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It's a match: why social media loves OOH advertising


By Amy Houston | Senior Reporter

February 19, 2021 | 6 min read

This week, The Drum's social media executive Amy Houston considers why social media and OOH advertising are such an effective marketing combination.

McDonald's OOH campgin

Leo Burnett's OOH campaign for McDonald's was recently a hit on social

In many ways, the evolution of out-of-home advertising (OOH) is the story of human communication. We have been making images to get our message across since civilizations began, and it’s thought that the Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to communicate in outdoor spaces, using hieroglyphic rock-inscriptions to broadcast bureaucratic information.

Fast-forward a few thousand years and these concepts are still relevant: use large-scale public promotion to generate awareness. But throw social media, and a heavy dose of creativity into the mix, and you’ve got a match made in marketing heaven.

The idea that OOH and social media are an effective duo might not be new, but it is interesting to consider the reasons why. In essence, the magic of social media lies in sharing content. The polished ads that pop up on our feeds might lend themselves to the highlight reel, but the authentic experience of witnessing something special in real life is unparalleled.

I think it’s the nostalgia that's at the heart of it, as up until the early 2000s OOH was the pinnacle of creative excellence in advertising. To this day, people like the idea of ads in their purest form, but they also want to share them with like-minded people and that’s what social feeds were made for.

Out-of-home advertising offers real-world familiarity, as a single image, video, or strapline can fundamentally tell you a lot about an organization. Having a recognizable brand ethos and a purpose engages audiences. It connects people and makes them want to feel part of a bigger conversation. This storytelling aspect is key to maximizing the impact of cross-media marketing.

Digital out-of-home advertisements are another area in which the similarities with social are particularly striking. The content is comparable, and therefore works across both channels well. Using muted short-form videos that communicate a brand message allows companies to seamlessly transition from outdoor to online.

Over the years, many brands have found the sweet spot with omnichannel advertising. Leo Burnett’s outdoor campaign for McDonald’s was widely praised on social channels this week for its minimalist yet instantly recognizable vibe. Sam Hennigs ‘One Minute Brief’ idea for a KitKat ad (although it never actually ran in real life) spread like wildfire due to its relatability and original flair. Adam&EveDDB’s execution of a ‘special build’ to celebrate Marmite’s new dynamite flavor was also a hot topic.

What is the commonality between these campaigns that ignite such interest on social media? I believe that it boils down to consumers wanting to see forward-thinking creative ideas and that they need to see them done well. Creativity captures people’s imagination and exceptional ideas warrant recognition in both the online and offline world.

We asked The Drum’s Twitter community their thoughts on this. Here’s what they had to say:

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