Out-Of-Home's Pandemic Paradox: U.S. Time Spent Rose As Ad Spending Crashed

In the ultimate paradox for an advertising medium, the time spent with out-of-home media among Americans actually expanded during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, but spending by American advertisers fell, according to findings of PQ Media’s annual Digital Out-of-Home Media Forecast.

While total time spent among Americans expanded 0.5% to 2.86 hours weekly -- continuing an ongoing trend -- U.S. out-of-home ad spending fell 21.1% to $8.73 billion, as demand crashed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ad-spending attrition was even worse for digital out-of-home ad spending -- which fell 23.0% to $2.89 billion -- and worst-of-all for cinema advertising within it, which “cratered 44.3% in 2020,” according to PQ Media CEO Patrick Quinn.

While all of forms of out-of-home ad spending are expected to expand again this year -- +3.5% for cinema, +9.2% for digital out-of-home, and + 7.3% for total out-of-home -- in the U.S., the marketplace will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022 for digital, and 2023 for total out-of-home, according to Quinn.

The report projects similar patterns of crashing and rebounding for the global out-of-home advertising marketplace, with digital contracting 11.9% in 2020, but expanding 4.9% this year, and total out-of-home spending falling 13.3% in 2020, but rising 6.6% this year.

“Among future growth drivers will be the continued expansion of programmatic media-buying to out-of-home media operators outside the top-tier players, increased use of mobile integration tactics and improving ROI metrics driven by smart technology,” Quinn predicts, adding that consumer exposure to out-of-home advertising inventory has already “exceeded 2019 levels” worldwide.

2 comments about "Out-Of-Home's Pandemic Paradox: U.S. Time Spent Rose As Ad Spending Crashed".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 9, 2021 at 9:06 a.m.

    I assume that the "time spent with OOH media" estimates refer to the amount of time that people were out-of doors per day. It's rather surprising to see even a slight uptick in these estimates for 2020 as it is widely reported that many people spent more time at home during the first year of the pandemic. As for the ad spending aspect, there were reductions in many media venues as advertisers cut back in expectation of lower demand for certain products and services. Out-of-home was hit hard because many marketers probably believed that people would spend less, not more, time away from home.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, September 9, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

    I'm unsure how the data is collected and analysed in the US, but the use of mobile-phone location tracking is commonly used.

    A pitfall that some fall into is aggregating the time-spent and reporting that quantum without taking into account that mobile-phone penetration has probably increased and that allowing device location is typically increasing.

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