'We Deliver' -- Advertisers Change Messages On OOH

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, March 27, 2020

There's a new adjective in advertising: “contactless.”

Advertisers — big brands and local small businesses — are changing copy in the context of COVID-19. Sarpino’s pizza delivery is curbside, contactless, and free, says its billboard ad. The use of “contactless” (as a positive), reflects broader points/trends in media.

Advertisers are changing copy in response to the pandemic; out-of-home matches or beats the speed of other media.

In Times Square, Coca-Cola said in its iconic high-contrast red and white: “Staying apart is the best way to stay united.”

More than 9,000 billboards are digital (electronic), along a growing number of screens at pedestrian-level, in transit systems, airports, and elsewhere.



Advertisers communicate with consumers who are still mobile (performing important duties), with boomerang reach on social media.

Some of these advertisers are communicating on behalf of business functions deemed “essential” in government stay-at-home orders, such as grocery and hardware stores, gas stations, and prepared food that is not consumed on the premises.

Most out-of-home ads promote local business, and most of those are considered “small business.”

In larger markets (Tampa, for example), a typical advertiser using out-of-home displays employs 43 workers on average. A dollar spent on out-of-home media returns $5.97 on average (source: Benchmarketing). 

A popular roadside business based in the Midwest tested billboard effectiveness by temporarily covering the copy. The result: an immediate loss of at least 10% in sales.

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, out-of-home advertisers are communicating messages such as “Open for carry out,” delivery services, availability of needed supplies, and employment opportunities.

Out-of-home media also is communicating non-commercial messages, such as the Red Cross seeking blood donations.

State, local, and federal government agencies communicate messages promoting hygiene and prevention.

States and localities have issued stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These orders typically exempt “essential businesses.” The executive order issued by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear on March 25 identifies essential services to include hardware stores, media, gas stations, banks, and restaurants for consumption off premises. 

New York State wrote to Lamar Advertising Company that its business function is essential.

“Based on the information you have provided,” New York’s Empire State Development wrote to Lamar Advertising, “that business function is an essential business and/or supports an essential business and is not subject to the required 100% workforce reduction pursuant to the revised Executive Order 202.6. However, your business has been designated as essential solely with respect to those employees that must be present at the business location in support of essential business activities.”





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