3 Out-of-Home Myths to Overcome for the Rebound

As marketers brace for the rebound, the imperative to maximize the value of every ad dollar has elevated the focus on the short term and the role of audience data, targeting and business outcomes across channels.

There’s a preconceived notion that out-of-home (OOH) media, while proven as a brand-building channel, has little role to play at the business end of the marketing effectiveness spectrum. That is seen as the territory of performance-based online and social media channels. The perceived wisdom is that as a one-to-many, offline medium, OOH lacks the ability to deeply engage audiences just as much as it lacks data to close the loop between exposure to ads and outcomes.

OOH industry insiders know that these perceptions are outdated. Yes, OOH continues to play its historic role as a brand-building and broad audience reach channel. Arguably, this is now even more important for reemerging brands and businesses and there are signs that marketers have already begun shifting investment back towards brand building.



The celebrated series of Marketing Effectiveness reports by Les Binet and Peter Field, which are based on analysis of hundreds of real campaigns, have proven the preeminence of mass audience reach and long-term brand-building strategies to drive business results, such as growth in market share and profitability. This reinforces the role of channels like OOH as one of the best ways for marketers to drive profitable communications with audiences.

However, the OOH industry’s pre-pandemic investments in data, digital screens, and automated trading technologies have also created new roles for OOH across the customer journey and more actionable measurement of audiences and outcomes. Digitization allows for more tactical, responsive, and measurable forms of OOH advertising that are more attuned to the needs of performance marketers and short-term goals.

2020 was an unpredictable year but the outlook for 2021 is becoming clearer. According to Geopath’s most recent mobility report, U.S. traffic has recovered to roughly 90% of what it was pre-COVID. Seventy-five percent of people  are taking a trip daily and are traveling an average of 16 miles a day. As a result, OOH is poised for a sharp rebound. WARC’s global report forecasts that OOH will be the second-fastest growing medium year-over-year.

We learned a lot last year and we will continue learning and adapting in the year ahead. In this spirit, we took the pulse of brands and agencies to uncover their perceptions and priorities in our latest survey with research provider BWG. Our research demonstrated how myths surrounding OOH advertising continue to shape perceptions of the channel. 

Here are the three dominant myths surrounding OOH advertising and how marketers can navigate them in 2021:

Myth 1: OOH requires a lot of manual effort to plan and manage effectively

Our survey revealed that many brands and agencies often choose to manage OOH internally because it allows them to maintain control of media strategy and execution. That said, their biggest pain point with OOH is the manual effort and resources required to deploy effective campaigns on their own.

This is not surprising. OOH remains a complex and fragmented medium. That’s why it’s vital to make investments in both talent and technology. Expert OOH teams exist to overcome the complexities and deliver value for marketers. But nowadays, audience and campaign planning tools designed specifically for OOH are essential for expert teams to operate at scale. These tools standardize information about OOH advertising inventory, simplify the campaign planning and buying process and leverage data-driven insights to reach the right audiences and deliver the right outcomes.

Digital OOH (DOOH) adoption is accelerating quickly and will play an even larger role within OOH advertising. According to our survey, agencies plan to spend 65% of their OOH budgets on DOOH.

To simplify campaign planning, buying and management across both OOH and DOOH, marketers should partner with expert teams and specialized technology platforms that streamline manual processes and apply cutting-edge planning, targeting, and measurement techniques to drive campaign success.

Myth 2: There’s a lack of visibility on pricing norms in OOH

Many marketers worry they are not paying competitive rates for OOH, they lack visibility into pricing norms, or they don’t have the leverage to negotiate preferred pricing. Pricing transparency ranked as the top priority for agencies and fourth for brands in our survey.

One practice that obscures pricing norms for marketers is media buyers including their fees in media costs. This fee model offers simplicity but the downside for marketers is it makes it difficult to know how much of their budget is really spent on working media.

Non-transparent models can sometimes lead to misaligned incentives for marketers and their providers. Our survey showed that marketers want greater assurances that media partners and placements are selected first and foremost because they drive campaign effectiveness.

A lack of pricing transparency is not endemic to any media channel and all parties in the chain take responsibility for creating a transparent and open system. Agency earnings should be directly linked to value creation within trusted partner relationships. Marketers should align themselves with agencies that operate with transparency as a guiding principle. 

Myth 3: OOH is difficult to target and measure

While performance measurement ranked as the third priority for brands and fifth for agencies in our survey, many are still unfamiliar with OOH targeting, measurement and attribution capabilities due to the disparate datasets and methodologies available.

Audience targeting capabilities ranked as the number one priority for brands and number two for agencies in our survey. Brand and agencies can now access intelligent OOH audience targeting tools, which are designed to make it easier than ever to reach the right audiences. These tools gather audience insights based on people’s recent real-world, observed behaviors — rather than purely historic socio-demographic data. By leveraging new forms of behavioral data, marketers can be more precise with their targeting and messaging.

Measuring campaign effectiveness is usually one of the first things marketers consider when developing cross-channel media strategy, but with OOH it is too often an afterthought.

There is no reason for marketing effectiveness to work differently in OOH than any other channel. The same behavioral data used for audience targeting can also be used to detect real-world exposure to OOH advertising messages and close the loop on campaign outcomes. A well-planned measurement strategy allows marketers to truly understand efficacy of their OOH investment and to uncover new insights to fuel future strategy.

OOH as a brand marketing channel has been transformed by data and digital technologies to deliver more precise and targeted campaigns that are better attuned to drive short-term business outcomes. To overcome the outdated myths surrounding manual effort, pricing transparency and measurement, marketers should partner with expert teams with specialized technologies to simplify the process and unlock the full potential of OOH.



1 comment about "3 Out-of-Home Myths to Overcome for the Rebound".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 17, 2021 at 6:45 p.m.

    Some interesting points, Jonathan. And well stated. 

    The problem is that there are so many different types of out-of-home media ---and venues.On the one hand, you have the traditional 30 -sheet posters  on highways and others at bus stops, subways, etc. But adding to the variety and with entirely different modes of communicatiion are site- based operations like doctors' office TV networks, airport and office building TV, store TV, theater screen media, etc. etc. ---the list is seemingly endless. Each offers its own set of opportunities---and each has it's own problems to overcome.

    Taking all of these as a single entity is problematic as they are inherently selective and, as I noted, they offer quite different ways to communicate with consumers---a 30-sheet poster which is scanned for three seconds while passing by in a car is certainly a different kettle of fish than a TV set in a doctor's waiting room which provides CNN news bites ---and commercials ---often with the sound lowered.

    I have done quite a bit of consulting with OOH media sellers and their basic stumbling block when trying to sell national advertisers---as opposed to local ones---is their lack of a national selling  presence. Indeed, their very geographic selectivity make them a difficult sell to the big TV network types because these brands---as a rule---lack a local ad strategy. They think national with their media buys, leaving it up to their sales promotion arms to worry about Pittsburgh versus Sacramento. I think that this point is often lost on those trying to promote OOH ad spending. It's not about the audience---even if the measurements are extremely varied and self-serving, nor is it about the targeting, or the need for hands-on buying. It's about the lack of a localized marketing strategy at the brand manager level---even for the bigger cities, that makes OOH a tough sell.

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