‘A Buyer’s Market’: Why OOH Is in Demand During the Pandemic

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During a time when many other types of advertising have faltered, out-of-home (OOH) advertising is having a moment. Despite a nationwide pandemic, OOH activations are on the rise. Political spending on OOH media is up 75% compared to the same period in 2018, and direct-to-consumer brands are seeing increases in both aided and unaided brand awareness.

What’s driving the push? According to Quan CEO Brian Rappaport, there’s been a distinct change in consumer traffic patterns since the pandemic began. Brands that are capitalizing on those changes are reaching targeted groups of consumers at “firesale” prices.

Discounts of up to 90% off prime inventory are materializing in areas that reflect new consumer traffic patterns, including parks, pharmacies, and supermarkets. While OOH advertising is far from back to normal, Rappaport says the market is heading into a more “comfortable” position.

“Cities are reopening, so brands are definitely starting to go back to a more ‘normal’ method of planning – and eyeing campaigns for the remainder of summer, but for the most part it stops there,” Rappaport says.

Without knowing what the future has in store, or when a second coronavirus wave will hit, many DTC brands are hesitant to plan any more than three months out. If cities close back down, and commuter traffic patterns shift once again, then OOH campaigns will have to be reconfigured. However, compared to the beginning of the pandemic, Rappaport says OOH is in a much more solid position, and brands are feeling more comfortable spending on this kind of media.

“When it was mid-March, campaigns were being shifted and in some cases canceled, and clients were nervous — rightfully so. It was full-blown panic mode, and in the midst of a pandemic, brands didn’t know the right way to communicate with their audience, so they went dark,” Rappaport says. “As mid-April rolled around, and we understood that ‘normal’ was a ways away, brands realized it was OK to get in front of consumers and go back to general messaging.”

Foot traffic data shows that consumers are continuing to emerge from their homes and participating more in activities like dining, grooming, exercising, and drinking. However, the reduction in consumers heading to retail and recreation locations, like shopping centers, malls, and movie theaters, is still ongoing. As cities like New York continue to reopen, and more companies bring people back to work in a limited capacity, traffic is slowly returning to pre-Covid levels. These changes are bringing back the allure of traditional OOH, and Rappaport says more brands are deciding that now is the time to pounce.

“Clients now realize that OOH is a viable channel even in the midst of a pandemic because there’s the opportunity to plan with a hyper-local or audience-first focus.” Rappaport says. “It’s about understanding where to be, where as a brand you can still be effective and reach who you’re looking to reach.”

OOH advertising has long been thought of as a way of reaching consumers before they go into the venues or stores where they will make their purchases, but the savviest brand marketers are thinking beyond that basic approach. Rappaport says one of the keys to his firm’s success during the pandemic has been keeping a sharp focus on client education and bringing brands relevant opportunities.

“We’re always thinking ‘brand first’ and what makes sense regardless of Covid. Did a client change their offering, or are they communicating to their consumers differently? Is there a new product coming out? How can we help them communicate smartly and sensitively via OOH?” he says. “DTC brands that may have thought of OOH as a secondary media channel may now be able to launch or scale their business with OOH as the priority channel because it truly is a buyer’s market.”

That buyer’s market is, at least in part, thanks to the reset in prices on OOH inventory that brands have enjoyed since this spring. As the country has somewhat reset, Rappaport cautions that prices on OOH inventory are ticking back closer to where they were pre-pandemic. However, they’re not there yet.

“It’s still a buyer’s market, and DTC brands should be ready to spend and take advantage of that,” Rappaport says. “You cannot sleep on these opportunities.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.