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Tech Giants Turn to Madison Avenue to Burnish Image

Date: December 19, 2018


Kantar doesn’t break out spending on individual media, so it’s hard to know how much the companies are spending on TV compared with print, radio or online. But other data shows that one category where tech companies have become a major advertiser is billboards. Apple has long been one of the 10 biggest billboard advertisers, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, promoting its iPhone and iPad. But now other tech companies are following suit.

In the second quarter, for instance, Facebook was one of the 10 biggest advertisers on billboards, according to the OAAA. That was the period it launched its campaign around user trust. Similarly, in the first quarter, the OAAA said that YouTube was among companies that doubled their spending on billboards.

And the growth has continued. The trade group said that 14 technology “brands” increased their billboard spending by “double digit” percentages in the third quarter, including Amazon, Facebook, YouTube and Oculus. The billboard push is ironic, given that tech companies like Google built their ad business by arguing that advertising on traditional media wasn’t effective.

Consumer electronics products, like the Google Home or Amazon’s Echo, are particularly suitable for billboards and other more traditional forms of advertising because those media are good at increasing broad consumer awareness for products, according to Vincent Letang, executive vice president of global market intelligence at Magna Global, a company that studies global media.

Lawrence Chan, SVP of Strategic Partnerships & Innovation at Cuebiq, a location data company, said digital advertising and billboard advertising are starting to collide more and more. Firms can use location data to better track what users are seeing out of home advertising, a cumbersome task that previously had to be done through surveying. “We expect OOH to play a larger role in the media mix,” he said.


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