Brighter Days Ahead: The COVID Vaccine and OOH Advertising

Vaccines are rolling out by the millions across the U.S. and Canada right now, which has given much-needed hope to everyone after what has been a very dreadful year and a half. The distribution of the vaccine across different countries has depended on a number of factors including, population, price, distribution capabilities, geography, quantity, and more. Different countries have had to deal with the rollout quite differently, whether it’s on their terms or not, which has put everyone on high alert. What has helped health organizations, vaccine distributors, and companies that have created vaccines, is the use of Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising to let people know what’s happening with the vaccine rollout, why people should get the vaccine, and any other information people might need. The Out of Home Association of America (OAAA) recently came out with a study, stating that 55% of consumers who live in large cities reported that they had noticed more OOH messaging and signage in recent times in comparison to 41% of the general population. Health organizations are eager to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible to let them know about the vaccine and why they should be getting and OOH advertising companies are eager to help spread that message. Let’s take a look at how and why OOH advertising is the best medium for spreading the word about the COVID vaccine and how it has helped in the past.

OOH Is Educational 

An image of a billboard ad by the CDC asking people to wash their hands properly to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

OOH advertising has been used as a tool for many large-scale call-to-action ad campaigns in the past. This is because they can be big, bold, and attention-grabbing. According to a recent OAAA study, OOH is most noticeable to consumers that are driving – 83% on highways and 82% in their local neighbourhood. On the road, there isn’t much else to look at besides focusing on the road, so when there’s a giant billboard in front of you, it’s hard not to pay attention to. This is where educational ads can gain the most receptivity and resonate with the most people. And before you say that there aren’t any commuters on the roads because everyone’s at home, nearly 72% of consumers say that they will drive to work at least part of the time over the next few months. This is where vaccine information will be noticed the most and be taken into consideration by passersby. 

An image of an OOH ad by the CDC in the subway telling people to practice social distancing.

Last year when numbers of cases were increasing at an alarming rate and COVID-19 was getting very serious, the OAAA partnered with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to create a variety of outdoor PSAs using OOH ads. Thousands of Digital OOH (DOOH) units were deployed across America that educated people about the seriousness of COVID and the measures that everyone should be taking to ensure that they stay safe and healthy. The campaign is still ongoing and has been successful in delivering important COVID-19 rules and regulations set by health professionals. 

An image of a poster ad by DPAA Global. It is bright yellow with little images of people all over it.

DPAA Global, a trade organization for the digital outdoor advertising industry, created a similar campaign in order to raise awareness about COVID regulations and how to stay safe during such a turbulent time. DPAA Global teamed up with the ad agency Madwell spreading their slogan, “We Are the Countervirus,” which was displayed on hundreds of thousands of digital billboards worldwide, including elevators and doctors offices. What made the ads so easily accessible and engaging for people was the integration of social media into them. Each ad included the hashtag, “#flattenthecurve,” referring to dropping the number of confirmed COVID cases, and encouraged people to spread positive messages in appreciation for all the front line workers who’ve put their lives at risk to save others that have contracted the virus. The campaign also provided people with the steps to flatten the curve on the ads themselves and the Instagram account they created alongside the OOH ads. The campaign was hugely successful in spreading awareness and bringing a bit of light to such a gloomy and terrifying situation. 

Check out this link for more outstanding OOH advertising campaigns that gave thanks to health care workers and have provided key information about the pandemic.

OOH Is Intuitive

With all the advancements in technology these days, OOH advertising campaigns can be very instinctive. This means that they are able to reach people when they least expect it, but need it most. The use of programmatic technologies within OOH ad campaigns allows for a more targeted campaign, one that isn’t missing the mark on the target audience. Digiday, a media and marketing online magazine, said it best, “for media buyers, having the flexibility and agility to update campaign creative and settings on the fly, as they can with programmatic advertising, is essential.” Something as important as information surrounding the COVID vaccine should be up-to-date at all times and readily available to people where they are, at a time when they’re most likely to take notice of it. Programmatic OOH advertising allows companies and organizations that are dealing with the vaccine to let people know what’s happening in real-time. Everyone all over the world constantly wants to know when they’ll be getting the vaccine, how it works, who’s providing it, what the side effects are, etc. The best way to let people know (in real-time) all of the information they are so desperately craving right now, is through programmatic OOH advertising. 

An image of an OOH ad in Piccadilly Circus that's bright blue and give thanks to the NHS.

Last year, when the pandemic was extremely new and scary for many around the world, a bunch of the DOOH sites around Piccadilly Circus in London changed from their usual Coca-Cola and Samsung ads, to bright blue in support of all the NHS workers who risk their lives everyday to save others from COVID-19. The silver lining of this campaign is how quickly and efficiently OOH advertising is able to respond to such situations. There’s a lot of room for OOH advertising to be powerful and useful during such unprecedented and frightening times, which is exactly what this campaign demonstrated.

The Vaccine and OOH

What concerns health officials most, is the fact that people won’t want to get the vaccine once it’s available to them. Besides the news, what they’ve found to be the best way to educate people and reassure them of the effectiveness of the vaccine, is by utilizing OOH advertising. OOH is able to reach a large number of people, in a short amount of time. There is also something about OOH ads that make people feel more reassured and confident about what’s being addressed compared to other mediums, like social media and internet ads. This is especially true at a time when people are needing to be constantly reassured and put at ease about the future and about what medical professionals are doing to solve this worldwide problem.

The biggest and most influential vaccine campaign is underway as we speak, created by the COVID Collaborative, a coalition of experts in health, education, and the economy, and the Ad Council, the largest non-profit advertising group in America. This $50 million campaign is one of the biggest public education campaigns in history and aims at educating and supporting marginalized groups who are hesitant when it comes to trusting in the COVID vaccine. A recent survey conducted by the COVID Collaborative and Hart Research, found that while 86% believe that a vaccine will be effective in curbing the virus, only about a third say they will get vaccinated themselves. It also found that a significant majority of Black and Latinx Americans mistrust the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine, with only 14% of Black Americans and 34% of Latinx Americans trusting that a vaccine will be safe. The goal of the campaign is to provide those groups with the most accurate information possible in order to allow them to make an informed decision when it comes to getting the vaccine. This campaign not only includes OOH advertising, but TV, radio, social media, digital, and print. This is a huge undertaking for the ad world and will hopefully give those that see and hear the ads the confidence to make the right decisions when it comes to getting vaccinated.

Wrap Up

This is a critical time for OOH advertisers to be taking advantage of this difficult and troubling situation to educate people and inform them of what’s truly happening with the vaccine. It’s better for people to be hearing the facts from a source that they already trust more than others, and to be understanding just how important it is for all of us to be getting the COVID-19 vaccine. OOH isn’t just an advertising platform at this time, it’s a way for the medium to actually make a difference by informing people about important facts. OOH is a great medium to create PSAs because they can reach millions quickly, efficiently, and in an impactful way. Overall, we’ll all be better off listening to the health professionals who have put a lot of money and time into creating OOH ad campaigns that will inform and inspire all of us, to make the right decision in the end.

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