By Ian Darby, journalist

December 5, 2023 | 7 min read

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Out of home advertising offers both awareness-at-scale and precise targeting – but, as HSBC’s head of brand marketing Sarah Mayall says, it’s the strength of the creative ideas that count.

Alight Media OOH Billboard

OOH is leading the way in terms of targeting and optimization opportunities / Alight Media

The out of home (OOH) industry is among the most dynamic in the advertising world, thanks to investment that is opening new horizons for brands.

Matthew Dearden, co-founder and chief executive officer of Alight Media, and Sarah Mayall, head of brand marketing at HSBC, sat down with The Drum to discuss these developments and the range of creative opportunities available to advertisers.

It’s clear that brands are responding to innovation in the medium. Rude health in UK OOH advertising was confirmed by a revenue increase of 4.7% for the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Growth in digital spend was 6.1% for the same period, according to trade body Outsmart.

What’s more, established for decades as a strong awareness medium, OOH is leading the way in terms of targeting and optimization opportunities through digital OOH and data capabilities. Innovation that underpins some of the cutting-edge thinking celebrated in the OOH categories at The Drum Awards Festival 2023.

The combination of OOH’s ability to reach large audiences, which are increasingly hard to scale through other channels, with digital formats and data triggers is a compelling attraction for brands, says Dearden. And Mayall agrees the ability of OOH to integrate lower and higher-funnel marketing activity is emerging as a strength as “a really scalable media that you can target with.”

OOH’s creative impact

The creative flexibility offered by OOH is also a key attraction to Mayall. She says that it’s a medium which brands can “have a lot of fun with” while also achieving “serious things”.

To illustrate the point, Mayall details the full range of creative opportunity that HSBC has explored through OOH – from “giant flamingos in shopping centers” through to working with charity Shelter on award-winning executions that helped people understand the issues involved in homelessness and to raise awareness of its ‘No Fixed Address’ service for homeless people.

Alongside HSBC’s excellent use of the medium, the discussion also focuses on other inspired examples of OOH creative including Hiscox and KFC, before circling back to how HSBC made use of OOH to raise awareness that the bank provides safe spaces for those who have experienced financial abuse.

“I wanted to find a way to reach as many people as possible, but being aware that a number of these individuals don’t have the freedom to access things on their own. So, it’s a controlled environment,” explains Mayall.

She outlines how HSBC not only reached people broadly through OOH but also in individual spaces such as bathrooms: “I'm really proud of that campaign. And lots of people wrote to me personally to talk about the importance of that to them. It’s a lot of moving stories that are really heart-breaking, but also quite hopeful as well.

Building on the theme of great campaign ideas, Dearden talks about the principles behind Alight Media’s support of The Awards for Out of Home at The Drum Awards Festival: “It's about going broader... joining together things that are true to your business... And we like to do it in a way that represents positive difference.”

What's next in OOH?

Fittingly, given OOH’s burgeoning reputation for innovation, the discussion concludes with some forward-thinking thoughts on what’s next for the medium. Dearden says that application of data together with precise selection of target locations will bring advances in “getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time in the right place.”

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He adds that big brands benefit from the power of OOH to provide a public platform to “get out and talk to everybody... But we’re also able to get that really fine-tuned with high refined precision at scale. The various techniques that are now coming to market will enable that to happen in a number of different ways.”

HSBC’s Mayall sees the continuing digitization of OOH as an exciting area for brands, including her own: “The opportunity there is going to be great.”

Above all, Mayall recommends, OOH as a creative canvas to be enjoyed: “It is a digital medium, as we well know, but it is in this big environment. So, it’s making sure you remember that the opportunity is then how to utilize a creative to land it particularly well – and have fun with it.”

To catch up on the full discussion with Mayall and Dearden, see the full video above.

Creative The Drum Awards Out Of Home

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