Is out of home, out of sight in today’s digital age?

Is out of home media losing relevance in today's digital world?

MTV famously played Video Killed the Radio Star as its first music video, alluding to radio's decline in light of fans turning to TV for their music fix.

It has been 36 years since MTV’s launch and radio is still around, proving that its made of tougher stuff. Similarly, with the launch of TV and now with online video, one would think out of home (OOH) advertising would be going the way of the dinosaurs.

Yet OOH media owners are still around, and the companies buying space on out of home assets vary quite a bit according to Moove Media, the advertising arm of transport operator, Comfortdelgro.

“Our clients have always been a good mix. There is an influx of new digital companies like Google, Deliveroo, Qoo10, Redmart, Zalora, VIU and PropertyGuru including Mediacorp Radio and SPH Radio advertising on our out-of-home platforms as an extension of their marketing campaigns,” they said.

Another OOH media owner, Clear Channel Singapore concurs, pointing out that even digital businesses are going offline in their efforts to reach customers.

“Rapid development of new technologies and the prevalence of the internet have fuelled shifts in business models, resulting in the burgeoning digital economy,” said the spokesperson.

“Corresponding with that growth, Clear Channel Singapore is seeing an increase in digital enterprises coming on board as advertisers. These brands include those in the business of online fashion, ride hailing, meal delivery, and grocery delivery,” they added.

What then does out of home have that attracts advertisers to spend, rather than shifting budgets to purely digital? The increasing number of people spending time on the road is one according to Moove Media.

“More people are becoming increasingly mobile and spending more time on the road, as seen in the rise in public transport ridership,” they said.

The opportunities to engage is something that brands are looking for, with OOH the perfect fit for such engagements according to Moove Media.

"For example, Lifebuoy set up hand sanitiser dispensers in North East Line and Downtown Line MRT stations for commuters to try their product,” they said.

Clear Channel agrees, emphasising that OOH is a “key strategy for advertisers to complement and accelerate digital marketing efforts.”

“As a part of successful integrated campaigns, brands are increasingly using OOH to drive consumers to websites, interact and engage through social media, and even transact with a smartphone,” they said.

The allure of offline

So what is it about big billboards and wrapped vehicles have that attract brands? According to Moove Media, the “impact of large format visuals” and the fact that “you can’t switch off OOH,” makes it attractive.

“Clients can target audience in specific locations that are in proximity of their distribution channels. When done creatively, OOH advertising is able to attract attention from audiences and garner a higher brand recall rate,” they said.

Clear Channel concurs, as “OOH offers one of the most uncluttered platforms to reach a captive audience.”

“In this exclusive environment, there is greater cut through and audiences are more amenable to brand messaging. The physical presence and prime locations of OOH also means it is always present, with greater opportunity to see and where non-viewability and brand safety- issues afflicting internet advertising- are not of concern,” they said.

While digital might be able to stretch creatvity, OOH is doing the same according to Moove Media, with clients not asking for cookie cutter type of posters and campaigns.

“They are also asking for more creative ideas that can prompt their outdoor campaign to go viral. For instance, BBC wanted to increase downloads for the BBC Player app and took to offering free Wi-Fi on buses where commuters were prompted to download the app while enjoying the Wi-Fi,” they said.

Clear Channel concurs, pointing out that advertisers are looking to “build deeper and more meaningful engagement with their target audience that will lead consumers down the path to purchase.”

“We know that contextual advertising better engages consumers and increases their brand perceptions and purchase intent. OOH has that precise ability to serve up strong advertisements to the right target audiences at the right locations where they are primed to receive,” they said.

“In the face of increasing media-fragmentation, it is little wonder that OOH not only remains a perennial favourite with advertisers but is set to grow in terms of media spend, chiefly driven by the advancements in digital OOH,” they added.

The brands speak up

While OOH media owners would definitely sing praises of their assets, what do the brands think? Lazada, an ecommerce operator, have not kicked OOH to the crub yet, believing in evolving with their customer base.

“We adjust our mix according to customer demographics and consumption habits, which have broadened over the years as we get new customers and sellers on board,” said Lazada.

“Together, both OOH and digital advertising ensure effective reach to our existing customers and in getting new customer sign ups,” they added.

Yet another digital company, ShopBack, a cash back platform, feels that digital is ultimately the way to go.

“Most of our marketing mix is via digital mediums as today's consumers spend much of their time in front of screens. Digital provides a direct avenue for consumers to access ShopBack,” said Candice Ong, chief commercial officer, ShopBack.

“These channels are cost-effective and allow us to keep track of the results from our advertising spend. We think about marketing investments based on customer acquisition cost, which is only made possible with online tracking when we can attribute cost to sale,” she added.

For Singapore’s OCBC Bank however, the mix is still geared toward digital rather than OOH.

“Today, a big part of our media buy goes to digital ads and a smaller amount of less than 10% to OOH ads,” said Koh Ching Ching, head, group corporate communications, OCBC Bank.

OOH is still relevant then for Lazada, as the population in Singapore has to commute to work, with the figures such as:

  • Working population who commute to work: 3,673,000
  • Average commute time: 40mins or 80mins two-way

However, Lazda remains cautious about throwing more eggs in the OOH basket.

“As Singaporeans increasingly embrace digital lifestyles, consumption habits may change. We constantly monitor to see if we need to adjust our advertising mix,” They said.

For ShopBack, OOH remains “tricky as we are not able to capture or measure impact easily,” said Ong.

“At our current growth stage, we try to stretch our resources and think about how we can gain brand awareness in creative and cost-effective ways. OOH is still a relevant marketing channel and it might be great for brand awareness or top-of-mind recall as well. However, it might be a little risky for start ups to invest limited resources into something which might not be easily measurable,” she added.

For OCBC OOH is meant as a support to an ongoing campaign, rather than playing the role of the main protagonist.

“OOH ads are primarily meant to drive top-of-mind brand presence or campaign awareness. They are especially effectively in reaching out to the consumers when they carrying out their daily routines and activities in an external environment,” said Koh.

As OOH continues to augment itself with technology, will brands be more interested? ShopBack certainly would be according to Ong.

“I applaud the fact that OOH agencies are weaving in technology for their products to draw a more direct ROI for brands. That is a bold move away from the traditional pay-before-results proposition. However, it would still need to be cost effective and demonstrate efficacy for goals,” said Ong.

Lazada was more cautious, but open to the idea and said, ”remains to be seen on the effectiveness of the ROI tracking, we may if it turns out to be useful.”

For OCBC, digital will remain the preferred approach according to Koh.

“When it comes to the local market, augment reality ads are still in its infancy stages. Compared to digital media (for eg. mobile ads), augmented reality ads still lack the punch to drive call-to-action and spur engagement. Digital media, especially via one’s mobile device, offers more possibilities (for eg. location based promotions) to drive purchase decisions on both mobile platforms or retail/dining outlets,” she said.

As for the marketing and advertising mix possibly skewing towards OOH in the future, Singapore telco operator StarHub is looking to monitor trends closely.

“We are keeping a close watch on the growing integration of mobile, digital and out-of-home techniques in marketing communications. This evolution fits our focus on delivering the right messages to the right audiences through the right channels, so as to set us apart in this highly saturated market,” said Oliver Chong, assistant vice president, brand and marketing communications, StarHub.

For ShopBack, the question of ROI for OOH still looms. “It would be relevant if we can better understand the ROI of the channel and tailor it to specific purpose,” said Ong.

For OCBC, the marketing mix is unlikely to see huge changes in the near future, and OOH will definitely have a place.

“While we don’t see our advertising and marketing mix having huge changes in the near future, it is definitely not the end of the road for OOH,” said Koh.

“If the cost and channel of implementation make sense for our campaigns, we will work to make sure that the OOH ads are complementary to OCBC-owned OOH assets island wide, such as our branches and ATMs. We will harness available assets and technology to drive a higher level of consumer engagement and amplify each campaign’s call-to-action,” she added.

Lazada concurs too, as “OOH is integral to our marketing efforts as we continue to expand our customer base and capabilities in Singapore, and in our other markets in Asia.”