Michael Kelly, Director of User Experience | McGarry Bowen
Full-Journey Targeting, Owning Audiences and What Else to Expect from OOH in 2026
Steven Spielberg’s 2002 cyberpunk mystery-thriller, Minority Report, famously painted a picture of the world (and OOH advertising, specifically) in 2054 that was high on personalization and invasiveness.
Fifteen years later we are in a different world: cycles of technical innovation are shorter (meaning that more innovation happens more quickly), but we are also more susceptible to making broad cultural changes that are rooted in technology.
Consider the rise of the smartphone. Consider the rise of the “sharing economy” as embodied in companies such as AirBnB and Uber. Consider the movement toward electronic wallets and payments in the cases of ApplePay, the Starbucks app, Venmo, Seamless and for airline boarding passes.
Consumers crave convenience, utility and the sense that they’re getting the best possible deal.
Here’s what I see as OOH’s part in this evolution:
- Screens & Audience
In 10 years, the Internet of Things (“IoT”) will have blossomed (more than 75 billion devices by 2025 source), leaving screens and sensors on every surface, and in every crevice of our lives. Our phones and our most basic personal habits will serve as 2-factor authentication that secures our possessions, but that also enables ad targeting.
Consumers will expect –and brands will offer– all manner of utility, convenience and discount. This exchange will function as permission to market to them. The data mavens who stitch together the micro-moments of our lives will merge this data with behavioral models about when, where and how much we transact.
In essence, we’ll have a high resolution map of where our audience is –and how they behave– at all times: in social, at home or work, on the street, at the gym or in a plane. We’ll be buying an audience, wherever they are. We’ll follow our audience with full-journey targeting, from home, to work, to the store, to their self-driving car, to the bar and back home again, crafting personalized messages designed to get them to convert.
This is happening today in miniature, but OOH and other channels are not a tangible part of the conversation. OOH will function as a critical conversion enhancer in 2026.
- Owning The Audience
The Dread Pirate Zuckerberg will continue to rule the high seas Meta will evolve its data story and audience targeting (as they push channel-agnostically into OOH) to the point that they will be able directly trade in the results of a campaign. Meaning that we’ll be able to get real-time estimates of how much it will cost to target a particular audience, and induce them to do a particular thing.
If you want 100,000 signups (who will definitely be active, paying users) made up of women with 2 children with a HHI between $150k and $175k, living in coastal cities with spouses in finance and an intent to travel to Europe in the next 12 months, that will cost you $1.54 million. Done.
When that level of prediction comes to pass, Meta will essentially own the audience. To achieve this, they need to own more of the physical user journey, which requires OOH.
- The Funnel Explodes
While personalization and full-journey targeting will certainly represent exciting storytelling opportunities, data and performance will still be holding the purse strings in 2026.
Tracking the purchase impact of OOH is tricky today. As it is more systematically integrated into campaigns, we’ll have more data, be able to draw more behavioral insights from that data and gain a more nuanced understanding of its influence. I predict that we’ll come to understand that even small exposures and interactions at OOH will deliver significant influence… and even evolve into a secondary dynamic market.
We may discover a model where some audiences respond disproportionately to very small exposures to OOH at particular times of day: perhaps when men in the suburbs are walking from the train to the parking lot in the evening. Imagine being able to just “sprinkle OOH sparkles” on individual targets when they’re most likely to be influenced.
It may not be as entertaining as Tom Cruise battling “Pre-cogs” and Max von Sydow, but hey, it’s just 2026!