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How do you solve a problem like... making out-of-home relevant again?

After the massive shift to digital, will OOH tempt advertisers back outside?

Each week, we ask readers of The Drum – from brands, agencies and everything in between – for their advice on real problems facing today’s marketing practitioners.

With spend going digital in a big way last year, OOH was left on the shelf. Ocean Outdoor saw a 50% drop in revenue, for example. Still, the pandemic saw campaigns with huge cut-through built specifically for the medium, such as the ‘#MyHeroes‘ campaign.

With economies in the UK and US opening up again, Ocean Outdoor expect custom to return – even if the OOH industry itself has to adapt to demographic shifts.

So as brands consider OOH again, how can they ensure their work makes the best use of the channel?

How do you solve a problem like... making OOH relevant again?

Laura Jordan Bambach, president & chief creative officer at Grey

I love OOH. The old-fashioned prints. Station dominations full of animation spilling out on to the walls. DOOH, special builds and lenticulars. But pre-Covid there was a lot of dross too, like IRL banner ads rather than things that contribute to their environment. But they are, and should give something back.

The Covid-19 lack of bookings has meant more spaces with pro-bono creativity and meaningful placements, and with this creativity comes relevance. There’s so much to play with. I hope we don’t unlearn what the last year has taught us – it’s rather important to positively contribute to the community you live in.

Mark Flood, global OOH business development director, Ipsos

The best creative ideas can be expressed with a picture and a few words – this is the power of the poster. From Abbott’s white on red Economist posters to the BBC’s Dracula, OOH advertising has always rewarded a unique level of creativity to capture attention and convey an idea succinctly. The digitization of OOH means marketers can now include new approaches to storytelling on high-impact canvas, anytime, anywhere.

But the best creative in the world is worthless if it isn’t seen.

Covid-19 requires us to rethink our media planning strategies as commuters are now travelling in new ways from different locations outside of the normal ‘peak times’ of the day. Rich and relevant audience insights are therefore vital to ensure ads not just viewable, but are actually viewed.

Lindsey Boan, director of media, Madwell

Out of Home relevancy isn’t a problem to solve if you know how to talk to your audience and utilize its greatest strengths: location and messaging for the masses. Too often we place OOH campaigns based on location, and typically as a bulk buy. As a result, copy tends to be general, appealing to the masses. Creatively it also saves on production time.

As every planner knows, there are significant differences in the culture and people among locations. Whether neighborhood-specific or metro-wide, the strategy lies in the audience believing you’re purposefully and directly talking to them. For example, we leaned on smart, quippy copy in NYC for our B2B client, JobsOhio, touting Ohio’s smaller corporate taxes compared to New York’s taller buildings. Not only are company site selectors reaching out, but industry-leading chief executive officers and chief marketers are also posting about the campaign on LinkedIn.

Elisa Brustoloni, managing director, Dentsu X (Spain)

While restricted mobility has led to some temporary disinvestment in OOH, today we are optimistic about the future as Spain’s OOH legacy is exceptional for boosting a client’s exposure and for driving brand experience at key consumer touchpoints.

The digitalization of OOH and its hyper-local geolocation possibilities make it more relevant in a post-Covid world than ever. Brands should use OOH on re-emergence from lockdown to target large local audiences, using both technology and strategies that allow personalization of content to each individual and moment, using real-time actions and reactive messaging. Audiences will now be outside more than ever, so the OOH opportunity is one ripe with possibilities for those who dare to use creativity without limits.

Gill Huber, chief client officer, Posterscope

The last year has seen a big shift in population mobility as people changed the when, where and frequency of going out, spending more time working, shopping and entertaining in their local communities. With this mobility set to remain changeable, flexibility, agility and relevance will be key ingredients for brands planning advertising campaigns. Picking the best time, place and message will be a powerful tool, and OOH is well placed to meet these needs.

Digital OOH’s ability to target specific regions, towns or locations, and audiences based on specific moments of relevance – all at speed and scale – makes it the only medium that can reach people in such a public, yet personal, way. 2021 will be the year brands finally use digital out of home to its full potential.

Mike Gordon, chief commercial officer, Global

Outdoor brings scale to a campaign, offering contextual advertising as people go about their daily lives with more data, insight, creativity and flexibility than ever before. Great Outdoor campaigns combined with broadcast, social media and audio drive scale and engagement throughout the entire day.

In context, we worked with eBay to create branded video content for Capital’s TikTok account. The video saw Capital’s three breakfast presenters in a number of quick-fire outfit changes – meaning the content tapped into a growing TikTok trend – and provided eBay with the fun tone they wanted as well as the audience they needed. With the content created, we extended the audience beyond handheld screens by sharing it across digital outdoor screens on the London Underground and National Rail networks.

This is a clear example of how advertisers can seamlessly integrate the ‘wow factor’ of Outdoor with other media to create innovative campaigns.

Camila Gurgel, senior copywriter, M&C Saatchi

Outdoor media has a special relevance, because your brand’s message isn’t one of a hundred things your audience has scrolled through in the last minute.

The impact is something you can’t achieve with any other medium. The ability to know your audience’s location, and to tailor your ad to this, are also advantages.

Take the recent Good Guys Guide project we created in partnership with Solace Women’s Aid and Token Man, which gave men advice to help women feel safer when out on the streets. The OOH provided by Ocean Outdoor helped make sure the message was right where the problem is, getting men to act on the spot.

Dan Plant, executive head of strategy, Starcom

OOH should be more relevant than ever in 2021. The role of all advertising is to build strong brand memory structures, and we do that by helping to incorporate brands into people’s own personal narratives and experiences.

As lockdown lifts and we all venture out into the world, we will be collecting all sorts of ‘first-time experiences’ and they will all be happening out of the home. Used with contextual precision, OOH can surround, facilitate and enhance those memorable experiences, and brands that do so are the ones that will be remembered for years to come.

Heawon Yoo, chief marketing officer, Lightbox OOH Video Network

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that brands will look for flexibility in where and how they advertise. Despite the hits on OOH, digital OOH emerged as the medium that can respond to unpredictable conditions. Video networks offering scale without locked-in upfront buys, the ability to change creative on a dime, and the nimbleness to switch locations based on audience migration are just a few examples of how DOOH offers much-needed flexibility.

Advertisers can take advantage by focusing on DOOH innovations that allow it to behave like true digital and not just a digitized sign. Smarter targeting, dynamic or contextual messaging, and attribution will help them get the most out of the medium.

Ed Palmer, managing director, St Luke’s

Nothing comes close to the stature of outdoor as a medium. It’s the most confident, public and reductive expression of a brand. During the pandemic, we saw campaigns that used striking graphic imagery to deliver a powerful message like our #SHN ‘Stay Home Now’ campaign.

As we return to our cities, the best outdoor will capture the mood of optimism and renewal, while remaining true to the brand. The sector will continue to innovate as the way we use cities evolves, but the core principles of great outdoor remain: simple, provocative, well branded and contextually relevant.

Andy Rhode, director of media, Fallon

Making the best use of OOH starts with admitting that it is very much its own channel. The shift to programmatically-purchased digital OOH might be great for buyers, but it’s a terrible use of the platform for brands. OOH is best used as a stand-alone, stand out message that people encounter often.

Making an impact doesn’t get old, whether that’s pointed writing, bold imagery or a build-out on the board itself. That’s lost with one :08 spot in an ad rotation. When great creative is combined with ideal location, a single OOH placement can make an impact.

Valerie Bischak, general manager and head of growth, Amobee

There’s no doubt that OOH advertising is set for a resurgence this year as consumers emerge from their homes.

As brands think about how to make the most of the medium, digital-out-of-home (DOOH) is really interesting; its effectiveness is unmatched as it bridges the gap between offline and online audiences and allows brands to extend the reach of an OOH placement by retargeting consumers across digital channels.

The flexibility and agility DOOH provides gives brands the ability to update their messaging in real time for optimum relevance and, most importantly, to measure impact.

Mike Molnar, managing partner, Glow

All channels today are digitally capable and it’s time marketers start acting like it. Print, linear, experiential – and definitely OOH – all have the potential for digital extensions thanks to the revival and adoption of QR codes. When done correctly, stagnant billboards can launch meaningful AR, video or digital experiences with just a scan.

OOH can and must become more actionable, engaging and measurable by adapting to current user behaviors. The result is both more actionable data and new digital worlds that are information-rich, shareable, immersive and a massive OOH opportunity for brands.

Simon Stone, GM EMEA, LoopMe

Utilizing OOH to the best of its ability means going beyond baseline ad metrics, such as audience impressions and reach, to truly quantify post-ad exposure and optimize strategies. OOH advertisers, now more than ever, should be using audience data pools to identify uplift outcomes – including awareness, intent, foot traffic and offline sales – while also sourcing actionable intelligence on real-time performance. Only then can OOH advertisers be nimble enough to pivot strategies as needed during uncertainty, optimize campaigns to improve performance, and achieve brand goals.

Each week, we pick a new topic for discussion. Want to join in? Email me at sam.bradley@thedrum.com to be included in future editions of this series.

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