As cookies bow out, are there better ways to buy?

LinkedIn Advertising on Bus Shelter with Audience Targeting

By Tara Coverdale, Data and Insights Director, oOh!media

The marketing and publishing worlds continue to watch with anticipation and unease as the rules of digital marketing are overturned via the recent Apple iOS changes and the impending cookie crumble. As the demand for greater privacy and transparency regarding access and use of personal data grows, after years of normalising tracking consumer behaviour online via apps and the web, the tide is turning. Consumers are now more informed and able to make the choice as to whether they accept these terms, whether the value exchange for use of their data is worth it, and the resounding answer appears to be no. So where does that leave the world of audience targeting?

If we cast our mind back, advertising worked before the ability to target via cookies and mobile device data, and it will work afterwards – in many cases, better.

Rapid advances in audience data collection and analysis mean broadcast mediums can now target granular segments in a privacy-compliant manner, based on what people buy or where they are located, driving greater effectiveness and demonstrable ROI.

In short, the solution to targeting the most strategic and important audiences in the post-cookie era may well be achieved beyond the browser.

Audiences are the way forward

Recent research conducted by market mix modelling firm – Analytic Partners – finds audience-based strategies to be 24% more effective (1). The study also found that maximising reach of potential consumers across a single Out of Home provider drives 12% stronger returns (2).

So, while audience targeting looks to continue to be the future to unlocking greater returns, the data also suggests that not all audience targeting is created equal. While digital marketers fear they will no longer be able to target based on real behaviours – that fear may be overcome for those who know who the most valuable consumers are and where to find them.

In the Out of Home sector, Analytic Partners’ data also shows that targeting category buyers, such as people who actively purchase in the yoghurt category for example, or people who represent the top 50 per cent of sales in the snacks category as another, drives over double the return on investment compared to targeting a demographic audience (3).

Category buyer segments, built from the transactional data of millions and representing unparalleled insight into who buys, provides insight into those consumers who are most likely to transact. With these segments mapped across specific Out of Home locations and optimised to maximise reach of audiences based on category purchase behaviour, Out of Home can provide a more effective way of delivering targeted advertising solutions, reaching the right audience, and with exceptional scale and speed.

Highest value, highest volume

There is a saying that past behaviour is the best indication of future behaviour. Audience profiling based on purchase behaviour – what people have bought, when and where is now a reality. Adopting a category buyer approach to Out of Home targeting via oOh!’s Smart Reach planning tool enables brands to take advantage of data-led planning, optimising campaign placement against the highest volumes of audiences who spend in the category – in other words, the audiences that will drive the strongest campaign performance.

This approach maximises reach of the most valuable audiences for a brand, removing constraints which are limited when planning to panel quantities, proximity or number of locations – the legacy approach to Out of Home advertising.

Quantium computing

At oOh! we use Quantium data to power our Smart Reach planning tool, allowing brands to plan to category buyers across our diverse product suite, and enabling significant reach of category buyers in a single campaign. This unlocks the true scale of our Out of Home advertising network, maximises exposure to the right audience, and minimises audience duplication across all key criteria to deliver maximum ROI for our clients.

Out of Home may be one of the oldest media, but as a true broadcast medium, it is quickly demonstrating that it can accurately identify specific behavioural audiences that were once the sweet spot of digital media.

A recent campaign for a coffee brand demonstrated this perfectly. The brand shifted from a traditional approach of buying to demographic and proximity to store location, to targeting top coffee buyers across oOh!’s small format network.

For the same net investment, an audience-first approach that used data to identify the prime locations to reach the audience in question, and to maximise the reach of these prospects, delivered an incremental +75% category buyers.

The shape of ROI: post-Covid, post-cookies

As we look forward, in a constrained Covid world where every dollar of marketing spend needs to work harder than ever, ROI is the critical metric that defines success. These days Out of Home, rather than an afterthought, is increasingly considered an essential part of the marketing mix because it reinforces other media like online and TV campaigns. Multimedia campaigns that harness both broad scale and precise targeting, build audience reach and employ the strengths of various channels, continue to demonstrate higher returns than single media campaigns. In fact, the three-channel mix of TV, Digital and Out of Home generates the strongest ROI for Australian brands by +27 per cent (4).

Analytic Partners finds that campaigns under $1 million, generally under the threshold for broadcast TV, get best results from combining Out of Home with Digital. And while the complementary nature of Out of Home and Digital will likely remain, the dynamic may change as digital’s tracking and targeting capabilities are eroded while Out of Home increases its ability to offer targeting at scale.

Futureproof your media spend

The signs have indicated for some time that tracking users across the web and via device usage will have an expiry date. But it seems change is now coming faster and faster, and barely a week goes by without a new twist from one of the digital platforms.

Apple’s tracking changes have swiftly been followed by edicts on email – and email-based identifiers, alongside device fingerprinting, seen by some as the alternatives to cookies – that threaten to upend workarounds the digital media industry is attempting to identify. Nobody knows what Google will decide to do next, nor Facebook, nor Amazon.

For brands and their partners, this makes investment decisions increasingly uncertain and unnecessarily complex.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Out of Home remains unaffected by recent changes in privacy restrictions and a brand and privacy safe medium. The sector and its leading players are investing in the data, technology, infrastructure and formats to deliver a better way to connect with audiences – without compromising privacy, without risk of data leakage, and without being skipped, muted or blocked. In this new world, Out of Home media Is ready to play its role as a better way to buy media – effective at scale, precise with audience targeting, informed by data smarts and strong for the long term.

Rather than worrying about every new change from one platform, and every countermeasure from the next, advertisers might be better off looking at the bigger picture (and our small formats too).


  1. Analytic Partners, ROI 4.0, 2021, ROI of audience-based targeting compared to location-based targeting
  2. Analytic Partners, ROI 4.0, 2021, ROI of spend across single OOH provider vs. multiple providers
  3. Analytic Partners, ROI 4.0, 2021, ROI of category buyer audience targeting vs. demographic audience targeting
  4. Analytic Partners, ROI 4.0, 2021

This piece is authored by Tara Coverdale and was first published in Mi3 Australia.

Tara is oOh!media’s Data and Insights Director. With over 15 years experience across Out of Home and Radio, Tara leads the data and insights team at oOh! and most recently spearheaded the launch of the global leading oOh!DataScience proposition. In 2021, Tara received the Outdoor Media Association’s Excellence in Innovation award, recognising the valuable and tangible contribution that she has made to help pioneer the oOh! business and the broader industry.