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How to ace your back-to-school advertising strategy with DOOH

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August 17, 2023 | 7 min read

Just as soon as summer began in some parts of the world, the 2023/24 school year was kicking off in others

In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s in full swing. Backpacks, crayons, pencils, the latest trending apparel, dorm room essentials, and the like line retailer shelves, and forecasts predict Back-to-School (B2S) spending will reach $41.5 billion this year, making it the second biggest shopping season next to Black Friday. For apparel, school supply, and home goods brands, this translates to a major opportunity. But, with the continued advancement of programmatic digital-out-of-home (pDOOH), nearly any brand looking to reach parents, students, or teachers in a purchasing mindset can use pDOOH to capitalize on the B2S shopping season. Here’s how:

Highlight deals and steals.

B2S shoppers are more cost-conscious than ever in an era where inflation continues trending upward, and the required school supply list keeps growing longer. To this end, more teachers, parents, and students are focused on price comparisons and deal hunting as they look to save on B2S items, as well as other goods and services. Brands are rising to the occasion, with retailers like Target offering college students a 20% off coupon for school supplies and dorm essentials. These are the kinds of savings opportunities that paired with great DOOH creative can stand out. Previous research from the Out of Home Advertising Association shows that more than half of B2S shoppers will look at OOH ads that promote special sales and deals, so be sure to keep this in mind for pDOOH creative planning.

Tap into the location advantage.

DOOH presents multiple opportunities to interact with audiences in locations they encounter throughout the day, whether a consumer on the road, browsing the grocery store aisles, or selecting apparel to try on in the fitting room. Placing an ad on an OOH display near or on the path to a storefront where merchandise is sold, for instance, could pay off big time, as research found that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults notice OOH ads while enroute to retailers and the same percentage state that they notice them very close to or right outside a store. Carefully consider the OOH venue locations on the path to and at the point of purchase that make the most sense for your brand.

Also, explore location-based targeting to determine where your audience is most concentrated and the nearby available DOOH inventory with which you can reach them. This might include screens in high-traffic areas where parents and students frequently visit this time of the year, i.e., in and around big box retail stores, street-level and urban panels, transit centers, grocery stores, entertainment and sports complexes, university campuses, etc. Local restaurants and bars, and even service providers can also take advantage of peak audience traffic on and near college campuses during B2S season to deliver pDOOH ads promoting everything from rideshare offerings to grocery and food delivery services as well as healthcare and beauty salon services. Leveraging these locations can help boost product or service consideration and purchase intent.

Time it right.

DOOH can capture the attention of audiences during the moments of the day that matter most. Think about when your audience will likely travel or shop and target your ads for peak traffic times, be it rush hour on the freeway, popular bus route stops, lunch hour at the nearby shopping mall, or another scenario that can be correlated to a set time. Moreover, pDOOH is making it easier to trigger DOOH creative and messaging based on real-time conditions like traffic. For instance, brands and agencies could opt to display roadside ads during rush hour to maximize reach. In the case of targeting university parents, they could time B2S ads on screens across and near campus during tours, orientation, or even based on sports game schedules. Leveraging the proper set of real-time environmental triggers along the shopper journey in tandem with seasonal B2S creative can help capture consumer interest and maximize campaign reach while also helping to increase foot traffic and sales.

Explore creative options.

DOOH is often nothing without smart, colorful visuals that draw audiences in. Combine interesting creative with timely B2S messaging that speaks to the start of the new school year. Think about how to make DOOH ads more interactive, whether through augmented reality graphics or QR codes. Distinguish campaign creative by playing with more dynamic DOOH formats like video and holographic content. It’s especially important when looking to reach college students, many of whom are on the hunt for dorm room decor that not only aligns with their personality but can compete with influencer designs promoted via social platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Even in primary, middle, and high school, kids today seem to want more of a say in the apparel and supplies they choose for school, and video is popular amidst the generation, with 51 percent of Gen Alpha first hearing about a brand via YouTube videos.

Drive audience interaction across channels.

DOOH advertising excels at driving brand awareness and curiosity, with research having shown DOOH ads help inspire brand searches and greater engagement on smartphones. According to an OAAA and Comscore study, 41 percent of participants used a search engine, 33 percent searched social media, and 28 percent visited a website following OOH ad exposure. Fuse DOOH advertising with QR codes and other interactive content to drive audiences online to learn more, make purchases, or cash in on promotions. Encourage additional brand engagement on your social channels by leveraging hashtags and handles in DOOH creative. This can pay off, especially with GenZ audiences; more than 38 percent of GenZers spend over four hours a day on social media average according to a Morning Consult study.

Location-based data from OOH campaigns can also be used to retarget audiences exposed to OOH ads across other digital touchpoints. Research from Xaxis and Kinetic found that audiences exposed to DOOH ads that are retargeted via mobile devices can result in a 48 percent higher response rate. Ads originating on other channels can also benefit from DOOH. Brands can easily extend the reach of CTV video promos by repurposing them in DOOH venues with longer dwell times like elevator screens in residential and office buildings, malls, and more.

If B2S OOH advertising isn’t already a part of your campaign strategy, there’s a good chance it should be. Spending on K–12 students alone is expected to grow nearly 11% this year while B2S school spending on college age students is anticipated to increase by 27%. With so many omnichannel DSPs now offering DOOH inventory, it’s also easier than ever to integrate DOOH into omnichannel B2S campaigns to capture your audiences on the path to and at the point of purchase. Not only can it go a long way in driving brand awareness and greater ad call, but it can also help inspire on-the-fly purchases. In some cases, where consumers view the OOH ad as useful, it can even go a long way in instilling greater brand trust and loyalty. The advantages are clear.

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