With COVID-19 affecting every industry, advertising in all its forms has felt the effects of this global pandemic and with limited consumer travel and movement, out-of-home (OOH) advertising is one channel that has been hit particularly hard. Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is one of the oldest forms of advertising, however recent changes in technology, increased customer awareness, and the effects of the current global pandemic require a reevaluation of current OOH advertising strategies and practices.

COVID-19 has forced advertisers to rethink, as the pandemic had led to an immediate drop in global advertising spend. According to Publicis, year-on-year revenue in China was down 15%, while European countries saw an average reduction of 9% with France and Germany’s ad spend falling 12% and 7% respectively.

Although the remainder of 2020 looks set to be challenging, with the IAB announcing that almost a quarter, approximately 24%, of media buyers, planners and brands have paused spending until the end of Q2, advertisers must remain hopeful that the industry will bounce back.

With phased re-openings being initiated across the world and consumers slowly beginning to leave their homes, this provides OOH advertisers with the opportunity to recover from this global pandemic and prosper in this market into the future. We examine key OOH & DOOH trends to watch out for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

Build Brand Awareness with Smart Creatives

Although lockdown restrictions are easing in certain markets, the reverberations of the pandemic threaten to derail the out-of-home moment in the sun. Leading OOH companies such as Clear Channel, JCDecaux and Ströer have all outlined a number of cost-cutting measures, as more than a third of the world’s population (2.6 billion) have been in confinement by late-March.

Furthermore, outdoor advertising might seem pointless to many brands right now, however, the sense of occasion that comes with leaving the house, even if it is at the local store or petrol station, means OOH ads have an opportunity to be more relevant than ever before. If brands can tap into the right insight and be intelligent with their creative, to engage and entertain consumers who are exposed to their advertisement that will resonate and capture attention.

A single OOH advertisement can be seen as a one-off airing of a TV ad, used to drive PR, interest, and fame on social media rather than being seen as just TV reach. With OOH being easy to see, photograph, and share it is a huge opportunity for brands to create exposure with a relatively small media investment. Therefore, getting the creative right for your OOH ads is crucial to surviving in these unpredictable times.

Adapt Value For Money Messaging Approach

Due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, with many consumers now unemployed or living off a lower income, consumers are demonstrating an increased value consciousness in their buying decisions. As a result, this will demand many brands to change their tactics in order to appeal to the new buying mindsets, but also presents opportunities for media owners with DOOH assets surrounding retail environments.

Network owners can use DOOH installations which are positioned close to shopping malls, and other retail outlets to promote sales items, special promotions, and other value-focused offerings related to nearby businesses. This provides an easy way to connect buyers with products they want at the prices they are more likely to pay and provides OOH advertisers with the opportunity to leverage the contextual power of location-based DOOH.

The power of sales-assisted impulse buying extends beyond just people walking into stores. A recent survey conducted by Doodle found that 85% of people who are picking up an online order in-store tend to make an additional purchase when visiting the store and therefore displaying compelling sales content on display screen positioned near the entrance and in the parking lot could go a long way towards generating additional revenue from a wider variety of shoppers. There is a stronger immediate appeal and desire in seeing an advertisement for products that are purchasable on location rather than seeing an ad for something that would be required to be purchased at a later time or date.

The Evolution of Touch Screen OOH Advertisements

Many advertisers are big fans of interactive digital signage as a method of delivering ad-supported content and tools to various audiences. Interactive advertising delivers an eye-catching experience, which is exactly what media buyers and network owners want to achieve. Touch, of course, is the primary type of interactivity deployed across many digital signage platforms and it has had its share of detraction long before COVID-19, with cleanliness being a concern after numerous stories of harmful bacteria found to be very prevalent on touchscreen kiosks. However, thanks to COVID, there is now more attention than ever before being placed on what we touch, how we clean them, and how we can improve hygiene in a bid to stop the spread of bugs.

With that being said, there is no evidence that suggests that touchscreen interactivity will disappear anytime soon. Virtually everyone has a touchscreen device in their pockets at all times and therefore touch has become our default method of interaction. What is also important to note is that viruses such as coronavirus tend to spread during interactions with others, meaning that interacting with touchscreen devices can actually be preferable to many people who would rather avoid speaking with strangers. Data from Perch Interactive has found that public-facing touchscreens have already rebounded to better than pre-COVID levels by late June.

Since touch is unlikely to disappear, the priority for advertisers becomes in finding new ways to make the touch experience safer or more palatable. Simple measures such as offering touchless access to hand sanitizer beside the screens or wipes to clean down the display before and after use will go a long way to increase user confidence. The introduction of QR codes which send information directly to consumer’s mobile devices can also limit the amount of time users are expected to engage with a digital kiosk. There are many ways in which OOH advertisers can improve the touch experience for consumers and many media owners should explore the various options to see what can be incorporated across their networks as it will likely prove worthwhile.

Curbside Pickup & DOOH Are Here To Stay

Curbside pickup, for those that are not familiar with the concept, is when orders are placed via phone or online and are packaged up and either placed in the consumers’ car for them or set outside for pickup, hence the name, curbside pickups. This has been around for many years as it was originally deployed as part of a push towards buying online and picked up in-store by retailers who were looking to compete with the convenience of online-only shopping.

It has been during the current pandemic that curbside pickup has really taken off, with a recent McKinsey survey of Canadian sentiment highlighting that 18% of consumers initially tried curbside pickup during the pandemic with a further 11% continuing to use this service throughout and it appears that is likely to continue. It will take some time before we fully recover from life after COVID-19. There are indications that consumers will continue to prioritize cleanliness and hygiene long after the pandemic has ended suggesting that hands-off shopping will remain in-demand for some time thus requiring strategic thinking of how to communicate with this customer segment.

Indoor point-of-purchase displays will not be suitable for this cohort of customers who are choosing to remain in their cars and depending on the manner in which curbside pickup is managed at various stores, the approach of placing digital displays near the entrance may no longer suffice. But addressing this new reality could offer a great opportunity for OOH advertisers.

Curbside is not necessarily faster than regular in-store shopping and buyers who decide to go down this route will be sitting and waiting in their cars. Therefore, deploying larger displays which are visible from a larger portion of the car park or deploying several smaller DOOH displays distributed throughout could prove to be extremely valuable for reaching this target audience while they are waiting with nothing else to do. That being said, to better capture this audience’s attention, media owners should ensure that the DOOH platforms offers should have the ability to display dynamically changing messaging and content as this can allow advertisers to deliver various creative content based on external triggers such as the weather. It can also allow advertisers to display real-time information such as news, traffic, and weather updates alongside the advertisements. Introducing this kind of dynamic content playing around the pickup areas will help the screens to deliver the message that meets the consumers’ interests, maximizing the value for consumers, retailers, and the advertiser simultaneously.

What Does the Future Hold For OOH Advertising?

It is still unclear how long COVID-19 will continue to affect the world with the possibility of both second and third waves to follow in the near future. However, as a result, the mantra for many companies has been to adapt and change, in order to survive in these unprecedented times.

There is no doubt that the current climate opens the door to a range of brands that are willing to be brave, proactive, and engaging. Although a decrease in ad budgets are driving down the price of big-ticket media buys, this presents a huge opportunity for brands who are willing to take a risk to go viral for a relatively small sum of money. However, if advertisers are not smart about the creative material they plaster on the outside world, they will soon find themselves out in the cold.