Consumers won’t return to normal, brands shouldn’t either: Talon Outdoor talks future of OOH

Consumers won’t return to normal, brands shouldn’t either: Talon Outdoor’s Sophie Pemberton on the future of OOH

The impact of social distancing and isolation measures on the out-of-home (OOH) sector could be long-lasting. However, new learnings are coming into place and brands are coming together to ensure their OOH campaign messaging is attuned for these unprecedented times.

The Drum spoke to Talon Outdoor's group strategy director, Sophie Pemberton, about how the current situation is changing the industry and what the future holds.

With 30% of the world now in lockdown at home, how is the OOH world responding?

Whilst the overall effect of Covid-19 has been felt across the entire industry, OOH remains one of the most trusted channels and it has been encouraging to see how the industry has responded by providing vital communication, broadcasting public safety announcements, and championing key workers still going into work. It’s been reassuring to see so many examples of OOH businesses coming together to do something that we never thought we would have to do - tell people to stay at home!

People's behaviours have significantly changed in the last couple of weeks and continue to do so on almost a daily basis and whilst there has been an undeniable effect on OOH, we have approached the situation by being constructive and pragmatic. At Talon, in a matter of weeks we’ve built Ada Explore, an audience dashboard which provides valuable insights to help our clients and partners to better understand audience movements and behaviours to make more informed decisions during this period of uncertainty.

Media agencies globally are being told by their clients to cancel some of their spend, how is this affecting Talon Outdoor and what does the future look like?

It is no surprise that client spend is significantly decreasing at the moment and this affects Talon just the same as it affects our partners and the whole media industry. We are focused on providing as much support as possible in the short term, both internally and externally, as well as planning for new opportunities in the long term.

Whilst it might seem a long way off, people will once again experience the joy of leaving their homes. Hours of video calls, constant social media updates and attempts at completing Netflix will inevitably result in extensive screen fatigue. Having our journeys and movements restricted gives us all the deep sense of how much our freedom is vital to our lives and wellbeing and people will discover a newfound love for the great outdoors. Who knows, people may even begin to enjoy their commute and I think OOH is uniquely placed to participate in this sense of enjoyment.

What is Talon’s strategy in these uncertain times?

Talon’s strategy is to continue to be a trusted partner who can lead and adapt during times of difficulty and emerge with determination and optimism. In the short term that means focussing on supporting our people and partners and ensuring that our medium continues to do what it does best, deliver trusted and relevant messages to people across the UK. By having access to Ada Explore, week by week analysis will enable us to continuously observe movement and journey patterns so that we can understand and advise when audiences are returning back to key OOH environments and POI’s.

In the long term, the Out of Home industry is preparing for a heroic bounce back so this time will allow us to focus on what that will look like for our clients, predicting how audiences will behave so we can deliver the most effective solutions and continue on our commitment to developing market leading technology.

Are there any positives that brands and agencies can take from this experience?

I don’t think we’re quite at the point where we can find positives from this, but we can already find learnings. This crisis isn’t the irony of bad weather on a bank holiday weekend or an opportunity for brands to play jokes on April Fool’s day, this is real and has caused a ripple effect on the whole population that will be felt for years to come. Those that muck in and support the collective effort during this pandemic will be remembered for all the right reasons, it will be all too easy to be remembered for the wrong ones.

We’ve seen examples of countless brands and agencies uniting to ensure their campaign messaging on OOH is adjusted to be reactive and relevant during these unprecedented times. Whether it’s amplifying and relaying public messages like Nike’s plea to “Play inside, play for the world’ or when messages of support for the NHS staff turned screens blue across the UK, it is great to see how fast the Out of Home industry can respond.

And what are the opportunities when the crisis subsides?

There will inevitably be a new normal and I don’t think anyone can say with any certainty what that will entail yet. The enforced behavioural changes across the whole nation and over a prolonged period will have a lasting impact on how we live, work, shop and play.

We know that we will emerge with strength and energy but into a World where there are no platforms for immediate communal celebration. No Olympics, no Euros and no festivals in 2020 means collective entertainment will be scarce in the short term so there are plenty of opportunities that exist for brands here, especially in the Out of Home space.

All of the changes mean that consumers won’t be returning to normal so brands shouldn’t either. They should use this time to consider how they will adapt and engage consumers in a very different reality.

What actions should agencies be taking to proactively manage businesses through this period and ensure it remains well positioned for when conditions stabilise?

I’ve always loved this quote from Maya Angelou which feels particularly relevant at the moment - ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Emotions are running high across the nation and agencies should be patient, supportive and helpful because at the end of all of this, their relationships will be all the stronger for it.

Pemberton was a judge for The Drum Out of Home Awards 2019. This competition is now open for its 2020 entrants, at a super-early bird rate. Enter before Thursday 30 April to benefit from this discount.

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