States are Reopening. It’s Time to Start Thinking About OOH Again.

When shelter-in-place orders went into effect nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, agencies and brands were quick to pull their out-of-home (OOH) and digital out-of-home (DOOH) campaigns as budgets tightened and audiences stayed home. 

However, with many states currently navigating plans to reopen, and warmer, summer weather approaching, there is a major opportunity to re-engage with consumers in those states via OOH advertising as they re-enter the outside world.

Ultimately, we know that people will go back outside. And they’ve already done so, with the average distance traveled amongst Americans up at least 28% since the first week of April, according to Geopath and Intermx. With more consumers back out on the roads, OOH will rebound to “become more valuable than ever.” Now is the time for agencies and brands to get ahead of competitors, revisit their OOH strategies, and smartly phase them back into plans.

Here are five things to consider.

(1) Take advantage of rates and deals. OOH media owners and platforms are providing many incentives for agencies and brands to take advantage of and reinvest in this channel. These include lower or discounted rates, adjusted minimums for measurement study requirements, and free creative services. Now may be the time to get more out of a previously planned “cookie-cutter” campaign with tailored creatives or performance and brand studies. 

(2) Dig deep into the data. Data will be key to giving brands a visual for what is going on regionally or locally so that they know how to best allocate and adjust spend accordingly. 

For example, consumers are beginning to incrementally increase their travel every week. So, data on average distance traveled in different markets can be used to inform the radius of relevant targeting around store points of interest (POIs). You can activate DOOH and mobile media within a given radius of your brand’s retail locations as each one opens up — or surround your competitors to redirect consumers back to your stores.

(3) Rethink standard brand creative strategy. While some companies may be hesitant to appear insensitive by advertising during this time, only 8% of consumers believe that companies should stop advertising, with many claiming that it is a welcome distraction, according to data from Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer. 

But just as brands have been doing for the most of this outbreak, you should consider combining “Thank You” messages, as well as messages of hope and resourcefulness, where appropriate. Highlight any deals or offers for essential workers, or thank the community for any support provided through gift cards or remote orders and encourage them to come back in. 

Some brands are also choosing to re-enforce consumer confidence by showcasing changes made to ensure safety while in-store or on premise, especially as consumers have gotten more comfortable with online shopping now. If you are a brick-and-mortar business, your messaging will have to work extra hard to drive consumer trust.  

(4) Existing assets & strategies can extend for “surround sound” impact. Many brands that have invested in campaigns across TV, online and streaming video, and streaming audio, can continue that engagement as audiences move away from their in-home screens and re-enter the world. OOH media is an easy extension that can leverage the same creative assets and provide additional scale in a media landscape that has become particularly crowded this election year. 

OOH has always been one of the strongest media drivers for brand recall and awareness. Brands that gained market share from customers that established new purchase behaviors during the pandemic should consider leveraging OOH to reinforce and create loyalty as these consumers go back into the wider world. On the other hand, research shows that category leaders often lose loyalty during moments of crisis. Combining video with OOH to maintain awareness and surround point-of-purchase moments can help keep customers with your brand. 

(5) Mitigate risk by avoiding upfront commitments. None of us can predict what the health risks, the economy, and our lives will look like several months from now. Brands can’t afford to be locked into investments that might not make sense as conditions evolve. Now is not the time for media planning and buying “as usual.”

With programmatic, brands can tap into the powerful broadcast impact of OOH, without long-term commitments and advanced booking holds. With an automated creative approval process, you can easily launch campaigns and swap creative messaging during key moments, based on the news cycle and government restriction updates. Deliver tailored messaging to highlight custom offers based on store, region, day of week, time of day, and weather conditions. Flexibility and precision maximize your campaign’s impact and lower risk to your brand.

As consumers go back out in the physical world, brands will re-invest in OOH, especially DOOH, as they try to make up for the loss of brand recall during the pandemic. And with these tips in mind, brands can do so in a way that gives them both a competitive advantage and real-time flexibility during unpredictable times.

Leslie Lee is VP of marketing at Vistar Media.

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