What McDonald’s Acquisition of Dynamic Yield Means for DOOH and Personalization

Brands are able to target their consumers at every touchpoint feasible

Yellow background; an iPad is placed behind a brown car; omg the iPad it says ;you might like this,' pointing to a McDonalds meal; to the right it says Off-Peak times; to the right its says 'popular items' pointing to the meal on the iPad
McDonald's acquired personalization company Dynamic Yield at the end of March. McDonalds

Last month, McDonald’s announced its largest acquisition in 20 years. Yet the $300 million purchase of Dynamic Yield was notable for another reason: It legitimizes outdoor as a two-way medium for ad messages and delivers personalization at scale.

Simply put, McDonald’s, long a leader in outdoor advertising, has signaled that the space will be used for creating a dialogue between consumers and brands. The purchase lets McDonald’s vary its electronic display of items and DOOH network for walk-up or drive-thru customers based on the weather or consumer demand. For any franchisee who has ever mused that a product or service would be a perfect day for certain promotions then this purchase gives hope that they might be able to switch to promoting ice cold drinks when the temperature rises or hot chocolate on inclement days. But more importantly, it also connects that in-the-moment message to all other data-driven consumer engagements in both paid media and in-store messaging.

Too often we miss the true value of innovation in the moment and only grasp more foundational shifts in hindsight. It’s those brands and agencies that execute on such tectonic shifts that can accelerate their growth and gain share even in mature markets. With this acquisition, we’re seeing that singularity, the moment that will most matter in years to come, right now with DOOH and its impact on marketing strategy and investment outcomes.

The evolution of DOOH is clearly more than signs becoming screens. The marketer’s goal of presenting the right message to the right person at the right time is now in reach. DOOH networks have broadcast-level scale and bring added benefits of location-based context, dynamic creative and sequential messaging on the literal consumer journey. Such an objective has long been elusive for the $8 billion U.S. out-of-home market but now appears to be imminent. As with previous advertising innovations, marketers who embrace the technology first will reap the rewards.

It’s time to consider the truly available digital audience nature of the classic OOH channel.

Such promise is one reason why digital out-of-home spending has continued to outpace all other buying methods and is a bright spot in the menu of advertising options. This is bigger than dynamic screens; it’s the birth of digitally-enabled communication between brands and shoppers. It’s time to consider the truly available digital audience nature of the classic OOH channel.

But let’s face it: OOH has traditionally suffered from the one-way nature of its communications. A billboard can’t hear or recognize you, so the consumer has a natural advantage over it. Or, alternatively, it’s been judged only by physical placement. But what if OOH is now considered more broadly as every consumer touchpoint outside the home including in-restaurant placements? The location and physical context still matters that’s OOH’s most core value.

Current state-of-the-art technology can already vary messaging based on the time of day or the weather, but now, connected audience data drives true convergence of mobile, location-based and addressable audience marketing inclusive of DOOH.

Such sentient displays inject consumer intelligence into even routine interactions so a store rep can suggest a new or offbeat menu item that a shopper might like because it’s based on knowledge of their buying patterns. Suggesting the right offer, news, entertainment or insight to a targeted group of consumers in real-time drives results.

Imagine how such technology would work if adapted to pretty much every consumer. It would know better than to promote a new drink to someone who never varies from his standard purchase but could reap incremental sales from someone who’s open to such a suggestion. That’s the promise of cognizant out-of-home: It’s an intelligent system that knows both the store’s selection and the frame of mind of the visitors at moments in time.

Of course, such types of listening can be abused, but ideally it augments a human staffer who merely sizes up a consumer based on their age, sex and other signs of purchase intent to make a well-thought-out recommendation.

The best marketers have always understood the power of OOH. It offers massive canvases, broadcast scale, location-based targeting, unavoidable messaging and truly special creative opportunity. The past several years of Cannes Lions OOH winners have shown the new promise of the medium such as Google, Twitter and others. But many have also ignored the medium due to perceived limitations like targeting, measurement, attribution and true integration with overall media and creative strategy in the digital age.

The potential magic in this acquisition is the realization that all consumer touchpoints are an opportunity to personalize at scale.

Such is the evolution of DOOH, which can bridge the gap between out-of-home brand communication and a consumer’s personal profile. In the process, OOH is meeting consumers in the digital audience age.

Sean McCaffrey is the president and CEO of GSTV.