Can a tablet be classified as an out-of-home advertising device?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2011 in DOOH

Generally the digital out of home advertising industry is fairly liberal in what they would define as a DOOH display. When I asked myself whether tablet PCs in all their recently and belated glory were legitimate digital out-of-home advertising displays, I had to answer myself (I am regularly having conversations with myself) like I do with so many other things in my life, “well, that just depends.” It depends on how it is being used. So, before we talk about what is and is not too be classified as a OOH display, we should first probably discuss how tablet displays can be used in B2C settings as a way to advertise.

Fixated vs. “Free Floating”

My personal classification would first ask the question, is the device you are referring to fixated or mounted on a wall or is it “free floating”? That is, is a customer or potential customer able to handle it, use it, maybe download an app, and if the owner does not take certain precautions, even walk away with it? My preference would indicate that the free-floating, hand-holdable devices are not out-of-home advertising units. They may be owned by the business and the business may lend them out to—in a sense—advertise, but they probably do not meet the same traditional definition of a mounted digital display.

However, in being too conservative here, one may also fail to see the opportunity which should be readily evident from using such devices. While my first inclination is to say that “free floating” tablets are not DOOH devices, my preference for innovation tells me, DOOH can be just about anything you want it to be as long as it fits into some basic and extremely generalized boundaries: it’s digital, it’s advertising, and it’s out-of-home. What else more do you need than that?

What about the advertising?

Because these devices offer interactivity, the eventual opportunity for advertisers, especially with a very captive audience, is very good. In fact, if the business owner is able to program and control the applications—or lack thereof—on the device, then all the content could be pointed back to the owner in some way. What a great way to target.

There is one problem, the “loaned” out model for the hardware, especially in a “free-floating” sense is not for everyone. Whether its thievery or simply incompatibility, these units certainly aren’t a good fit for every business that caters to the public. However, where they do work, they can work wonders. Some potentials could include the elimination of standard point-of-sale hardware and software by tablet computers.

Because the size and price-point of the standard PC is generally small, it means these devices have a greater likelihood of proliferating a larger amount of area than your standard signage of yesteryear; that includes both digital menu boards and regular out of home displays. Tablet PCs may proliferate even further than we have initially anticipated. Tablets have been around for years, but the latest craze is only going to give businesses more tools and a more fragmented approach to targeting OOH audiences. Having control over the medium is the best way to eliminate the issues this could pose.

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