Frank Bryant Discusses the Effect of COVID-19 on the Out of Home Industry

Frank Bryant is the Group COO of Talon Outdoor, an independent out-of-home (OOH) media specialist and a significant player in the OOH agency sector. In this article, Bryant discusses how Covid-19 is affecting his industry:

This first appeared in The Parliamentary Review on 31st March 2020.

OOH’s Response: Adapting Messages Amidst COVID-19 Impact

With the widespread closure of restaurants, pubs, sports and entertainment venues, and the shift towards home working, it’s easy to see how social distancing policies are impacting OOH media in particular. One week into the Government’s lockdown and we can’t hide from the fact that Covid-19 is having a massive knock on effect for the Out of Home advertising industry.

That said, for those advertisers that are holding their nerve and choosing not to go off grid during the forthcoming weeks, it’s great to see OOH creative being tailored to provide ‘helpful & useful’ information and relay messages of community engagement and encouragement.

Businesses can rely on OOH to ensure the public is aware of their new hours of operation or to relay real-time information regarding the availability of essential goods such as pasta and hand sanitiser. Restaurant owners can promote new takeout and delivery services whilst retail and fashion brands can announce free online delivery services during the lockdown period to encourage spend online.

And while it has been a challenging few weeks for Out of Home businesses, it is both reassuring and gratifying to see the changing use of Out of Home, as it reprises its role in keeping the public informed. Outdoor has the ability to reach 98% of the adult population, and it is great to see that scale being used for good.

We have recently worked on a public information campaign for the Government to promote key NHS safety messages such as washing hands, staying at home, and guidelines for isolating. The next phase of the Government’s coronavirus campaign will see a nationwide OOH push targeting those people who are ignoring the advice and are Out of Home with a strong message to ‘Stay at Home, Save Lives’. Simple, targeted, effective.

Ada, our data management platform receives billions of location data observations every week and we are quickly seeing new audience behaviours emerging. In February we observed that the number of journeys and visits throughout the UK were busier than the average month for Out of Home, and this carried on until the 16th of March. Despite Covid-19 risk levels being raised to ‘high’ from the 12th of March, large volumes of people around the UK were still leaving the house until the 22nd of March, when enforced restrictions were put in place.

Roadside traffic only began to fall below typical levels from the 16th of March. This decline was observed more sharply in London where roadside traffic was down -19% for the period compared to the rest of the UK where it was only down by -2%. Whilst Malls and Supermarkets retained above average footfall throughout the first 2 weeks of March, overall visits to points of interest began to decline from the 2nd of March. Entertainment venues such as Theatres, Concert Venues and Pubs were hardest hit with a decline of 45% and this number will have dramatically changed again this week.

These are unprecedented times and whilst those who can, are working from home, it’s great to see OOH media supporting and thanking those key workers that continue to work on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus. Alongside the nationwide “clap for carers” which saw millions of people across the UK take to their doorsteps on Thursday, 26th March, to raise a loud thunder of applause for carers and NHS workers, OOH screens also streamed their own virtual clap to add to the collective release of gratitude.