COVID-19 Update

How The DOOH Advertising Transformation Empowers SMEs

  • Written by Johan Liljelund, DanAds
  • Published in Demanding Views

1danadsOut-of-home (OOH) advertising is simultaneously the simplest form of advertising and the most intricate. Since its humble beginnings as posters and flyers, we’re now entering the next evolution: Digital OOH (DOOH), which includes anything from digital billboards to interactive ads at local bus stops.

DOOH elevates traditional OOH by allowing advertisers to provide the personalized ad experiences customers expect in their online environments. This revolution transformed the static billboard into an interactive customer experience — and it’s clear advertisers are recognizing the opportunity in this transformation. The projected ad spend of DOOH ads will increase to $15.9 billion by 2027, an increase of more than $9 billion since 2019.

More importantly, though, the rise of DOOH may make OOH more accessible to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) that typically couldn’t afford a multiweek physical billboard campaign. DOOH offers the accessibility these businesses need to enter this advertising space, allowing them to benefit from reported ROIs of as high as $5.00 for each dollar spent.

Supporting SMEs also serves the interests of advertising publishers. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that SMEs drove the bulk of last year’s unprecedented 35% growth in digital ad spend — and there are no indications that will change.

It’s time to embrace DOOH’s role as a catalyst for small business and community commerce — and it’s time for leaders in the advertising space to offer platforms that enable this evolution.

Understanding DOOH Today

Like traditional OOH advertising, DOOH focuses on capturing the eyes of potential consumers as they move through their days. Maybe that looks like advertising on Times Square, but in smaller communities, it could also look like advertising at the local commuter rail stop or on the main highway.

DOOH’s primary difference is its format. It swaps the physical poster or billboard with a digital screen, which expands the flexibility available to advertisers both in ad style and placement. DOOH ads can move, react to the local weather and even interact directly with potential customers. Without a physical ad, advertisers can focus their budget on the most impactful locations and times.

Just like the rest of the world, this industry has also needed to prove its resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic. While DOOH lost the reliable views of commuter traffic, those customers also looked to the outdoors for safer socialization. And as the globe settles into a new post-Covid-19 normal, DOOH is once again on the rise and free to reinvent itself. That next chapter in OOH must provide true accessibility to SMEs.


To provide that kind of accessibility, DOOH platforms must understand the distinct needs of SMEs and create systems that can accommodate a higher volume of advertisers. This allows anyone — not just a few local businesses who can afford an expensive long-term campaign — to harness the opportunities DOOH offers. These changes may look like this:

  • Self-serve interfaces designed for business savvy, not tech expertise: SMEs are experts in their product or services and their customers. However, they may not possess the kind of in-house tech or design expertise to create digital campaigns from scratch. Platforms can eliminate this barrier for SMEs by creating interfaces that cater to non-experts.
  • A broader range of ad placement, time and budget options: Part of respecting SMEs is providing them the tools they need to build the advertising strategy they know will resonate with their customers. SME advertisers know who their customers are, where to reach them and when ads will land effectively. Don’t force a smaller advertiser, who may have a more conservative budget, to purchase ad space that won’t serve them. Instead, provide an interface that allows advertisers to customize a campaign that meets their needs and ensures each dollar contributes to their ROI.

Supporting these changes with self-serve technology also provides a more customizable ad buying experience overall while alleviating the burden on individual employees. By funneling a higher volume of potential advertisers into a supportive and more automated process, employees are free to focus on providing individualized attention to the advertisers who want that experience.

Every medium has its role to play in the evolution of digital advertising, and DOOH has the power to unlock audiences and advertisers previously neglected by the OOH industry. In partnership with self-serve interfaces, SMEs are free to execute ad strategies that maximize the ROI of each dollar without flooding platforms with the volume they can’t sustain. If DOOH wants to match the digital advertising industry’s 2021 ad spend growth, it’s time to center SMEs and build the right structures to support them.  

Johan Liljelund is the CTO and EVP of DanAds. He is an entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in developing technology for the media industry. He has been a pioneer in the digital advertising industry enabling publishers to streamline and optimize their internal processes on a global market, and he’s now on a journey to digitalize the media industry through self-service and automation.