Billboard vs Smartphone — the Dilemma of OOH

Being stuck in traffic reminded me of one of Gary Vaynerchuk's (founder of VaynerMedia) lectures that I was watching a few weeks ago. He questions the continuous demand for, and inflation in the price, of outdoor advertising even when people are staring more at their phones than outdoor, even when in transit (most times, sadly, even when they're driving). Are our hands the new billboard? Will OOH eventually become, or already is, the inferior medium for advertising?

People in transit staring at their smartphones (photo source:

I don't have the data for our market in terms of smartphone and web data penetration but I witness this every day when I commute to work. Almost everyone on the bus are staring at screens and not outdoor. The same when I stroll around with friends in private cars. I'm starting to see greater marketing value on our palms than on big costly billboards. 

Billboards in Guadalupe Area (photo source:

I was talking to a friend from MEC, the media agency of GroupM and was inquiring about their metrics. He mentioned several factors that are calculated including average number of cars that pass and their average speed, height and width, and even manual clickers. It baffled me. I'm sure it's thoughtfully calculated and that there are values derived from these metrics but they just still feel not as an exact a science as compared to digital.

In digital, you can pinpoint exact locations, demographics, and even psychographics (ie. belief systems, favorite color, relationship status, and whatnot). And, of course, the numbers are as real as it can get (most especially for Facebook). And I believe that this will improve even more as more social networks become more open to providing analytics and access to sentiment listening.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there is no value in OOH. I'm just saying that companies who are willing to spend millions on a billboard should start rethinking their spend on digital. If you say that Anne Curtis is 400,000 pesos per tweet, I don't really see the difference with paying her to be on a billboard. Digital PR and media buying is almost becoming just one medium. Your smartphone is the new billboard and you look at it more times than you look at actual outdoor advertising.

During the Google SoLoMo conference I attended a while back, one of Starcom MediaVest's executives mentioned that outdoor remains to be one of the strongest in the Philippine market. A colleague of mine reminded me to take this with a grain of salt, as they are primarily a media buying company. And it makes sense. As smartphones get cheaper and as more people become less dependent on wifi and get cheaper access to web data, the screen in people's hands will win.

And as trends seem to be towards wearables (or even if it doesn't fly), there's no doubt that digital is the way to go.

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