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What if digital billboards had eyes and brains? Synapslabs is using high tech imaging and machine learning to make outdoor advertising relevant.

While this may be a new week, markets are still being driven by the same fear and anxiety as last

If 2020 was the year of social activism, then 2021 has followed suit. While social media platforms remain effective tools to connect with the masses, the power of in-person gathering remains. As marches, rallies, and protests take place across the nation, organizers and activists are increasingly turning to out-of-home (OOH) advertising — and, more specifically, mobile digital billboards — to capture people's attention on site and inspire action. Here are three reasons mobile digital billboards will be the next frontier of social activism.

1. High impact

For starters, when it comes to messaging, mobile digital billboards give activists more freedom to share controversial viewpoints than traditional forms of outdoor advertising (i.e., static billboards, bus wraps, and street furniture) that have stricter local regulations and restrictions from individual ad unit owners to follow.

In addition, when activists are looking to make an impact and have their message stand out in a crowd, mobile digital billboards provide a unique way to be seen in a big, bold way — and the timing couldn't be better. According to a poll by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) and Harris Poll Data, people are increasingly receptive to outdoor advertising, with 55% of consumers in big cities reporting noticing more OOH messaging and signage. Mobile digital billboards only enhance that, with the ability to attract attention from hyper-targeted audiences in specific places.

Activists can plan out the precise routes of their mobile digital billboards, ensuring they reach specific neighborhoods, business and tourism districts, and high-traffic areas during events, marches, parades, conferences and more. Advertisers not only control the time and place ads are seen, but also the media's creative and calls to action, which can be updated throughout their event as needed. This maximizes an ad's effectiveness and exposure, ultimately making a lasting impression and spurring action.

2. Social sway

Using the internet and social media platforms to boost issues and mobilize groups of stakeholders is on the rise, especially on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram. But there's no need to decide between leveraging social media or outdoor advertising –– with mobile digital billboards, organizers can embrace the benefits of both. For one thing, outdoor advertising remains the world's most affordable form of advertising media with the largest return on investment. There's no risk of scrolling past or clicking away. And for another, mobile digital billboards have the power to drive event attendees toward social channels and hashtags where the buzz is already taking place, increasing that momentum and driving even more awareness.

How else can mobile digital billboards enhance social buzz or build viral moments? It comes down to giving advertisers the space to be creative, with the opportunity to serve up eye-catching messages and calls to action that have an inherent, social media-friendly quality. When these messages are uploaded and shared by attendees, they reach even larger audiences online.

3. Lower pricing

As organizers plan out protests, events, and celebrations, and activists search out ways to share impactful messages, mobile digital billboards will become the go-to means of communicating with hyper targeted audiences.

Even in the OOH landscape, where affordability across all inventory types remains lower than other advertising mediums, mobile digital billboards are among outdoor advertising's most affordable forms. Advertising budgets stretch further with mobile digital billboards simply because ads run in shorter, more targeted advertising windows. With this form of advertising, organizers aren't looking to run long-term campaigns that blanket entire areas to build up awareness and drive action. They are achieving these outcomes in targeted, impactful bursts with mobile digital billboards.

Activism, both online and in person, shows no signs of slowing. As we look ahead, 2022 is expected to bring more people together to have their voices heard. Mobile digital billboards will be at the frontlines of future protests, marches, celebrations, and more, inspiring participants and audiences in general to take meaningful action as a catalyst for change.

What is Marketing Mix?

The job of the CMO has become even more challenging.

More and more, success is tied to hard metrics like financial results. CMOs are having to show how various advertising and marketing tactics led someone to purchase their company’s product, as well as whether they drove softer metrics like raising people’s awareness of a brand. That proof has to convince CFOs — who still see marketing as a “cost center” despite CMOs’ best efforts — to maintain marketing budgets.

One approach is to use marketing mix modeling, which allows CMOs to show business leadership how their efforts help the bottomline. “CFOs love it because a lot of analysis is done in silos,” said Jon Turner, global chief analytics officer at Mediahub, adding that those silos can add discrepancies into reporting. “With marketing mix modeling, you look holistically so it can’t explain more than what your sales actually are. It explains all the sales and allocates them to various marketing drivers.”

Sure but what is marketing mix modeling?

It’s a way of using statistical analysis as a tool to look back at sales over a period of time to determine what exactly caused those sales. Essentially, it’s a way of helping marketers and agency execs contextualize what’s working and what’s not. For example, say a marketer who typically spends the majority of their ad dollars on TV reallocated that spending to digital channels and offered a discounted product price. If that approach accounted for higher sales figures, that marketer could then take that analysis, tweak their approach and optimize it to spend more of their budget on what’s working and less on what’s not.

Sounds like an obvious thing to do. How does it work?

Marketers and agency execs input data to the analysis based on not only the marketing tactics they are using but each activity that a brand may deploy or encounter. So they’re not only accounting for digital, TV, out-of-home, radio, podcast and social media advertising but the price of a product and various promotions that are being run. Of course, that’s not all. That’d be too easy. They’re also accounting for things like inventory levels, seasonality, even shifting weather patterns — basically anything and everything that could impact sales. That data is then compared to previous sales data, often at least three years’ worth, to show how sales have changed and give a reason as to why they have changed. It’s correlation over causation.

If that sounds like a vague synopsis, well, that’s because it is one. The model is specified for each brand and has to account for anything that would cause sales peaks for valleys.

OK so it’s just another attribution method. Big whoop.

Well, yes and no. While it is a way for marketers to point to a reason for sales, it’s also a predictive model to help marketers make decisions for the months ahead. Marketers will use the analysis — often on a quarterly basis — to see the shifts that are happening and move dollars around to hopefully continue positive trends. Should the model show that a particular channel is working more, they’ll likely move more marketing dollars there. Take out-of-home, for example. As people returned to travel and commuting following lockdowns, it’s become a more useful channel again so marketers are spending more there.

But you just brought up the pandemic. Doesn’t that throw a wrench in the whole thing?

In some ways but not really. That’s why marketers use a few years’ worth of data for marketing mix modeling. “When you have a shock to the system like Covid, having years’ worth of data becomes even more important,” explained Larry Davis-Swing, evp of advanced analytics at Spark Foundry. “By having plenty of data before it and plenty of data after you can start to understand and isolate all of the stuff you saw happening during Covid.”

Davis-Swing continued: “When markets shut down, we saw consumer behavior shift. People went from going to restaurants to doing takeout and delivery. We saw delivery explode. So we can account for that initial explosion, not because of advertising or marketing, but because consumers had to change their behavior.”

So yes, data from mid-March 2020 to the end of 2020 — maybe even summer 2021 — is a bit of a wash as consumer behavior changed significantly, making it harder for predictions to come to bear. However, as people get back out of their homes and return to pre-pandemic activities, marketers can then weigh the data from 2019 higher and factor more normal behaviors in to help future predictions be more accurate.

That’s why you have to make sure the inputs are correct.

Exactly. Marketers and agency execs have to think through everything that might account for sales variation so the model can work properly and help with predicting how they should be allocating their marketing mix. If you have a model that’s trying to explain the variation in champagne sales, you’re going to have to input a peak on New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, explained Trisha Pascale, group director of analytics at The Many. If you don’t account for that, the model could be inaccurate and the predictive element of it useless.

Accounting for shifts in marketing and advertising strategies is important too. With the turnover of one CMO to another, which tends to happen every 18 months or so, there’s often a shift in strategy. If you haven’t accounted for more digital advertising or whatever the change may be in the marketing mix modeling, then it won’t show how that shift is working.

OK but aren’t you using a bunch of data. What about the death of the cookie? Won’t that be a problem?

Unlike multi-touch attribution, marketing mix modeling isn’t run at the consumer level, so the more personalized data that could go away with the death of the third-party cookie isn’t as important for marketing mix modeling.

“We’re talking about really big trends, and we’re not building these models at the consumer level,” said Michael Salemme, svp of analytics at Zenith. “There are ways to run aggregate data to continue to run [marketing] mix modeling. We’re trying to explain changes in sales typically at a national or regional level, so we just need to know approximate exposures.”