Outdoor advertising - a perfect yin to a digital yang?


21 Jan 2019

Outdoor advertising - a perfect yin to a digital yang?

I have always pondered over how much power the out of home advertising on the tube had. My escalator ride and a couple of minute wait for a train could easily result in a cinema visit or a show booked later that evening. I can never quite resist the big format and the fact that I hardly ever look at my phone during those few minutes before getting on the train. My ‘weakness’ for outdoor advertising is not an isolated case and UK Out of Home revenue has seen year on year increase, with the first three quarters of 2018 outperforming that period the year before according to Outsmart, the trade body for the Out of Home. Sky, Coca-Cola, Unilever, O2, Twentieth Century Fox were some of the top 20 out of home advertisers of 2017, and all increased their spending compared to 2016. So what makes out of home advertising so irresistible and social media age-resistant for that matter?


First of all it’s in the physical world - that means it cannot be subjected to click fraud or be served against content that could be potentially damaging for a brand. There is something quite comforting for any marketer to see their hard-fought campaign in situ. The sheer size and impact of the out of home formats is unmatchable and will stop even the busiest people in their tracks.


The digitalisation of the out of home industry has also brought a great new level of flexibility to the advertising process. What used to be a single static campaign has been replaced with multiple creatives, served at different times of day, shown at different locations, often interactive and tailored specifically to the audiences they are meant for. Like motivational messages on TFL announcement boards, a personalised/targeted creative has brought a smile to my face many a time during my morning commute, and I cannot be the only one.


Another great feature of outdoor advertising is its reach and frequency. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just all sit at home staring at phones. Whether it is a morning commute, a school run or a trip into town for social engagements, our streets are full of people waiting to be dazzled. We all tend to follow certain routes each day, and therefore our exposure to certain messages is inevitable and makes it so much harder to forget about or ignore.


One of the frequently repeated reasons of not investing in the out of home activity is the lack of ability to track its effectiveness and measure the return on investment. With tighter budgets and yet increasing requirements, marketers are focused on getting their money’s worth and are forever tasked with justifying their spend. This is what makes digital advertising a winner - where everything can be tracked, monitored, measured and reported on. However, it’s worth pointing out, out of home campaign KPIs can be very much embedded in driving online activity, including measuring site traffic with Google Analytics, measuring cost per click and click through rate with Google Adwords, employing social media image recognition and geofencing - utilising both outdoor and mobile campaigns - to name a few.


Finally, a new study conducted by Rapport has highlighted that OOH use increases brand fame and trust. The report considered 171 case studies from the UK, Germany, China, Australia and Malaysia drawn from the IPA’s Effectiveness Awards Databank (2004-2016). It found that brands which spent 15% or more of their media budget on their out of home activity took advantage from a significantly greater social media uplift. These so-called ‘power users’ saw their brand trust ratings increase by 24% while consumer perception of their brand quality shot up by 106%. Out of home was found to boost business effects on all channels, with the top three being online (31%), social (56%) and search (by a whopping 80%), calling for out of home advertising to be a permanent fixture in any marketing mix.