - 12 PM 12 - 3 PM 3 - 6 PM 6 - 9 PM 9 - 12 AM
Sports apparel Gym visitors
Baby food Mothers
Mobile phones Office workers
PC games Teenagers
Work abroad Language learners
Beer Billiard club visitors

Common Drawbacks of DOOH Advertising

DOOH is not only pink and rosy. We should be honest: it’s the least optimized digital advertising channel.

Moreover, it’s not cheap and requires a lot of investment to be implemented on the technical side. Measurement of digital out-of-home performance is the trickiest part, which wins here only over regular OOH attribution, which is basically non-existent.

So, let’s elaborate on the digital out-of-home possible drawbacks:

High Placement Prices

An average digital out-of-home inventory CPM is at least 10x higher than those for digital display and 2x higher than video advertising CPM. Such a drastic price increase is associated with high maintenance costs. Unlike display banners or videos displayed on the user's PC, DOOH requires serious investment to install and service hi-tech screens.

Moreover, digital out-of-home programmatic is still only gaining momentum, and not that many supply-side platforms support DOOH inventory now. Thus, many DOOH placements are still managed directly, which usually implies higher CPMs than for automated media buying.

Measurement Complications

It’s hard to say how views got your DOOH creative since it is shown to a group of people at a time. Even though we can relate to mobile location data and the number of the alleged bypassers, we still can’t be sure that each of them has noticed the outdoor ad. Analytics provided in this case is a rough estimate, which is better than nothing (as with regular OOH).

Yet, the industry is on the way to finding consensus for DOOH performance measurement and adopting facial recognition technology to make it more precise.

Not Suitable for Performance Campaigns

You can’t skip the ad = you can’t click on the ad = you can’t convert the user. The undeniable fact: DOOH as a sole advertising channel is fabulous for spreading the message but horrible to make a user your client. Effective DOOH campaign is always a part of the cross-channel advertising strategy and goes hand-in-hand with further user retargeting.

So, What Businesses Benefit the Most from DOOH Advertising?

As you have probably noticed, companies that hold colossal market capitalization in their respective industries, such as Amazon for retail, MacDonald’s for food, Apple and Samsung for tech, Nike and Adidas for fashion, utilize out-of-home advertising the most. They are leading users of the innovative DOOH campaigns.

Consumer DOOH ads popular categories

The fact that they have used DOOH in their advertising strategy proves the relevance of this method in maintaining a strong brand presence. Also, DOOH is quite demanding in terms of the size of your pocket, so it is big brands who can afford it now and take a real edge of it. Let’s cite several examples.

5 Outstanding Examples of DOOH in Real Life


Weather-based DOOH advertisements by eBay detect the weather conditions and showcase products or services that appeal to the weather. The retail giant uses the OpenLoop platform to receive and process real-time weather data and fine-tune campaigns accordingly.

E.g., “The sun is shining, your garden can too.”, “Gray sky, perfect time for DIY.”

eBay weather-based DOOH ads

GMC Automobile

GMC Automobile launched a DOOH campaign that detected the age, gender, facial expression, and level of engagement of the viewer. All thanks to facial detection technology built into the screen powered by Quividi, an audience measurement platform that helps to define and categorize pedestrians with video reports and smart analytics algorithms.

GMC Automobile DOOH campaign

Douwe Egberts

“Bye Bye Red Eye” — the name of the DOOH promo launched by Douwe Egberts coffee. They used facial analytics to detect when tired and sleepy late-night passengers yawned and offered a free coffee at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa. It was one of the first applications of basic facial recognition on out-of-home campaigns.

Douwe Egberts DOOH campaign

National Geographic

“See what we can #SaveTogether'' DOOH campaign by National Geographic allowed the public to take a picture with a digital banner that showcased various endangered animals and projected chosen images on digital billboards.

The scale of this campaign was impressive: over 45,000 digital screens were installed throughout the US, including Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.

NatGEO DOOH campaign

Lancôme Paris

“#ShareaSmile” DOOH campaign by Lancôme Paris was dedicated to International Women’s Day 2017. They used facial recognition software to count the smiles of the bypassers, donating €1 for every smile captured.

Lancome Paris

What are the Pricing Models for DOOH?

Aside from paying for ad placement, in DOOH media buying you also pay for maintaining premium physical real estate such as smart billboards, POC displaces, kiosks, and the like. Therefore, advertising rates for a fully-fledged DOOH campaign would be higher than for traditional digital and traditional advertising methods.

There are several ways a DOOH inventory is usually priced. You can select your preferred pricing model depending on your budget and campaign goals.

CPM — Cost per Impression

This is perhaps the most commonly used pricing model for DOOH campaigns. CPM (cost-per-mille) is the rate you pay per thousand impressions on your ad.

Online vs. DOOH CPM comparison

Note: since it’s impossible to count the exact number of impressions, CPM calculated for DOOH campaigns is a rough estimate based on the location data. Also, it includes maintenance costs publishers should pay to service the placements, thus being much more expensive than regular online ads or OOH posters.

SOV — Share of Voice

With a share of voice or SOV, you buy a certain percentage of the ad inventory offered by the publisher in a particular location. A typical digital billboard has eight slots in a loop, each 8 to 10 seconds long. An advertiser receives ⅛ SOV when all of the inventory is sold. To gain a larger SOV, advertisers can buy multiple slots within the same loop.

How To Implement DOOH in Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is all about taking the human involvement and error out of advertising. It uses RTB protocol to run inventory sales in real-time, matching the publisher’s inventory to the advertiser’s creative and targeting preferences.

If you sign up to any demand-side platform on the market, don’t expect that you’ll be able to serve DOOH ad formats outright. Most programmatic platforms on the market are still tailored to serve traditional digital formats, e.g., banners, video, native, pop-ups, etc. Most of them partner with supply-side platforms that provide only desktop and in-app inventory.

This is reflected in the current state of DOOH demand in the USA in Canada. According to IAB, 56% of media agencies are on the evaluation stage of programmatic DOOH adoption, only selecting partners to start working with. 22% are running tests on different DSPs that support DOOH, and the remaining 22% have already run more than five pDOOH campaigns.

But once the choice of the platform is made, running a DOOH media buying campaign is no different from buying any other media on the demand side. Some features like inventory forecasting, accurate media planning tools, and proper attribution may not be available. 62% of advertisers name lack of inventory consolidation as another problem.

As for the sell-side, publishers utilize digital signage software to manage out-of-home devices and content itself on top of the regular stack. Some SSPs that offer a full programmatic stack for serving digital out-of-home units may have it in an all-in-one integrated system for publishers.

Programmatic DOOH Ad Formats

However, it won’t be possible to serve the same creatives on other channels since DOOH ad formats have far too different specs from regular ones. These ad formats include:

  • Large format. Digital billboards that have dozens of meters in width and height. Large format ads are usually found on highways, high-traffic industrial, commercial, and metropolitan areas. They require ultra-high resolution of the creative due to their size.
  • Spectaculars. High-impact video ads are shown mainly in the downtown crowded areas and provide a rich experience. It might require even more resources to be created due to its dynamic nature.
  • Venue-based. Medium-sized DOOH creatives with a high contextual value. These are usually shown in airports, shopping malls, office buildings, gyms, and other high-traffic venues.
  • Custom format. These may vary from the screens of the unusual shapes to rich media units equipped with the touch screen so the user can interact with the ad. These are not available for RTB sales due to their high complexity.

Programmatic DOOH Best Practices

The programmatic path to purchase is rarely limited to DOOH-only engagement unless you advertise the physical store within its 10m radius.

In most cases, it will require an extra effort to convert a bypasser into a lead. So, the best practices here would be:

  1. Define target audience and make up the right message;
  2. Pick the right DOOH software with access to media owners you’re interested in and data integrations that will allow for the type of targeting you require;
  3. Set up the platform, upload creatives, and launch an awareness campaign solely for the DOOH channel;
  4. Receive analytics from the campaign and use mobile location data to form the segment engaged with your advertisement;
  5. Apply advanced targeting techniques (e.g., geofencing, contextual, behavioral, etc.) to retarget the users on mobile or desktop through a retargeting campaign;
  6. Run another DOOH campaign in the area your users are most likely to convert.
DOOH programmatic path to purchase

The issue you may stumble across from both buy- and sell-sides is the lack of industry standardization and, therefore, the inability to use a single platform effectively. Advertisers may not be able to access multiple media owners through one DSP.

Publishers may fail to comply with different SSPs requirements since there is no common standard for DOOH inventory.

Here is the solution: white-label software. This concept means you buy technology from an ad tech provider and customize it as your own platform.

What’s more, you can request custom development of the tools you lack. It will be much more affordable than developing a platform from scratch since you already have a core functionality.

Owners of the white-label DSP may connect custom SSPs to work with. From the perspective of our article, you will be able to consolidate DOOH supply partners in one place, yet you will have to dig into the technical side of the RTB. And if the platform lacks the support for DOOH formats, it’s possible to pay the provider an extra fee for developing this functionality.

The same can be implemented from the supply side. Publishers may buy a white-label SSP technology and connect it to custom demand-side platforms without bothering to meet the non-unified requirements of each self-serve SSP separately.

How to Measure DOOH Campaign Performance

We’ve already told: the primary industry concern to date is DOOH campaign performance data attribution. Now, let’s see which accomplishments in the field of DOOH attribution we currently have.

The key performance metric to measure here is the number of impressions. The most common method is to process mobile location data and define if the person could see the ad. Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) released a set of guidelines to follow while measuring impressions using location data.

The key takeaway is to introduce required:

  • Input variables from venue data, e.g., screen visibility distance, latitude coordinate of the screen, average dwell time, and direction the screen is facing.
  • Input variables from user movement data, e.g., longitude, latitude, timestamp, and advertising ID.
  • Input variables from ad play data, e.g., duration and display time.
  • Output variables depending on the use case.

To capture exposure in outdoor locations, we might use precise screen location to define the number of impressions.

Here, the direction the screen faces and its viewing distance are the key variables to compare to the user’s phone location and movement direction. For example, a west-facing screen is viewed by the consumer traveling east — that’s one impression.

To measure impressions in indoor locations, we use both precise screen location and centroid of the venue location since most visitors tend to dwell in the indoor area rather than just pass by.

OAAA also defined output data required for attribution. The project differentiates between data needed for retargeting (usually just the advertising ID) and full-on attribution, where the advertiser wants to know the complete set of metrics.

There will be more exposure capture techniques standardized in the future. For example, facial recognition is among the top DOOH trends, yet it’s not officially approved as a standard method to measure DOOH campaign performance.

How to Launch a DOOH Campaign With Epom Ad Server

A large number of DOOH ads is still served directly. Here, advertisers partner with publishers and negotiate the placement price by talking to each other. They may sign a contract, which states when, where, and how the ad will be displayed on a certain screen.

To run and optimize this kind of a campaign, both sides use a custom ad server for digital out-of-home ads. The platform allows serving any pfacesOOH ad format since it doesn’t have any restrictions to comply with a specific DSP/SSP, requirements of which are currently far from being unified. Everything depends on your agreement with your partner.

From the publisher’s side, you’ll have to set up a non-standard placement within a designated zone and site:

DOOH placement in Epom ad server

Then, you should find the invocation code for this placement generated by the ad server. But unlike with digital advertising, when the ad tag is naturally triggered while the user visits the website, DOOH screens should use a different trigger to get the ball rolling.

DOOH invocation code Epom ad server

From the buy-side, it’s simpler. First, you create a banner for a non-standard placement. As Epom doesn’t have any templates for DOOH ad formats, we’d recommend you picking the local file or whatever option you’re going to use.

DOOH banner creation in Epom ad server

After it’s done, you can link your banner to the previously created DOOH placement. Once you launch the campaign, this banner will be displayed on the linked placement based on your prioritization and targeting settings.

Banner-placement linking in Epom ad server

FAQ: 1-Min Glance at DOOH for Busy People

  • What Does DOOH Mean?

    DOOH stands for digital out-of-home, and means ads powered by digital technology are shown to the user in public places rather than on their devices.

  • Is DOOH Better Than OOH or Digital Advertising?

    DOOH is better than OOH in targeting, measurement, and relevancy. It’s, however, much more expensive than traditional outdoor advertising. DOOH might be better than regular digital ads due to its higher capacity to attract users and grab more attention, yet it succumbs to digital’s more potent ability to convert.

  • What are the Benefits of DOOH?

    The significant benefits of DOOH are high audience reach, unskippable nature, high potential for contextual advertising & day-parting, privacy compliance, and no need to use cookies for targeting.

  • What are the Drawbacks of DOOH?

    Drawbacks of DOOH are poor conversion rate, need to retarget DOOH viewers on other devices, lack of measurement standardization, and high placement prices.

  • What Businesses Benefit the Most from DOOH Advertising?

    Large-scale brands that have enough resources to advertise big and invest in innovative technology. As for industries, consumers expect to see DOOH messages from major retailers, food & beverage companies, fast food chains, health services, automotive, insurance, technology, and financial services.

  • What Kind of Messages is the Best for DOOH?

    Types of OOH messages consumers find most useful are:

    42%: special offers and promotions

    29%: announcement of new products

    25%: company’s services and business hours

    21%: company’s website or social media information

  • Which Pricing Models are Available for DOOH?

    The most common one is CPM, where a thousand impressions are estimated using mobile location data. Another one is share of voice, where the media buyer pays for the ⅛ part of the “loop”.

  • Which is the Average CPM Rate for a DOOH Ad?

    Average CPMs for DOOH vary from $9 to $32, making this channel one of the most expensive in the digital advertising ecosystem.

  • What are the Most Common DOOH Ad Formats?

    Large format aka digital billboards, spectaculars aka dynamic videos on the large screen, venue-based medium format ads, and a variety of custom rich media formats.

  • How to Measure DOOH Performance?

    The most common method to measure DOOH campaign performance is collecting and processing mobile location data and comparing it to the data inputs, e.g., distance, screen direction, dwell time, etc. The industry is also experimenting with facial recognition technology.

  • Is It Possible to Buy DOOH Placements Programmatically?

    Yes, if the DSP you use support DOOH ad formats and the SSP you buy from offer such traffic. At this moment, advertisers find it difficult to consolidate all DOOH buying in one platform, since there is still a lack of standardization in platform requirements. Thus, we recommend using white-label software, which allows for custom SSP connections and custom setups.

  • How to Launch a DOOH Campaign with an Epom Ad Server?

    You can launch any campaign regardless of the format and digital channel with Epom. To serve DOOH, you should set your banner and placement as “non-standard” and integrate the server with your digital signage software.

Let’s go out tonight! Test out Epom ad server for 14 days to serve spectacular, robustly optimized DOOH campaigns.

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