Why OOH should not be ignored during this pandemic

Over the last two months of social distancing, working from home and the relentless pressure of creating a unique and entertaining quiz on Zoom, Out-Of-Home advertising has been significantly adversely affected, furloughing many of its employees, including myself (although I’m now back at work!). Not surprisingly advertisers are shifting any surviving media budgets between channels out of short-term necessity.

Here’s hoping Boris Johnson’s roadmap can point towards light at the end of the tunnel for many people and businesses affected. As those unable to physically work from home are urged to return to work, the possibility of increasing traffic on the road is a hugely positive step for OOH to gradually return to normal. By lifting the restriction of just one hour’s exercise a day – giving this opportunity for us to become the next Mo Farah – we should see footfall increases in local areas.

It has been refreshing to read so many positive blogs and articles about how OOH is coping and is well placed to survive the pandemic. As the UK steps tentatively towards recovery, it is important to acknowledge why brands should not ignore OOH during the pandemic and wait for the world to return to normal.

The impact of advertising at a local level, trust, relevant context, and creativity should all be underpinned by the importance of long-term planning.

Local Targeting

As part of Talon’s Compass team, who specialise in geographical bespoke planning, we understand the impact and importance for brands to advertise at local level as well as national campaigns. Being able to track the changing moving patterns across the country using weekly updates from Talon’s data management platform Ada, means the focus on a more localised role for OOH has never been greater.

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Talon: Ada – W/C 4th May

Opportunity presents itself to target hyper-local audiences out of home, including street furniture, sites in proximity to supermarkets and pharmacy locations, petrol stations and ATMs; not forgetting main roadside sites as more people start to commute back to work as well as getting out and about. Ada will continue to highlight the increased behavioural movements as we enter a new phase of restrictions.

OOH quickly adopts a place at the heart of communities. Research by Nielsen shows it as one of the most trusted advertising mediums, with over half (56%) trusting the medium; but what is even more crucial is that 58% of people are likely to act after seeing an outdoor ad.

In his paper published at the start of the pandemic, ‘Advertising in Recession – Long, Short, or Dark A Guide to Advertising Best Practice in Recession’, Peter Field highlights the importance of building an emotional connection between brands and consumers on a trusted medium, ensuring it is appropriate to the mood of customers.

Context and Creativity

Combined with relevant local advertising, context and creativity are just as important. Digital OOH provides the perfect opportunity for brand messaging to be reactive, contextual, and flexible to people’s mood and situation. The right context can help brands build emotional bonds with their consumer, which research shows drives a +17% uplift by using digital OOH.

Another way to be noticed in the midst of advertising “noise” is to be compelling. And the most compelling ads are creative ones, which grab and maintain your audience’s attention. Creators of the brilliant podcast ‘Behind the Billboard’ Hugh Todd and our very own Dan Dawson assert that brands behaving thoughtfully or entertaining through wit now have a real opportunity to stand out.

Great Wine In A Can by Hun Wine has created witty and memorable messaging in OOH. Instead of pulling advertising all together, this was their chance to stand out.

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Short and Long Term

So should brands still be advertising on OOH during the COVID-19 pandemic? It is no surprise that Digital, TV, VOD, social and radio are enjoying huge audience surges at this time. Nielsen predicted that VOD viewing would increase by 60% because of Covid-19 isolation, as we seek escapism by binge-watching our favourite dramas, entertainment and films.

However, in The Long and Short of It, Field and Binet show that the most successful campaigns – in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness – blend long and short-term goals and strategies, which they define as ‘brand building’ and ‘sales activation’ respectively.

Field asserts that brands should not hit the panic button and withdraw brand advertising unless short-term survival depends on it. Furthermore, brands should resist the pressure to switch advertising spend from brand solely to activation. Brand tone and values have never been more important.

A recent survey from Kantar found that just 8% of people thought brands should stop advertising right now. They suggest brand health becomes vulnerable when companies stop advertising and if they do this for longer than six months it destroys both short- and long-term health.

Whilst we understand the need for brands to focus on short term activation during this time, ignoring long term strategies could be to the ultimate detriment of the brand. Campaigns that use OOH are +20% more likely to report very large business effects (IPA).

Coupled with the ability to be flexible in contextual and creative messaging, at a hyper local level, on a trusted medium, brands can genuinely connect on a personal level and build trust with their consumers.As we eagerly await more news around the recovery, there is no doubt that smarter-planned and creatively-fuelled campaigns will truly put brands back on the road to recovery. OOH will be at the heart of that for many reasons, but for now, let’s all stick together, stick to the guidelines and save lives.

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Billy Jenner, Client Manager on the Compass Team at Talon