Why it’s Time to Bounce Back with Out of Home

As we approach a whole year since the first UK national lockdown, life in 2021 is finally looking up. Despite entering 2021 under further restrictions, around 25 million Brits (and rising) have received the vaccine, smashing the first milestone of the vaccination process.

March will see schools across England reopening, outdoor gatherings of six people and outdoor sports resuming. In April, we’ll be returning to feel-good activities, with the reopening of outdoor hospitality, shops, hairdressers and gyms.

By May, almost all social contact rules will be lifted, with indoor hospitality venues joining outdoor activities and the end of all social restrictions is set for June 21. Until then, spring will bring more daylight, warmer weather and a happier mindset to spend more time outside.

With outdoor activities explicitly among the first to resume, we can fully prepare for a return to OOH advertising opportunities; not that it’s ever really gone away.

Audiences Springing Back

Within hours of the Government’s announcement, easyJet reported a huge +337% increase in flight bookings for summer and holiday package bookings were up 630% on the previous week. Domestic staycations have already accelerated, signalling the nation’s real intent.

We’re seeing a very positive consumer outlook for 2021. The UK economy is set for a huge bounce back. The money that households would have spent socialising and commuting has accumulated to an estimated 125 billion in savings, predicted to reach 250 billion by June.

That’s a huge amount of money that many consumers (if not all) will be looking forward to splashing on their newfound freedom.

With outdoor hospitality reopening in April, we expect an explosion of activity around shopping, going out, domestic travel and a general release of spontaneity. This shift will be great for brands across multiple industries; 45% of people are most looking forward to eating out and visiting venues.

16-34s are especially excited for spring/summer, with one tweet that has since gone viral, “Summer 2021 might just join Summer 2018 in the hall of fame“, recalling one of the hottest summers on record and the year of the World Cup.

The pubs are opening fully on June 21, the day before England play Czech Republic in the Euro’s. A carnival atmosphere is expected, with forecast GDP growth of 0.6%, up an expected 0.3% in July alone.

The New Normal

If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that understanding audiences more than we did previously is now the norm.

One of the most effective and valuable tools that we produced as a business, is our Ada Covid reporting dashboard. This has enabled us to have a view on UK audience mobility across a variety of environments, producing intelligent, data-led recommendations for our clients based on real and recent behaviours.

Through Ada, we can clearly see that audiences are still out of home. We are already there in many locations, particularly outside London, where OOH audiences do remain above expectation and have gravitated to certain environments, for example becoming more localized and staying closer to home.

With audiences already active, we are forecasting a sharp uplift from March 1 onwards and expect the impact of lifting the restrictions will bring huge audience volumes out of home.

Our projections anticipate +17% above the OOH norm in roadside environments following the return of schools on March 8th, +25% for April’s retail explosion and +40% above when the pubs fully reopen in June.

“Staying On” Reaps Rewards

Industry research to discover whether “staying on” in 2020 really made a difference revealed that advertisers who continued to invest in OOH, benefitted from a strong brand performance with a +51% shift in ad recall and +16% for purchase intent, across 65 OOH campaigns.

When we compared these results to those observed pre-lockdown, we discovered that the effectiveness of OOH campaigns did not diminish, reflecting the return of significant audiences to high streets, shopping centres and roadside across the summer.

We have seen key brands maintain a presence OOH, but now expect many more will take advantage of the core benefits of OOH in reaching consumers in a spending mindset, young audiences to complement other media channels like TV and online – delivering proven returns – and projecting an environment for much-needed brand trust.

Media owners have shown similar resilience in continuing to invest in OOH’s infrastructure delivering a digital estate ready for the challenge ahead. Data and technology are in place to meet that challenge.

Our focus remains on the core attributes of OOH and ensuring we educate advertisers on a back to basics approach that delivers real advertiser benefit.

We will hope to remember 2021 for its liberating experiences, a revival of consumer confidence, and activity that puts the challenging events of the past year firmly behind us.

Luke Willbourn, Chief Client Officer

(This article first appeared in Mediatel).