Volta: How the EV revolution, DOOH drive our sustainable future – Digital Signage Today

DST reached out to Mike Schott, EVP of media at Volta, to hear more about the EV revolution and how it fuels the future of DOOH.

| by Daniel Brown — Editor, Networld Media Group
The EV revolution is upon us. EU nations and California have announced dates for the end of combustion vehicle sales, the U.S. government has announced sweeping provisions to enhance EV charging stations nationwide, and Americans can enjoy tax credits for purchasing EV. As the nation pivots from gas stations to the EV charging station, one firm leads the charge in creating the future of DOOH. Volta anticipated this shift a decade ago and began building a hybrid business model that marries an expansive EV charging system with a growing media network.
DST reached out to Mike Schott, EVP of media at Volta, to hear more about the EV revolution and how it fuels the future of DOOH.
Q: There was a time when sustainability and OOH advertising might seem like strange bedfellows, but the two have become inextricably entwined in the past couple of years (Coldplay famously vowed to be carbon neutral while touring, including some massive digital displays). Why is that? Are consumers just more aware of climate and energy issues?
A: The marriage between sustainability and OOH advertising may seem like an unlikely pairing for two main reasons. Yes, consumers today are more aware of climate and energy issues. And not only are they more aware, importantly for the advertising industry, they are ready to proactively change their habits, actions and choices to be more sustainable.
Volta’s latest Climate Conscious Consumer report found that 50% of consumers identify as caring about the environment and make decisions about the brands they choose with environmental practices in mind. One in five consumers rates sustainability higher than any other product characteristic. These numbers are significant and present an enormous opportunity for brands to weave sustainability through everything they do — including their messaging and advertising — to appeal to this growing climate conscious audience.
Secondly, a lot of brands have begun to think critically about their role in addressing climate change and are authentically reviewing the impact of their ad campaigns. Traditional OOH campaigns are typically not overly environmentally friendly, and that’s where Volta comes in. We pioneered the dual EV charging and media approach — our chargers are unmistakable, with large digital advertising screens located in the very front of parking lots at the grocery stores, shopping centers and entertainment facilities you and your family visit weekly. The Volta Media Network enables brands to help reduce CO2 emissions by supporting thousands of electric miles at our charging stations, all while messaging to their audience. Ultimately, our screens drive both measurable business results and real environmental impact.
Q: What is the current state of sustainability in DOOH, from entertainment and sports to airports and malls, and how do we move forward from here? What is top of mind for you in sustainability?
A: There is a lot of talk within the broader media industry about improving digital ad auctions to make them more efficient and reduce energy usage. This is an important part of making marketing and media more environmentally friendly. At Volta, however, we offer advertisers an opportunity to have an outsized impact on building a more sustainable future through their media buys. A campaign on the Volta Media Network supports an all-electric transportation future, and since we’re backed by renewable energy, advertisers can also rest assured they are supporting a cleaner energy grid in the process.
One example: we recently partnered with Michelin to promote their new tires, which are specifically designed to maximize EV performance. Their campaign was a perfect fit for our dual EV charging and media model and it yielded impressive results. Once the campaign wrapped, a study conducted by an independent, third-party research firm revealed the campaign successfully improved awareness of Michelin’s EV-specific tires by 70% and boosted the perception that Michelin makes the best tires for EVs by 23% — a direct result of how impactful our screens are on influencing consumer mindsets.
Q: One of the most important DOOH spaces right now resides at the new EV charging stations that are popping up from coast to coast, in no small measure thanks to recent federal initiatives. (Heck, California announced an upcoming moratorium on how long gas-powered cars can legally be sold!) Why is this space so big, and how can savvy people jump on board and use this trend now? Where is this tech going as America and the world seem to be going almost fully EV in coming decades?
A: California is certainly spearheading the electric revolution, but soon its laws will feel more of the norm and less of the exception. Massachusetts, Washington and New York, for example, have already announced plans to join California in mandating all new vehicles sold in their respective states must be free of greenhouse gas emissions.
Federal, state and local governments are supporting the rapid switch to EVs, a switch that ushers in a fundamental change in consumer behavior. Instead of stopping at a gas station to refuel, drivers charge where they are already stopping. It’s a switch in habit and mindset. This opens up a tremendous and important opportunity for EV charging networks to be built directly into the habits and lifestyles of consumers.
That’s exactly what Volta’s network is designed around, ensuring charging is easy and affordable. Our EV charging stations, which feature digital media screens, are placed beside the front doors of popular grocery stores, retail locations, entertainment venues and more. And they catch the eyes of all passersby entering stores. We’re excited to keep expanding our charging and media network as the EV revolution continues!
Q: ROI is one of the hottest topics and biggest thorns in the side of the digital signage and DOOH spheres, even as pandemic strictures ease and consumers finally leave the house to shop. Countless reports warn of “digital fatigue” and “screen fatigue.” How can people measure the effectiveness of their ads and (ideally) adjust/customize their content in real time to maximize every ad budget dollar?
A: Today’s brands require full-funnel measurement, and historically, OOH is something marketers have shied away from when looking for bottom-of-the-funnel metrics. But thanks to recent advancements in the DOOH space, the full suite of measurement capabilities is possible, and Volta is committed to make these available to our advertising customers.
We offer brands a suite of measurement capabilities, enabled by our collaborations with industry-leading measurement companies like Catalina, Accretive, Nielsen and Quotient. These relationships allow Volta to report on the same full-funnel impact marketers have come to expect from the most notable digital advertising platforms. This includes performance metrics like sales lift and incremental return on ad spend (iROAS) — a new frontier for the DOOH industry.
Volta’s ability to meaningfully drive bottom-of-the-funnel results is demonstrated through campaigns like the ones we did with Dole Fresh Foods and Coca-Cola. In partnership with Catalina, Volta executed a campaign with Dole featuring eye-catching creative showcasing multiple Dole products. The results? An 8% sales lift and an 8.5% increase in category share. Another example — in partnership with AD Retail Media and Quotient, we executed a campaign with Coca-Cola designed to drive measurable sales for the Sprite, Seagram’s and Fresca brands over the 2021 winter holidays. The campaign racked up $2.51 million in attributable sales and a ROAS 56% higher than the average for DOOH ROAS across all ADUSA food and beverage campaigns.
In terms of keeping creative relevant and updated, purchasing advertisements programmatically is the answer I’d pick. There’s a reason why 100% of Volta’s DOOH inventory is available programmatically. It makes agile creative updates possible, which is something that is important in today’s rapidly changing world. I’d also recommend taking your time to design creative with dynamic triggers in mind. Last year, Volta partnered with Jeep to help launch their new Jeep Wrangler 4XE. We designed a campaign that used API-powered weather triggers to switch the creative based on the weather conditions around the charging stations. It caused consumers to do a double-take or tap their friend’s shoulder.
Q: Brick and mortar businesses now use digital signage for countless purposes, from at-table ordering in restaurants to virtual try-ons in clothing. Why should onsite businesses across sectors include more digital signage and why are so many businesses missing out on these opportunities?
A: The value of digital signage comes down to location and context. At Volta, we place our media screens steps away from the doors of popular commercial locations. We say our screens have the ability to “interrupt the shopping list.” As consumers walk through a parking lot and into a store, advertisers have a unique opportunity to remind them to add their products to the list at the exact moment they are finalizing what will end up in their cart.
Q: DOOH is evolving almost as fast as the emerging technologies that fuel this evolution. What are the biggest trends to watch and how can businesses/advertisers stay ahead of the curve?
A: I cannot overstate the importance of the advancements being made related to DOOH measurement. Brands now have the ability to measure all metrics that matter to them — incremental sales, ROAS, attributable site traffic, foot traffic and beyond. And DOOH media providers need to make sure they can offer these capabilities and deliver the results.
Interactive experiences are also an important development in DOOH. QR codes, 3D creative, AR (augmented reality) and “tap to engage” features all extend the brand experience beyond the DOOH screen. Consumers are drawn to advertisements like this and for good reason.
Q: It’s becoming cliché even to say it, but Covid had a huge impact on the industry, including how it highlighted questions of accessibility and how much work needed to be done. How is the industry becoming more inclusive, and what are some easy ways businesses/advertisers can get a head start not just on accessibility but on diversity and inclusion?
A: Access and inclusion is central to Volta’s model and our Charging For All initiative directly addresses these important issues. By building not just a network of chargers but also a digital advertising platform, Volta can generate revenue regardless of how many EVs exist in a neighborhood. This advertising revenue allows us to build critical EV charging infrastructure in all types of communities, including “charging deserts,” ahead of mass EV adoption while also keeping charging costs low for drivers.
Q: Digital signage/OOH is exploding in higher education right now, which again might have seemed odd to say a few years back. We’re not just talking about the sports team’s stadium, we’re talking about all across campus, from classrooms and student housing to staff offices and meeting spaces, you name it. What’s causing this trend, and how do you think it can be leveraged going forward?
A: For the same reason it makes sense to communicate with people via digital signage at a grocery store, or outside of a movie theater, it also makes sense to reach people on a college campus. When built into people’s daily routines, DOOH offers an engaging, real-world touchpoint that delivers important and contextually relevant information.
Q: You can’t open a news feed without hearing about the “metaverse,” AI and IoT developments and our current favorite, hologram technology. Still, tech comes and goes, and nobody can predict what falls flat and what becomes a fixture. What are the top emerging technologies that people need to watch, invest in and plan to leverage going into 2023 and beyond?
A: We’re pioneers at Volta. When we entered the EV charging industry more than a decade ago, people were skeptical. But by remaining committed to building experiences that create real value for consumers, our model has flourished.
When we evaluate emerging technologies, we assess them through this same lens — will they enhance the consumer experience? Many of these buzz-worthy technologies can be used to personalize the experience consumers have with Volta’s stations and media network. Volta Vision is just one example. Using the cameras embedded into our charging stations, Volta Vision uses computer vision, a field of AI, to identify the make of the car pulling up. This then triggers a customized advertising message to display in real time. Automotive brands have used this capability to welcome existing customers and conquest drivers who show up in a competitor’s model.
Q: Going broad and leveraging your personal expertise and years in the field, what is the thing that most excites you about the near future, and what’s one of the greatest risks that people should watch for going into the new year and beyond?
A: I’m genuinely excited about the electric transportation revolution and how it’s becoming an inevitability to own an EV. I regularly think about the planet we will leave to future generations. This revolution also presents an important opportunity for brands, including doubling down on sustainability commitments and using sustainable infrastructure, like Volta, for new media opportunities.

Daniel Brown is the editor of Digital Signage Today. He is an accomplished technology writer whose experience includes creating knowledge base content for a major university’s computing services department. His previous experience also includes IT project management, technical support and education. He can usually be found in a coffee shop near a large pile of books.
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