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From Digital Signage Today

How real is that click on that website ad? Did a person click on it, or did a bot?

That growing concern among brands and advertisers highlights a growing reality problem facing digital advertising – one on which out-of-home and digital out-of-home aim to capitalize.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America last month launched a new campaign designed to highlight that reality problem and prove the unique strengths and marketing effectiveness of OOH advertising.

The “Feel the Real” campaign, created by agency of record PNYC, champions OOH as a real medium that reaches real people to drive significant digital engagement, while challenging the media industry to ask a critical question: How real is digital?

“The campaign highlights conventional reasoning that nearly half of the $14 billion spent on digital has been lost due to fraud and misrepresentation,” OAAA Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Freitas said in the announcement of the campaign. “Digital is suffering a reality problem, and we want to show how OOH – a real, tangible and quantifiable medium – can drive consumers to digitally engage with brands.

“Our goal with ‘Feel the Real’ is twofold: to build awareness of OOH’s ability to track and increase digital effectiveness, and encourage media planners to incorporate more OOH advertising into their plans,” he said.

The campaign launched in conjunction with New York City’s Advertising Week (Sept. 28 – Oct. 2), “Feel the Real” targets media agencies and planners while making a larger call to the public to engage with the real world. Static and digital OOH placements will be placed near media agencies and on heavily traveled commuter routes, directing viewers to, where they can learn how OOH can both complement and accelerate digital, social and mobile advertising.

“We are living in an increasingly unreal world, where digital continues to lose credibility,” said Matt Dowshen, president of PNYC. “By launching this campaign during one of the biggest weeks in advertising, we want to drive conversation about the significance of real versus digital and ensure OOH gets the credit it deserves.”

According to Dowshen, the campaign germinated with an idea from the OAAA, looking to sponsor an effort “to really get people to step up and take notice of out-of-home in an increasingly digital and virtual world [and] making sure ooh is getting its fair share of advertising spending.”

In a recent interview with Dowshen and Freitas, Dowshen said the campaign’s first move was surveying its prime audience and main focus, the media planners, the gatekeepers to the spreadsheets where money is being moved around.

“We went in thinking we should be as sexy as digital is today … Digital is the exciting new medium in our industry; it’s the thing everybody is talking about. So we went and talked to media planners and actually what we found was there was a lot less positive emotion around digital and digital media,” Dowshen said. “‘It’s really difficult,’ was their response, ‘It’s a bit chaotic.’ And I think most importantly there is a lot of head scratching, saying ‘I’m not really sure what I’m selling here…'”

“It was pretty amazing that we walked away from that going, ‘Wow, media planners are actually not thinking of digital as being sexy or interesting. They’re thinking of it being a bit chaotic and confusing and fraudulent to a large degree.”

So that put the campaign planners in a position to capitalize on that mindset and highlight what it is that OOH and DOOH delivers in the real world.

“If that is the mindset … what out-of-home has to say about that is that out-of-home is real; it exists in the real world; it gives brand real presence; and, most importantly today, out-of-home gives brand the opportunity to drive real clicks.”

The campaign is tracking the number of clicks it drives to the site, and while it’s not complete, the numbers so far are way beyond expectations, according to Dowshen.

The campaign includes hundreds of screens in bars and elevators among its more than 2,000 locations, highlighting the granular capabilities of DOOH, Freitas said, and allowing for some very precise ad targeting.

“We were extremely strategic in planning the locations so that we would laser-target the right message at the right location,” he said. “So in many case we selected out-of-home inventory that was literally right outside the front door of ad agencies with messaging specific to that ad agency.”

Both Dowshen and Freitas were quick to point out they weren’t saying “digital is horrible,” but were instead trying to stress how OOH complements digital online and helps to accelerate it.

“The thing is, there are millions of websites, billions, and one of the problems that online has is aggregating audience; sometimes it’s hard to get people to find you,” Freitas said. “And out-of-home does that; it takes the real-world experience and draws people into the virtual world. That’s why out-of-home is such a great complement to digital strategies. Because it is rooted in the real world it can amplify the exposures to those sites and that’s one of its key values.”

In addition to New York City, the campaign will roll out in major U.S. metro markets including Austin, Texas; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Los Angeles; Miami; Minneapolis; and San Francisco, according to the announcement.