Out of Home Advertising in a post-lockdown world

Many industries were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Out of Home (OOH) market. As we all stayed home to save lives and keep safe, figures from Econsultancy show that OOH spend was down by 61.2% in 2020. However, the future is looking bright for OOH advertising, and the sector is already showing signs of recovery in 2021.

While some advertisers pressed pause throughout the pandemic, others turned their attention to creating ‘stand out’ campaigns, solely owning the space to reach their audience during their daily exercise allowance. To us, this suggests an emerging trend as the market gathers pace once again. So, we wanted to discuss what we predict OOH print advertising could look like in a post-lockdown world, and how you can make changes for the better and breathe new life into your campaigns.

Focus on sustainability

Following reports of Earth being ‘in recovery’ during the early stages of lockdown, sustainability became more of a priority for both individuals and businesses over the last 12 months. A global survey reported that consumers have “dramatically evolved” and that 60% are making more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic. 65% also said, “that it is important that climate change is prioritised in the economic recovery after coronavirus”. As consumer awareness becomes more heightened than ever before around this topic, it’s natural that brands will need to adapt, particularly in the OOH market.

That’s why in 2020, Gardners launched its pollution-eating ReActivair speciality coating which can be applied to outdoor placements. For those living in urban or highly polluted areas, we believe that this could be game-changing and can help to protect air quality. After all, results from Sheffield University show that 1 square meter of ReActivair can take out around 2 g of NOx per day from the air surrounding the placement. That means that a single banner can remove the pollution generated from a bus or about 20 cars every single day. For more advertisers, we foresee that investment in this coating will become a business priority as many work towards their green objectives and consumers will only thank them for it. It’s a no brainer – if you could clean the air with your campaigns, why wouldn’t you?

Creative campaigns on the rise

In September 2020, Twitter was amongst the brands showcasing creative advertising campaigns against the backdrop of the pandemic. Tapping into the so-called ‘caution fatigue’ for this particular OOH campaign, Twitter turned its users’ tweets about wearing masks into billboards which were displayed in seven US cities. A topic that has caused serious debate throughout the pandemic, these billboards utilised user-generated content in a humorous tone, allowing the brand to be seen as approachable – ‘just like one of us.’

We also saw Emily Snacks take a comedic approach to its advertising, addressing the bad timings of its original planned launch with its strapline, “Our first ever poster, seen by a runner and one pigeon. Typical…” Instead of pulling the campaign, it showcased what advertisers thought about their planned activity.

What we can learn from these campaigns is that timeliness and brand tone of voice within OOH campaigns can work to catch wider consumer attention. As we ease out of lockdown restrictions across the UK and attention spans are once again up for grabs in outdoor environments, we predict that we’ll see more advertisers thinking outside of the box to support their goals.

Increased impact of OOH

The pandemic has encouraged more of us to look up and take note of our surroundings. While for many this has meant appreciating the little things, a recent study from the Out-of-Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), roughly 45% of American adults say they’re noticing OOH advertising more than before the pandemic began. As more of us spend increased time outdoors, audiences are more likely to be receptive to and aware of OOH ads. After all, as said by Rajvi Kantaria, director of marketing at JCDecaux UK, “OOH is one of the oldest yet most trusted media channels because there’s this feeling that you can’t tell lies in public.”

Also, we know that many adults are facing device fatigue, spending more time in their days staring at their phones, laptops and other devices. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that 75% of survey respondents in the OAAA and The Harris Poll said that they were paying less attention to online ads due to digital device burnout. This is seeing advertisers revert to print-based OOH campaigns more frequently. Yet we know that for savvy advertisers, this is also planned alongside wider digital activity, particularly as a study from JCDecaux and Facebook found that combining OOH marketing with Facebook advertising was proven to achieve a 13% uplift.

So, what can you do to bring your post-lockdown OOH campaigns to life?

Showcase brand personality – We’ve all experienced a challenging year and consumers are welcoming some comic relief. So where appropriate, don’t be afraid to showcase and vocalise your brand personality. Those that do this well will reap the rewards. But remember, it has to be authentic.

Plan ahead – As we start to ease into another ‘new normal’, we anticipate that we’ll see an influx in brands looking to secure OOH placements, particularly in city centre spaces where the competition will be high. Although there’s been some reluctance to plan too far ahead during COVID times, those who do are more likely to dominate those in-demand spots and capture audience attention.

Consider your environmental impact – The topic of sustainability isn’t going anywhere fast – and nor should it. Brands should continue this conversation beyond COVID and strive for more sustainable solutions where possible. At Gardners, we’ve already introduced several green initiatives including the previously mentioned ReActivair; PVC alternatives for OOH Roadside, Railside and Bus campaigns; PVC recycling schemes; and more. We’re having conversations with an increasing number of our clients around sustainable options so if this is on your agenda for 2021, please do get in touch.

If you’re planning ahead and would like to speak to our team about your OOH campaign requirements, get in touch today >>>