Ever since the lockdown began due to the pandemic, people have been spending more time outdoors. This means that billboards and other forms of OOH advertisements are being viewed more than ever. Especially since outdoor experiences have once again been approved by the government, like visiting patios and parks, it has become much easier for advertisers to display their marketing campaigns in areas where they will be easily viewed. Furthermore, the uneasy state of the economy, due to the pandemic, has made people more conscious of their shopping habits. The pandemic has also brought awareness to new brands, such as smaller businesses that are now being better supported by locals. This article will assess not only how consumers are noticing OOH ads more than ever but also why.
Outdoor Experiences are on the Rise
Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been trying to stay either at home or in socially distanced outdoor spots as much as possible. This gives OOH advertising, such as billboards, an advantage during this anxiety-ridden time. For example, many restaurants and cafes are now opening outdoor patios, finding outdoor venues for otherwise indoor events such as weddings, and creating physical distancing activities by shifting programs to outdoor settings. With all of these new outdoor opportunities, it’s no wonder that people are starting to notice OOH advertisements more than ever.
In a recent study supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, it was stated that outdoor areas have had significantly lower transmission rates of the virus, which is why even during the lockdowns, many outdoor areas have remained open or are the first to be reopened. This gave people peace of mind to start venturing out into the world again after the pandemic hit. The more time spent outdoors, the more likely that consumers will notice OOH ads such as billboards.
The rise in outdoor experiences also allows businesses to rethink their marketing strategies to better target their audience. With all of the new outdoor venues available, there are now more options for placing OOH ads and new locations to do so. The big, bold, and colorful billboards that many companies create are hard to ignore, which makes it the perfect opportunity for them to display their brand for passersby. Because the economy is having a tough time with such high unemployment rates, it’s more important than ever for companies to have purposeful advertisements that consumers will be able to relate to. By properly placing OOH ads in newly available outdoor locations, businesses have the chance to gain a wider audience group and market themselves according to those specific outdoor venues, thus creating the highest return on investment (ROI).
A great example of this kind of innovative OOH advertising, was recently created by Netflix during the pandemic. Netflix created a viral marketing campaign where they placed posters and billboards with spoilers to their favourite shows or quotes, alluding to the fact that people should be staying inside their homes in order to avoid them. This campaign gave the audience something to relate to during the pandemic as the government continues to tell everyone to stay home as much as possible and physically distance ourselves when we venture outdoors. Furthermore, by placing these ads in essential locations, such as public transit and grocery stores, it becomes hard not to notice your favorite show on display.
New Shopping Habits
Consumers have developed new shopping habits since the start of the pandemic. People are doing less casual shopping and more purpose driven shopping for necessary items. Additionally, businesses that are better socially distanced and have planned around COVID to maintain that distancing have greater chances of being visited. This allows businesses to change their marketing strategies to advertise in areas that are essential and planned around COVID, such as grocery stores and curbside pickup areas.
In a CMO article, the Dynata research survey found that brands that targeted their advertising to show empathy or a call to action to aid in the fight against the pandemic, making consumers more likely to view their ads and buy their products. This also means that if companies are more mindful of the pandemic, they will have greater return on investment, since people are more conscious of their purchases. However, it is also interesting to note that almost half of the people surveyed said that they believe some companies may actually be taking advantage of the pandemic to promote their products. This is why OOH ads, such as billboards, should be displayed cautiously. These ads must show empathy but shouldn’t try to sell to the consumer too directly, otherwise it may be a turn off to the consumer as the main focus during the pandemic is to promote messages of community and purpose.
Almost 40% of buyers in that same survey believe that companies should acknowledge the pandemic. This means that the placement of the location of ads is just as important as the message that’s being displayed. The ads that demonstrated how a company was dealing with the crisis had the most appeal to buyers, therefore, it is more important than ever to promote the right message at the right time. Consumers are also watching brands initiatives closely, such as the actions they are taking to help the pandemic, and their employees. Brand activism plays an important role in consumer behavior during the pandemic as people have become more aware of the purchases they are making and taking a closer look at the brands they are buying from. Brands who advertise their trustworthiness and loyalty to their consumers and workers have a greater chance of gaining the same buyers back once the pandemic is over. This is why billboards should be displayed with purpose and not just as a way to sell a product or service.
With the rise of purpose-driven messages in advertisements, consumers have begun to discover new brands. This is especially true for smaller local businesses that people want to support during the pandemic. For example, due to the lack of available supplies, new brands are emerging with new ways of selling essential supplies and services, which people have noticed and will now remain loyal customers to those brands.
Creating a meaningful relationship with the consumer has become the most important part of advertising during the pandemic. As more people spend time outside, it has become essential for small businesses, local stores, and even larger retailers to show why they should be trusted by the consumer. By addressing the concerns of consumers as well as demonstrating a sense of community, brands are more likely to get recognized.
Due to supply shortages from trusted brands such as Lysol and Clorox, new and local businesses have gained the opportunity to create their own alternatives. With new products and services to be sold, it’s more important than ever for these brands to get their name out there and run ad campaigns to support their efforts during the pandemic. Supply shortages are currently a major concern and by addressing this concern, and showing consumers a positive message, it will lead to lasting brand awareness.
Even though consumers will continue to use both old and new brands, the pandemic has given the opportunity for new brands to come to light and run their own ad campaigns. For example, retail companies now have the chance to produce and sell masks, which is a great way to demonstrate awareness during the pandemic since most places around the world require mandatory masks in public places. The Ritz Herald recently published an article about a retail company named Dhvani that has been donating masks through their, “A Mask for Every American” campaign. They advertised a massive billboard that displayed a face with their slogan in the middle, representing the mask that the person is wearing. The billboard is bold and manages to capture the audience’s attention, leading to lasting brand awareness as there are many Americans that have lost their jobs and cannot afford to buy masks. Furthermore, the company has said that they are donating to first responders, long-term care homes, homeless organizations, and essential workers – demonstrating to consumers that they are building a sense of community and not just trying to make a profit. Consumers who weren’t aware of this brand before will surely be able to remember the strong message that they represent during the pandemic by seeing their massive billboard and receiving a free mask.
COVID has changed the way businesses are run, which includes changing advertising strategies to be able to reach out to the widest possible audience. Billboards and other OOH advertisements are being noticed more than ever due to the pandemic having a huge effect on the economy. Consumers are more likely to notice ads that have empathy, address customer concerns, and take action towards ending the pandemic. With people spending more time outdoors, ad campaigns need to be moved to the locations that drive the most traffic. Now that people are more conscious of their shopping habits and new brands are being brought to consumers attention, it becomes evident that this is the best time to invest in OOH advertising.