Embracing Faux OOH: A New Era of Digital Audience Engagement

By Michael Girgis, Co-Founder, DIVE Billboards

As a founder of multiple companies in the Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) space, I’ve been following the emergence of what some are calling “Faux OOH.” This is sparking some heated debates, so let’s shed light on its potential and how it can revolutionize the way we engage audiences. Faux OOH is not just a passing fad, but a valuable addition to our advertising toolkit.   

In a landscape where innovation is constant, what other medium gets to share new iterations of how it is classified? Think OOH, DOOH, sOOH, pOOH, and FOOH and recently OOP (Out of Phone) TikToK entrance into the space.  The attention garnered by these iterations is not just about naming new iterations of our medium, it’s about recognizing the evolving nature of our industry. Faux OOH’s emergence serves as a spotlight on a medium that has always deserved a place in the media mix. Whether it’s attention, partnerships, or the adjacency of second screens, these developments are indicators of a healthy, growing industry. The very act of naming it challenges us to determine if it’s fake or additive!

Faux OOH: the fusion of mobile and DOOH

Faux OOH is not just about buzz; it’s about real engagement. It represents the seamless connection between mobile devices and OOH environments and landmarks, emphasizing interactions that don’t hinge on a call to action. A 2022 Comscore study found that OOH generates social media activation at almost seven times the rate expected based on OOH’s relative share of overall ad spend, a trend which shows no signs of abating. This revolves around the connection of mobile and OOH, where new discoveries and engagements unfold. OOH and billboard moments have found perfect synergy with social and digital platforms, including Twitter Billboards (now X), TikTok, and Nextdoor, becoming a familiar sight. It’s very familiar to see cool OOH and smart creative shared across these platforms, for years past and years to come.

Opposing sentiments: Faux OOH & PR and Challenging the IRL Concept

PR and brand teams have enthusiastically embraced Faux OOH for its earned media potential, seeing its contribution to the bigger picture and the attention it drives to the medium. However, for me it has been surprising to note the mixed sentiments within the OOH industry, with many expressing negativity. This skepticism often ties back to budget concerns. Does Faux OOH tap into existing budgets or generate more for the medium? It’s essential to challenge the concept of IRL advertising here. Instead of detracting from the medium’s allure, Faux OOH celebrates its enduring appeal as a backdrop for creativity and a source of landmark moments.

Embracing New Modes of Engagement and Connection

Faux OOH is anything but ‘fake.’ While it can lead to false expectations and consumer mistrust if not done properly, this iteration of OOH represents an innovative approach to engage OOH and online audiences in new ways. Rather than seeing it as a threat, the industry should view Faux OOH as an exciting opportunity. It serves as a bridge between different mediums, from traditional OOH to 3D experiences. Its potential lies in creating surprise and delight among audiences, a hallmark of effective marketing. There’s something profoundly special about this medium’s ability to serve as a backdrop for creativity, capturing attention, eliciting smiles, and inspiring people to share moments.

Disruptors Navigating Disruption

It is also important to address industry concerns that Faux OOH might cannibalize budgets. However, I also want to encourage a perspective shift. Faux OOH isn’t a budgetary threat; it’s a digital innovation that can fuel sustained growth. If we draw parallels with the success of combining budgets in social media advertising, we can see that it is about maximizing impact. It’s about going ‘beyond the impression,’ driving more than just standard measurement tactics and attribution. Faux OOH’s integration is about expanding horizons, not contracting budgets.

DOOH’s Evolution

The last decade has witnessed a rapid digital transformation in the OOH medium. From measurement methodologies to programmatic delivery, every facet of DOOH has evolved. Faux OOH doesn’t disrupt this transformation; it aligns with it. It becomes a catalyst for ongoing growth, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the DOOH space. It’s not about diluting the authenticity of IRL experiences; rather, it’s about enhancing our engagement strategies to cater to today’s diverse and interconnected audiences. Embracing Faux OOH and every other iteration of OOH is the key to securing larger budgets, expanding reach, and crafting meaningful connections with consumers in our increasingly digital world.