Digital Storytelling This Valentine's Day - Suzanne Grimes

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Cover image for  article: Digital Storytelling This Valentine's Day - Suzanne Grimes

There was a time when it took quite some effort for a man to propose via billboard, surprising his future fiancée on her drive to work. But that took a very thoughtful individual who planned, timed things perfectly and saved his money. If today a man were suddenly struck with intense yearning to make his girlfriend his wife, his digital love message could be broadcast around his city within a few hours.

Similarly, there may be some divorce attorneys who want to connect with those changing their relationship status on Facebook and stomping on boxes of chocolate and praying for this day to end. With digital messaging, advertisers can target their message to not one segment, but several.

When I first joined Clear Channel Outdoor, a media property with over 1,000 digital billboards in the U.S., I was surprised that many advertisers still ran static messages. For many, the only difference were the materials produced – from vinyl posters to digital files.

Our sales and marketing teams have made a tremendous impact in educating and inspiring both national and local advertisers with digital capabilities. It's not just big brands that are biting; local businesses are also making their budgets reach much further with digital campaigns that produce earned media.

For the past two weeks, our Milwaukee market has been encouraging residents to profess their love on digital billboards, sponsored by Massage Envy Spa. And honestly, what can top a massage on Valentine's Day?

What may have been a one-way printed vinyl message to a lucky viewer in the past has now evolved into organic storytelling through digital. One doting dad's Valentine's message appeared, "Veronica even though you are in college, you are TOO young to have a boyfriend! Be my Valentine. Love Dad."

I imagine her blushing, as her responding tweet was broadcast, "Dad, sorry can't be your Valentine, too embarrassed. Love Veronica." The funny, relate-able exchange sucked us all in, even the local news.

Of course, the red flag always waves when consumer-generated messages come streaming through. We take message monitoring very seriously and are cognizant of all eyeballs on our boards, regardless of age, ethnicity or sensitivity. One of our partners, Aerva, has been successfully monitoring our campaigns with software that filters for obscenities and inappropriate language.

They too have jumped on the love wagon and are posting Valentine's Day photos sent via Twitter to @AervaNYCon our Spectacolor board in Times Square. It's not too late -- tweet the loves in your life.

As digital capabilities continue to evolve, remember sometimes simple has the most impact. Be bold, be witty and respond in real-time.

I can't wait to see what's on tap for St. Patrick's Day. Come on marketers -- bring the luck of the Irish to the digital screen!

Suzanne is leading the transformation of Clear Channel Outdoor North America into a dynamic media business that fully recognizes the potential of integrated digital and mobile marketing opportunities insuzanne grimesout-of-home across the US and Canada.

Follow her on Twitter at @SuzanneGrimes

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