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DOOH Media Planning and Buying Media

Brainwave study proves billboards hit harder on social when they run IRL


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

March 21, 2023 | 8 min read

Neuroscience study from Ocean Outdoor reveals the relationship between DOOH ads and social media. It's a media mix marketers haven't yet mastered.

Ocean Outdoor

This study has finally revealed how outdoor ads get (more) famous on social

Ocean Outdoor research today launched March 21) a study that helps establish how premium digital out-of-home (DOOH) can strengthen campaigns running on social media across KPIs like brand relevance, likeability and authenticity.

The Drum talks to the team behind the study.

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How the research worked

To better understand the link between DOOH and social, two groups were studied. One was based in London and the other in Manchester.

They were shown campaign social media posts shared by brands, the same posts shared by prominent influencers, and finally, social content amplifying the DOOH creative from the very same brand. TikTok and Instagram were the chosen platforms.

Some respondents first saw the campaign in the real world on a digital out-of-home screen, in London, it was the famous Piccadilly Lights. And in Manchester, two premium high-footfall screens. The other half didn’t. You’ll never guess what group was most receptive to the social posts...

138 participants wore headsets so Neuro-Insight’s brain mapping technology SST could analyze them for six types of response to the stimuli:

  • Long-term memory encoding (awareness)

  • Engagement

  • Emotional Intensity

  • Approach/Withdrawal (positivity/negativity of response - openness to exposure)

  • Visual attention

  • General attention


What we learned

This was Ocean's fifth neuroscience study in ten years. It's long been training marketers not to think of OOH advertising in isolation.

It set out to prove that full-motion DOOH advertising can resonate beyond the street, and in particular, as part of social media campaigns. It looked to understand how these platforms interact and how a DOOH view can make a mind more receptive to online advertising.

Among respondents that were primed with a real-life DOOH screen, there was an 87% increase in ‘brand approach’. The emotional response was 5% higher in Manchester. And primed people stuck with the social posts 1.3x longer in Manchester.

Next, those who saw the ad in person and then saw it amplified on screen were generally receptive with higher brand perception and attention levels. Team London had a 28% uplift in approach and a 13% increase in engagement in comparison to non-primed posts.

Content shared by brands landed differently from those sent out by influencers; driving familiarity and relevance versus excitement and authenticity respectively.

Ocean now knows the power of socially amplified DOOH and is packaging it to brands executing exciting live/real-time data/3D creative on the Piccadilly Lights for starters.

There were some inconsistencies in the results. Responses across the cities differed greatly. Speaking to The Drum Steve Bernard said Londoners were more attentive to post detail but were also more likely to dislike the social posts than Mancunians. In Manchester, social media sites were more effective at delivering advertising and building strong brand associations.

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He theorized that Londoners tolerate a higher ad load, and the resulting response is “dampened”.

He said: “In London, we will chiefly be looking at Approach as the key measure i.e. making the advertising more likable and welcoming (as well as ensuring cut through past the noise), whereas, in Manchester, we will focus more on engagement metrics and developing long-term memorial relationships.

Those shown the socially amplified DOOH content, but not the physical execution, registered a 21% increase in approach and a 3% increase in emotional intensity (Manchester), compared to a 79% increase in approach in London and a 5% increase in emotional intensity."

Meanwhile, Ocean Outdoor UK chief exec Phil Hall speaking to The Drum, says that DOOH work sees people dwell in TikTok and Instagram ads for longer.

Brands don't need to rally around the nation's most famous sites for this uplift either. “It’s to be expected that the more iconic and recognizable the site, the more it grabs the attention, but Neuro-Insight has found the creativity and trusted surroundings that a DOOH site delivers have positive connotations regardless of screen size."

He explains that studies like this exist to help show the uplift in KPIs from the cross-pollination of media. Explaining why tends to be much harder but he had an attempt: “The hypothesis is that the test subjects react positively to seeing a brand on a screen that they recognize and is local to them. They are likely to feel that a brand has made an effort to reach them and feel a greater affinity to that brand."

For those looking to benefit from these uplifts, he recommends full-motion creative. The movement helps catch the eye on social feeds. Hall concludes: "Clients and media agencies often have entire teams dedicated to optimizing every facet of social media. Today showed an important new input – invest in DOOH and not only will you get the reach and trust that comes with an IRL campaign, now we know you will get a better-performing social campaign too."

It's something that Adidas in particular is already aware of. It's transforming real-world sites like the Dubai Frame (for Messi) and Saudi Arabia's ancient cities into 3D billboards for social using CGI to great effect. The OOH industry will point to the priming effect of IRL ads as a defense to this way of thinking.

For more insights, the odd joke, and the opportunity to contribute, subscribe to The Drum's Media Agency Briefing.

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