Why OOH Is Effective In Reaching Millennials And Gen Z

Today there are more than 80 million American Millennials representing $200 billion in annual buying power.

Millennials and Gen Z make up nearly half of the US population and represent the most influential consumers. However, Millennials and Gen Z are also the most elusive audiences to engage, as they lead the charge on cord-cutting, ad-blocking and radio-streaming.

Currently more than half of millennials actively block ads and Gen Z is even more likely to use a form of ad blocking. This year, over 33% of television consumers will have canceled traditional Pay-TV services and now over 90% of the US population listens to streaming radio, with most vehicles already equipped to offer streaming services. The point being, reaching Millenials and Gen X with traditional TV, radio, and digital is becoming increasingly less effective.

The shift in audience consumption habits has led to more investment in out-of-home (OOH) marketing. Outdoor ads have a steadfast, evergreen quality that appeals to most younger consumers and in contrast to other media channels, cannot be overlooked by skipping, fast-forwarding or paying more to avoid ads.



Here are three reasons why out-of-home advertising is the most effective media for reaching Millennials & Gen Z:

Authentic and real-world experience resonate

One of the only things the vast majority of Millennials agree on is they don’t like to be marketed to. Gen Y craves brand authenticity, with 89% preferring simple, straightforward ads, and 90% noting they want a brand’s messages to match its actions.

Gen Z  also values authenticity and real-world experiences. In fact, according to a recent global study by Kantar Millward Brown, OOH is the #1 preferred ad format among Millennials and Gen  Z. 

And according to Nielsen, “one out of every four consumers will post an image of an outdoor ad to Instagram.” Consumers are also 48 percent more likely to click on a mobile ad after being exposed to the same ad on an out-of-home advertisement first.

While Gen Y and Z consumers love content, they have little tolerance for interruptive ads – making outdoor ads and experiential media a more important medium for marketers as they look to create awareness, relevance, and affinity with younger consumers.

Shorter attention spans in a digitally saturated world

Both Gen Y and Z have voracious appetites for content, but also shorter attention spans. Gen Zers grew up with smartphones. Their 8-second attention span is even shorter than Millennials, who spend a max of 12 seconds on average.

Gens Y and Z are also aligned in their media consumption habits. Both prefer watching video on-demand. In fact, more than 25% of the Gen Z watch live TV on mobile, with a higher percentage streaming on-demand video.

Digital and social media ads have also become more saturated, and less effective than ever before. Facebook and other social platforms now throttle branded content in news feeds, making it harder for brands to reach their target consumers.

To overcome this challenge, brands are increasing their marketing spend on outdoor ads, bolstering direct-to-consumer engagement in local market with authentic content that is relevant to their daily lives.

OOH Provides A Last-Touch Opportunity

The rise of social and digital platforms has created a major shift in consumer shopping behaviors. Consumers are now able to make purchases with a single click or without even leaving a platform. This has become extremely effective for eCommerce brands, but not all products can and should be sold online. QSR, grocery, tourism and many other industries still rely heavily on intercepting audiences in the real world.

Out-of-home media is a full funnel solution, providing mass awareness with comparable low CPMs, while also providing a last touch opportunity before consumers reach their destination.

Mobile phones act as the new survey, providing OOH marketers with the ability to reach specific audiences based on their individual daily journey, then measure if they were exposed to outdoor ads and then later visit intended destinations.

A recent Billups attribution study found that location, frequency, and context each play an important role in successfully influencing consumer behavior with OOH ads. Targeting customers exposed to OOH ads with greater frequency showed a remarkable increase in retail store visits, with that number increasing further when ads were displayed across formats along their daily commutes.

Brands that think creatively about context, time, location and messaging also stand to win over Gen Y and Z. Nike went full throttle, for example, when the company unveiled its “Believe in Something” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.

Nike’s messaging was anchored by a robust OOH presence. The commercial was first released via a Twitter post on YouTube and young people quickly engaged because it tied into their core beliefs. Nike’s strategic risk paid off, garnering more than $43 million worth of media attention.

In all, consumers spend more than 70% of their time outside, while having less tolerance for digital and mobile ads than ever before. Brands that are able to rise above the noise and remove the barriers that get in the way of reaching Millennials and Gen Z, and shift their focus to invest in real-world formats including OOH, will see better ROI for their marketing spend for years to come.

4 comments about "Why OOH Is Effective In Reaching Millennials And Gen Z".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 14, 2019 at 8:46 a.m.

    Nicholas, I am a supporter of OOH media, especially of the digital variety, however it's a mistake to imply that other media have lost their reach and/or effectiveness by citing misleading figures. The typical TV advertiser is not missing one third of the target audience---as implied by your claim that a third of consumers have "cancelled pay TV services". Actually, broadcast TV reaches almost 90% of all consumers while cable content gets to 75%. Also, where did you get the figure that a typical consumer spends 70% of his/her time out of doors? Is that where they sleep?

    I think that its well past time for OOH advoicates to deal with the real reservation that many advertisers have, namely that a fleeting glance at a billboard or poster is OK as a reminder of ads seen in other media but not as the primary message registration vehicle. If it's true that consumers now have shorter attention spans-----hence OOH ads are as effective as those we see on TV--- surely a well done, objective, study of verified ad recall,message registration and purchase intent ( motivation "lift") comparing the same ads in TV and OOH exposure situations would show this. Is there a valid study of this nature? Is one planned?

  2. PJ Lehrer from NYU, May 14, 2019 at 10:57 a.m.

    LOL. I posted an OOH ad on my Instagram for Mother's Day. 

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, May 14, 2019 at 1:34 p.m.

    Anyone with teenagers today might laugh and say, but when do they leave the house?

  4. Andrew Bierma from Red Truck Media, INC replied, May 31, 2019 at 2:43 p.m.

    Ed, the study you are asking about originates from Kantar Media. The 70% is specific to waking hours but that was not mentioned above this time. Surely an oversight. This stat and several other commonly used statements supporting the capabilities of OOH can be found on the OAAA website here:

    Based upon your comments, you may also find the USA Touchpoints study to be an interesting resource. 


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