The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Out Of Home Open Mic Retail

3 ways to maximize back to school advertising this summer with OOH

By Kayla Caticchio, Content marketing manager



Open Mic article

This content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic.

Open Mic is the self-publishing platform for the marketing industry, allowing members to publish news, opinion and insights on

Find out more

July 3, 2024 | 8 min read

Discover strategies for retailers and brands to effectively utilize out of home (OOH) advertising to maximize their back-to-school (B2S) campaign success amidst shifting consumer spending patterns.

While school may be out for the summer in many parts of the world, there’s no rest for retailers and brands, many of whom are already gearing up for the back-to-school (B2S) shopping rush. 

Next to Black Friday, B2S shopping marks the second biggest consumer spending spree of the year. In 2023, alone, Americans spent a total of $135.5bn on B2S shopping with the average household budgeting $890 for their B2S spend, according to Capital One Research

In the next three months, many kids and college students will be looking to purchase the standard school supplies, along with new clothes, shoes, electronics, and in some cases, dorm room decor and household essentials. For brands and retailers hoping to reach these consumers and drive more shopper traffic online and in store, now is the time to start marketing, as 56% of B2S consumers plan to start their annual shopping next month, according to the same research.

This season presents a huge revenue opportunity, especially as consumers have started to taper their spending in recent months amidst inflation, and could provide a much needed lift to sales, which remained flat this April in the US, missing a 0.4% increase projected by economists

To this end, as families head to local storefronts and the web in search of B2S staples, many are looking to optimize costs according to a Deloitte B2S survey. And, they plan to start shopping earlier than ever to find the best deals, with Sensormatic Solutions’ US Back-to-School Consumer Sentiment Survey reporting that 80% of respondents are planning to start B2S shopping in July or August. 

Brands, retailers, and advertisers who can get a head start on capturing the attention of consumers now will certainly move to the head of the class. As they do, out of home (OOH) creative designed to drive traffic and influence purchasing decisions in person and online is a surefire strategy. Check out these three tips for maximizing B2S campaigns with OOH this year.

1. Be smart about location

Executing OOH ads can help boost foot traffic and drive audiences directly in store, which will be essential as 60% of shoppers plan to visit two or three stores for their B2S shopping. But which locations are the best to target? How do you maximize visibility? Consider high traffic areas near schools, shopping malls, and along transit routes that students and parents regularly use. Billboards, posters, and digital screens in shelters and subway stations, and on roads are optimal for creative placement and can ensure more eyes on a campaign.

It’s also key to target B2S shoppers when they’re most likely to be in a purchasing mindset, which makes OOH formats located close to storefronts a smart choice (i.e. wayfinding kiosks and directories, maps, parking lot signage, EV charger stations, food court signage, etc.). 

This is especially true considering that an OAAA study found 30% of consumers notice ads that provide directions to businesses, and of those consumers who saw directional DOOH ads, 51% visited the advertised business while 93% of those visitors made a purchase. 

Connecting with B2S shoppers at or near a point of sale helps streamline the customer journey, allowing brands to leverage OOH as a vehicle to enhance brand awareness and increase sales.

2. Don’t discount the importance of contextual relevance

A message is not likely to resonate with audiences if it doesn’t speak to them at the right moment and in the right situation. Think carefully about how OOH creative can enhance the experiences of B2S shoppers, be it providing a promo, a B2S supply checklist, or something else the audience will see as a true value add. Seeing that 67% of B2S and college consumers report higher prices on B2S items, dynamic OOH ads tailored to contextual settings or time-specific discounts can capture a shopper’s attention and inspire action, especially as inflation prompts modern households to tighten spending budgets.

Triggering OOH ads based on real-time data conditions like weather, traffic, special offers, events, and more is only getting easier with continued programmatic digital out of home (pDOOH) advancements. In some cases, ads can even be triggered by inventory status, such as the option to display promotional discounts when there is an overstock of merchandise. Connect with DSP providers ahead of time to get more insight into the available contextual targeting options.

Local context is also an important consideration. Think about creative and messaging that will resonate with the local community, including its needs and culture. In a university town, for instance, this might translate to OOH ads promoting dorm essentials or even promotions for local businesses that budget-conscious students can benefit from.

3. Use timing and cross-channel advertising to your advantage

Making the most out of B2S ad spend requires attention to detail, but also timing and cross-channel promotion. First, plan ahead and leave ample runway to deliver creative that will resonate with core audiences. Execute OOH B2S campaigns during peak shopping periods from late July to early August, or even earlier to build brand awareness and anticipation. Leverage dayparting to schedule ads to run during morning and afternoon commutes, when target audiences may be more likely to see them.

OOH is also a great medium for driving engagement across other digital advertising channels. Not only did 75% of US adults recently use their smartphones to engage with an OOH ad, but 43% of these interactions led to online purchases, based on research by The Harris Poll and OAAA

OOH can also provide an excellent segue into online stores and social media platforms, where brands can extend the messaging. This is especially beneficial for D2C brands looking to capitalize on the B2S shopping season. Integrating QR codes or short URLs into OOH ads can encourage viewers to visit an online store or follow or engage with a brand on social media to access a promo code for B2S shopping. Social media contests or giveaways with a B2S theme promoted on OOH creative can further drive engagement and increase a brand’s following.

Thankfully, retargeting across other digital channels has become more straightforward in recent years with new geofencing developments. Think about the virtual boundaries that make the most sense based on geography, and plan OOH campaigns to trigger location-based ads or notifications when a mobile device enters the area. It ensures hyper-localized advertising, so the message hits the audience at just the right moment. Furthermore, OOH can also be tapped to retarget connected TV (CTV) audiences in areas with higher dwell times (i.e. elevators, residential and office buildings, malls, transit shelters, etc.).

The B2S shopping season presents one of the most unique opportunities of the year for brands to connect with consumers and boost sales, and OOH is an ideal channel to incorporate into any B2S omnichannel strategy. Providing a format for dynamic creative it enables brands to reach parents, students, and teachers in more meaningful ways compared to other mediums. 

Furthermore, 73% of consumers view OOH ads favourably, compared to other channels like TV/video, social media, and online, according to OAAA and The Harris Poll research. It can help increase brand awareness and inspire shoppers to take action, and drive new revenue growth.

If you’re looking to get started with OOH or invest more in the medium to capture shoppers’ attention as the B2S season gets underway, explore an increasing array of planning and buying options, including curated B2S OOH audience packages offered by DSP providers like Broadsign.

Out Of Home Open Mic Retail


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +