Fresh direct tap on real-time weather data to get DOOH on NYC subways

FreshDirect, a grocery delivery service based in NYC, has launched a digital out-of-home (DOOH) campaign that promotes different recipes for subway passengers depending on the current weather.

Some unmistakable facts about living in New York City: Almost everyone goes underground, the weather is unstable, and most people are too busy (or lazy?) To plan what to prepare for dinner.

FreshDirect, a grocery delivery service based in NYC, was inspired by these realities of city life to launch a digital out-of-home (DOOH) campaign promoting different recipes to passengers depending on the current weather.

Freshdirect CMO John MacDonald said the campaign, which ran from January 31 to March 20, was a test to see if weather-targeted outdoor messaging would resonate with target audiences.

“I could put a picture of a tomato on one of those screens, get an impression and call it a day,” said McDonald, referring to the thousands of digital screens placed across MTA subway stations and train cars.

“But we wanted to show that your decisions about food have relevance,” McDonald said, “and we wanted consumers to understand that we understand what is happening in New York.”

15-second video ads were placed on OUTFRONT Media’s digital signage network across the NYC subway system. The campaign creatives included QR codes that would link customers to complete recipes on FreshDirect’s website, where they could also find links to purchase the necessary ingredients.

FreshDirect’s in-house creative team has worked with its agency partner Quan Media Group to design campaigns and target ideal locations to reach passengers based on mobile winning campaign location data. McDonald said the campaign was an attempt by FreshDirect to better understand how passenger traffic patterns have changed in the post-epidemic era.

The recipes were created in partnership with So Yummy, a video production company that specializes in cooking videos.

Good weather to target

The real-time weather data used for campaign creativity comes from, a weather data provider that collects data from weather forecast models provided by services such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says CMO Dan Slagen.

The dynamic nature of FreshDirect’s DOOH campaign – advertising will change creatively in response to real-time weather tracking – is more attention-grabbing and compelling than a simple repetition loop of content, says McDonald.

In the post-cookie landscape, non-PII-based parameters, such as weather data, will become more important as a vehicle for targeting anonymous advertising, he said.

“We’re trying to find out if the weather is more important at certain times of the year and how it affects people’s lives in case of rain and snow or hot vs. cold,” said McDonald. “We will adjust future promotions based on these results.”

FreshDirect measures the performance of each ad and recipe in a quantitative way, including tracking impressions, site traffic and QR codes, and complete transactions tied to affiliate links. But it has also tracked the success of campaigns against more qualitative measures, such as customer feedback, word of mouth and inquiries from advertising industry workers who encountered the campaign in the wild, McDonald said.

FreshDirect is still analyzing campaign results and declined to share any specific results, but the company says it is satisfied with the number of campaign-driven QR code scans.

Such DOOH campaigns are an increasingly valuable tool in FreshDirect’s marketing toolkit.

“We use DOOH to run low-funnel activities, including Call to Action, but we also use it for brand marketing and awareness,” said McDonald. “It’s a big part of our strategy, and it will continue.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the ads were programmatically served on the NYC subway digital signage network on the Outfront. References to programmatic placements have been deleted.

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