Bringing Virtual Reality Back into The Real World: Social Media and OOH

illustration of buildings with symbols for social media at the top (heart, text box, hashtag, location sign)

With the invention of the Internet only a few decades ago, there also came major changes in various fields, like social networking, entertainment, and business. Without a doubt, social media platforms have become one of the major ways that people interact and connect with each other. This leads many to believe that online advertisements will be the end of other forms of brand promotion, including out-of-home (OOH). However, this is a common misconception, as OOH marketing still has a lot of growth potential and is more diverse than ever. OOH has been able to adapt in today’s society by integrating online platforms into their campaigns. This article will take a closer look at why OOH is an effective medium to amplify social media, as well as a couple of case studies of the biggest platforms that are utilizing it.

A Perfect Amplifier for Social Media

According to a survey conducted in 2017 by Nielsen, almost half ofU.S. consumers who saw an OOH advert used a search engine (i.e. Google) to look up more information about that product/service. The online engagement post-OOH ad for three giant social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – is also impactful with at least 23%, which is an interestingly rapid growth when compared with the previous year, when they were relatively new.

The 2019 Facebook Business study also found that OOH is gaining more popularity among  the younger generations. The impact OOH has on Millennials and Gen Z is only beaten out by Facebook ads and is significantly more effective than other traditional media, such as prints and television. Moreover, the results from a recent campaign for Les 2 Vaches, a yogurt brand, was evaluated and saw the amplifying outcome of using OOH together with social media (in which case, Facebook), resulting in an outstanding performance, even better than the initial expected success.

OOH has been the perfect complement for social media, despite being in the middle of a digital world, where an online advertisement is thought to be at the heart of a fruitful marketing campaign. So why does out-of-home stand out among other media outlets in bringing the virtual world back into reality?

Brand Awareness

One of the biggest reasons why a brand should use both social media and OOH advertising together is to expand their market reach. Even while more and more of the older generations are beginning to join online platforms, it is still a playground dominated by the youth. Therefore, a large part of the baby boomer generation is not reached by digital advertising. By using OOH to its fullest potential, it can easily reach a neglected portion of the consumer market that usually prefers physical outlets.

Another setback with only utilizing online advertisements is the rise in the usage of ad-block applications and how online platforms are built to customize the types of ads a user receives. Although the current marketing trend these days is all about personalization, what it means is that not all consumers are being exposed to certain online ads. Thus, it risks the chance of an ad reaching a potential new customer if it is not considered to be in their interest. OOH, on the other hand, owns the advantage that social media lacks, which is non-discriminatory marketing. Without an AI program changing the algorithm every second, OOH ads will be seen by everyone who passes them, no matter which demographic or gender.

illustration of apps: myspace, youtube, facebook, twitter, etc.


The downside of online platforms is that, while it is open to anyone and promotes freedom of speech, it is more difficult to control the constant load of information that users are subject to viewing. Since the world is hypersensitive about certain matters, like politics, one tiny mistake can spread like wildfire and put a stain on a brand’s good name. Launching wholesome and quirky OOH campaigns are one of the most compelling ways brands can bring their status back up and try to regain the people’s attention and trust.

One major shift in consumer culture is the use of social media by brands to promote their products through micro-influencers. This aims at Millennials and Gen Z, as they are more impressionable and more likely to follow viral trends and products. Although that is a strong marketing tactic, a recent survey finds that more than half of Millennials say their trust for social media influencers is declining because it is not entirely transparent and seems to be more about the view count, not the actual product or service being promoted. OOH advertising provides a physical outlet, helping brands regain their status. Still, it is important to point out that 58 percent of that said group simultaneously stated they are more likely to place their confidence in an advert if it is from their favorite influencers. With this vastly diverse audience, it is best to use both social media and OOH to enhance the experience to the highest.

illustration of man walking among timelines

Breaking boundaries

Online platforms have a clear upper hand when it comes to social interaction in our everyday lives, especially in comparison to its peer outlets, like radio or print, as they’re easy to use and more globally based. Long gone are the days of lengthy infomercials every ten minutes, or simple ad boxes at the end of the traditional newspaper. Advertising has been evolving rapidly alongside the rise of social media and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) marketing. One hindrance to the swift increase in social media use is the concern that we are becoming detached from reality and the line that currently exists between what we do online and what happens around us in the real world is diminishing. This is where OOH advertising comes into play – breaking that boundary, and instead, building a bridge between the digital and physical worlds

This kind of blended advertising started with simple lines like, “Go on this website to read more”, or “Text for more info”. Nowadays, we can see a growing trend in the use of QR codes. As smartphones are now considered to be essential for many, everyone has easy access to all things they see and get interested in just by holding their phone camera up for a brief second. Getting people’s attention fast and straight to the point is key when it comes to effective marketing, and OOH does exactly that.

Cost? What Cost?

The same 2017 survey also points out an important aspect of OOH, which is ad spend share. According to the survey, more than 60% of the money spent on advertising goes to television, while the other three mediums (radio, newspaper, and OOH) share the rest, with OOH having the least invested in. To our surprise, after calculating all factors for search activation share, it turns out OOH is much more effective than other outlets, with the overall campaign revenue return on investment (RROI) boosted the highest. This is once again confirmed by the 2018 Summary Report conducted by OAAA, in which OOH’s ad dollar invested is found to be the third-highest out of the listed ad mediums, only after digital search and television, even surpassing that of digital display. Moreover, utilizing OOH also helped to increase RROI for print media and digital searches.

Case Studies


Reddit's Up the Vote campaign billboard, says "This bread stapled to a tree got more votes on Reddit than it took to decide the 2000 presidential election."
Reddit “Up The Vote” Billboard.

Reddit is arguably one of the biggest Internet platforms for socializing, news, and entertainment, all in one place. In light of the 2020 U.S. Election, the site has started its all-out campaign across the country to bring awareness and encourage more people to go out and vote this year. OOH ads were put up at the beginning of this month in four big cities, namely Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York. They were painted with Reddit’s signature bright orange color and powerful messages. The adverts will run alongside a series of AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions held on the platform, encouraging and guiding its users through the process while providing detailed information focusing on this year’s election in November. This is the first major offline campaign Reddit has done, marking its 15th year on the Internet and counting. Taking advantage of its unique upvote mechanic and relatable content, the site’s OOH billboards were carefully crafted to stimulate the public’s interest in rather heavy and info-packed subjects — in this case, the big election day.


Twitter campaign billboard, says "Me on Twitter v. Me in LinkedIn" and two photos of dogs, on theft is silly and on the right is wearing a suit and glasses
Twitter’s “Me on Twitter v. Me on Linkedin”

Twitter’s OOH campaign is the perfect example of an attempt by the company to rebrand. In recent years, Twitter has seen a decline in daily active users, especially when compared to its peer platforms, such as Facebook. While it started as an online social network and was initially used as a first-response medium for a large part of the world, it is now considered to be one of the biggest news outlets on various matters in entertainment, global news, and politics. More recently, the brand’s name has been associated with a more serious and heated connotation, as more and more distressing stories break out around the world. In an effort to reconnect its users with the platform, Twitter launched an OOH ad campaign in San Francisco and New York City. The campaign is based on the famous meme idea, “Me on Twitter vs. Me on [insert platform],” showing the quirky contrasts between the two personas of the users. With this, the company hoped to remind people that there is still this fun, joyful, and relatable side of Twitter, all the while subtly comparing itself to other platforms.


TikTok billboard for BRIT Award 2020
TikTok’s BRIT Awards Billboard in London

In celebration of the 40th BRIT Awards this year, TikTok – a rapid-growing video-sharing platform – has opened a campaign right in the center of London, U.K. The entire city was lit up by the bright, neon, colorful music note logo of the app and displayed a large variety of outlets, such as a giant graffiti wall or immersive projections. This not only caught the attention of the artists attending the awards ceremony but also created general hype online, which in turn, generated massive traffic on the app.


Spotify campaign billboard, says "2018 Goals: Be as humble as the person who got an entire billboard for listening to HUMBLE. 1,251 times."
Spotify’s 2018 Wrapped Statistics

The end of a year is usually a big occasion for many, including wrapping things up, decorating for Christmas, and preparing for the New Year. For a few years now, Spotify has joined in on the festivities by launching its annual “Wrapped” campaign to celebrate the end of the year. The campaign includes OOH advertisements that display an overview of its users’ statistics on top artists, music preferences, etc. One example was a billboard that used light-hearted humor, “Be as loving as the person who put 48 Ed Sheeran songs on their ‘I Love Gingers’ playlist”. This has piqued the general public’s interest in not only that playlist but also the artist, thus more user traffic back to the app is generated.


Even in our modern society, where everything is being moved online and social media is taking over the world by storm, OOH has been proving over and over again its place in the marketing game. Working perfectly alongside social platforms, the two have created a close-knit bond complementing each other to thrive as we head into the future.

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