Did you know that only 5% of the world’s digital out-of-home is currently bought by agencies programmatically?

As you might now suspect, Digital Willow is in the top 5% of those pioneers! Led by the vision of our CEO, Amber Williamson, with the support of the brilliant Visit Isle of Man team, Digital Willow cleverly geo-targeted transport hubs with programmatic out-of-home and display banners to make a bigger impact on potential travellers and tourists. In doing so we are pleased to share our compelling cross-channel results and delight at this media first at Edinburgh airport.



As the official tourism branch of the Isle of Man government, it has been Visit Isle of Man’s long-standing goal to increase tourism to the island year after year.

The Isle of Man is a beautiful island in the Irish Sea situated between the northwest coast of England and Ireland. In 2016, it became one of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves, a unique accolade recognising its special environment, culture, heritage and economy as well as the desire of its people to cherish and nurture them. 

As part of this collective, the Isle of Man reaffirms its commitment to the conservation of biodiversity and its ecosystems whilst balancing this with development that is sustainable. It also provides a unique opportunity for scientists and researchers to study environmental changes, contributing valuable data to global research efforts. These factors also help to promote general education and awareness of the importance of ecological issues and sustainable living practices.

New year, new challenges

At the onset of our planning cycle, Digital Willow addressed upcoming challenges related to our goal of boosting Island tourism, identifying key obstacles to surmount, such as:

  • UK citizens were actively searching for short trips, especially since the fear of COVID-19 had subsided. In fact, there was a rise in the number of searches for phrases like ‘weekend trips 2 hours from London’. However, these weren’t necessarily for travel to the Isle of Man.
  • Research suggested a need for raising brand awareness of Visit Isle of Man within the media mix. However, this was a tension difficult to balance against a limited budget and a keen focus on media that delivered measurable and tangible results.
  • The competition was fierce with airline and travel companies flooding paid media with big budgets, aggressively bidding on our core travel-related keywords.
  • Following the pandemic, we suspected a fatigue in planning holidays within the UK and, by extension, the British Isles.
  • 2023 saw a hike in inflation which extended to media costs, especially those on Google and Meta, making it harder to hit the same targets as the previous year as CPC’s were higher.

In light of these insights, we strategised with the team on how we could incorporate using connected TV, programmatic audio, native, and digital out-of-home alongside our core performance channels of search, social, and programmatic display. Whilst these channels were indeed further up the funnel and drove higher brand awareness, they still delivered a bridge between measurable results that weren’t possible in old-fashioned media channels.

As conversations with outdoor companies informed us, the traditional way of booking outdoor would be too costly to deliver upon our goal. It was around this time we further developed our partnership with programmatic provider StackAdapt and were able to access the digital out-of-home inventory we wanted, where we wanted it, and at a price we deemed appropriate.

What is programmatic digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising and how does it work?

Digital out-of-home advertising has all the appeal and functionality of traditional out-of-home advertising (OOH). This includes its ability to capture the attention of a large audience with a large format and with the resolution and adaptability of changing creative formats like you would on a mobile phone. It is especially powerful within busy advertising spaces such as city centres where it can reach hundreds of people in a very short amount of time.

Unlike OOH media, however, digital signage can change easily and wirelessly, keeping costs low. These can be digital billboards or any other type of digital screen, e.g., at a bus shelter or in a train station.

The ability to change what appears on-screen immediately means that DOOH campaigns are capable of generating extremely personalised advertising. As it is so customisable it can be used to reach a specific target audience and can even be tailored to day-by-day changes such as cultural and sporting events or even the weather. According to research, ‘the digital out-of-home advertising market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.35% over the forecast period to reach a market size of US$33.372 billion in 2026 from US$16.750 billion in 2019‘ (Research and Markets, 2021).

Programmatic DOOH is the automation of buying and selling of ad inventory (ad spaces) using computer programs. It is real-time, open to all bidders and the highest price is selected, much like how online advertising ecosystems work today. Programmatic transactions allow buyers to set specific conditions that will trigger the purchase of a DOOH advertising slot when met. This approach enables brands to react quickly to market trends, outpace competitors, and engage consumers with relevant messages.

The Strategy

Talking to StackAdapt, Amber recalls her idea to establish various digital out-of-home advertisements across the major travel hubs connected to the Island. This included placements in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Dublin, Birmingham, and Edinburgh.

One such location was Edinburgh Airport which had recently received new instalments of some 43 portrait digital screens by JC Decaux. As Scotland’s busiest airport, Digital Willow understood immediately that this was an opportunity that couldn’t go to waste.

As recalled in a feature article for ExchangeWire, Amber remarked that our strategy was to target major transportation hubs to the Isle of Man in seven different cities using DOOH displays and geo-targeting these travel hubs with mobile display banners. These digital displays featured stunning images of the Isle of Man accompanied by a clear and engaging message tailored to each location.

Each digital display showcased images of some of the Isle of Man’s most breathtaking landscape scenery, accompanied by location-specific information i.e. the travel time to the Isle of Man from the connection point. For example, from Edinburgh Airport, ‘Extraordinary is only an hour away’…

In order to enhance the effectiveness of our DOOH advertising, Digital Willow strategically ran mobile banners in a radius around the specific transport hubs, thus using a multi-media approach to reinforce the message among individuals who had already been exposed to the DOOH ad. 

The Results

As the first-ever digital out-of-home advertising campaign at Edinburgh Airport to be bought programmatically, Digital Willow has once again proven its trail-blazing status in the world of digital marketing. Not only have we been able to successfully programme this new technology to create a highly customisable and eye-catching marketing campaign but we have also put ourselves at the forefront of an important moment in the history of digital marketing.

We were able to save time and money by handpicking the outdoor sites we wanted to use and all without leaving the office. Furthermore, we set caps on what we were prepared to pay for clicks and impressions.

We could also take the learnings and performance data from other campaigns and apply them to different channels. For example, rather than speculate on which of our stunning Isle of Man photos would work best at our digital-out-of-home sites, we could use the data readily available from our digital display banners to inform us on which creative would work best.

Compared to the same time period in 2022 (18th February – 31st March) the organic traffic to the Visit Isle of Man website was up by 12.772%. Furthermore, the search term ‘Isle of Man’ had 263% more clicks than the previous year. In 2023, the click-through-rate (CTR) for our core search campaign was 17.2% Vs 7.15% in 2022 and our cost-per-action (CPA) was 66.17% better for our core search campaign during the period we had multi-channel advertising running compared to the previous year.

In the transport hubs where we ran DOOH and geo-targeted display ads, the same display creative had an 11.1% higher click-through-rate than it did in the rest of the country. Of note, the creative was exactly the same, thus providing the cumulative effect of a multi-media strategy.


We’re grateful to the Visit Isle of Man team for allowing us to try out this new approach to digital marketing, a gamble that very much paid off!

If you’re interested in learning how a DOOH campaign could help your business achieve its goals, contact Digital Willow today.