With the temperatures rising and the sun inching its way out of hiding (finally), that could only mean one thing—summer 2021 is fast approaching! June 21 marks the first day of summer and we couldn’t be more stoked for all of what’s to come for the Out-of-Home (OOH) industry. There is no debate that things have been evolving faster than most people can keep track of and with restrictions ever-changing. Today, however, businesses are starting to see that bright shining light at the end of the tunnel slowly, and depending on where you live, quickly emerging in some cases.
As we go into the second year of this toasty season amidst the pandemic, you may be wondering what makes this summer different from that of last year. More specifically, you may be asking yourself what you should expect from the OOH industry Circa Summer 2021.
So, before we dive into the forecasted trends for the upcoming season, let’s consider what last year looked like for OOH and the advertising industry as a whole.
Brief History of (OOH) Time
There is no question that the OOH advertising industry took a blunder during 2020. It’s said that the demand for public transportation dropped an average of 75% nationwide in response to the 55% of businesses offering some capacity for working from home on a global scale. This posed significant threats to the OOH industry for obvious reasons- fewer people outside, means fewer impressions, resulting in fewer revenues. Not to mention, a significant proportion of the OOH target segment are commuters at the end of the day. Therefore, such a colossal adjustment to people’s work lifestyle- playing out in the manner of working from home, resulted in businesses completely reevaluating their advertising strategies.
Looking at the OOH industry in the summer of 2020, there’s a token shift that occurred. With the rise of standardization accelerating a great deal in response to the pandemic, programmatic Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) emerged during this period, without any indications of slowing any time soon. This came as a reaction to advertisers’ need for speed and flexibility across their media spend as well as a desire for guaranteed audiences fueled the growth.
In combination with this DOOH trend and lowered infection rates caused the OOH market to recover modestly in summer 2020. Seeing during that time trustworthiness in the channel had increased by +14% to 57%, big brands such as Guinness, McDonald’s, and HSBC returned to the OOH realm.
Growth of Internet Advertising
Where there are losers, there are winners. And in the case of the 2020 advertising industry, undoubtedly, internet advertising took the cake. For there to be any sort of growth during such an unsteady and tumultuous period like the one we are currently going through, is impressive, to say the least- but for the digital advertising industry revenue to grow by 12.2% in contrast to 2019 is outright mind-blowing. The bulk of this growth is coming from- by no surprise to most, I’m sure- social media advertising. This industry experienced the highest year-to-year growth at a striking 16.3% and accounting for 30% of all internet advertising revenue.
This transition makes a lot of sense, of course. The only way advertisers were/are able to reach their audience now that they’re at home is through their devices. However, this point actually brings us to the first unique opportunity this coming summer; all stemming from the fact that the internet is getting noisy. With brands pumping out social media posts and running internet ads constantly, there are progressively becoming less and less room to inject your business’s message and gain any amount of wiggle room. It’s like trying to have a conversation with a massive group of other people and each person is trying to talk over the other- ultimately getting louder and louder until you can’t really decipher anything anymore.
We can actually see this getting played out in the numbers; in comparison to 2014, it takes 10 times the budget to generate 30% of the results in regard to digital marketing. On top of that, social media is seen as trustworthy by just 40% of users– which you can be reminded of OOH’s number of 57% from earlier. Furthermore, Google algorithm updates are becoming progressively more selective with their coveted search results, internet advertising costs are rising, and marketing automation is making brands obnoxious.
OOH Cuts Through the Noise of Digital Advertising
Having established this, we can begin to look at OOH through a new lens- and summer 2021 is the most opportune time.
It’s said that sticky brands cut through the noise. So, does this mean that we should stay away from digital advertising? Well, not exactly. An advertising strategy that all businesses should prioritize is to be everywhere. This doesn’t mean you should abandon ship on one area because competition is increasing, but you should look for other mediums to have your brand stand out. Dum, duh, duh, dumm (this is where OOH comes in like a knight in shining armour)!
With major OOH brands taking quite the hit last year and recovering modestly in 2021, businesses are just starting to trickle back into this in-person media channel. As a result, there really hasn’t been a better time to capitalize on this seemingly quiet medium at the moment. As it’s suggested by many strategic marketers, utilizing OOH as a multi-channel medium to amplify the voice of your brand/campaign is vital- but looking back historically, this method has typically been used to support campaign activity rather than lead it. Marketing strategists are beginning to take it one step further by suggesting brands to take this as an opportunity to change this around- have OOH be the leader of their integrated campaign activity.
Look at it from this perspective; all customers see are brands trying to get a hold of them through their screens. Now more than ever, people are highly receptive to different advertising tactics, making OOH more attractive than before. Rather than looking down, the audience is turning their heads up because, well, they haven’t been able to for a year and a half.
A Shot and We’re Running Outside
Vaccination rates are soaring these days, seemingly every week we are breaking new records. Research predicts that by the end of June 50% of US citizens will have two doses and Canada will have 90% of the population partially vaccinated. Although it’s hard to know for certain, in context, The World Health Organization has stated that in order to achieve “herd immunity”, 90% of the population must be fully vaccinated. Although this number is subject to change and likely won’t be achieved completely by the summer, we will be well on our way to getting to that sweet spot of an incrementally more “normal” state (i.e. eased restrictions, social gathering sizes, etc.).
We can now look at the recent research being conducted that is showing that 81% of people are planning to visit a shopping mall, 58% are planning on visiting restaurants once they open if they haven’t already, and 76% are planning a holiday or staycation. This of course translates into more people outside and more opportunities to get eyeballs on your OOH ads.
Whispers of the “Roaring 20s” Post-Pandemic
As stated previously, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to reach herd immunity by the summer, but (emphasis on the but), we will start to see some serious steps in that direction. So, what is this “Roaring 20s” theory? Well, it’s a much-talked subject amongst doctors and medical sociologists who study the impact of pandemics. Looking at the history books we can see this play out in the Influenza pandemic of 1918. During the outbreak, people become risk-averse and avoid excess spending where possible. After the dust has settled and infection rates plummet, however, consumer preferences go through an upheaval of change and frivolous spending. Coined the “Roaring 20s” for a reason, people will relentlessly seek out social interactions and as a result, inject money back into businesses. And you guessed it- more opportunities for impressions on your billboards, banisters, and any outdoor advertisement of your choosing.
COVID has been a period of transformation for businesses, and this past year and a half has been filled with unknowns, apprehension, and downright fear. The consumer behavioural paradigm has shifted massively causing age-old industries to go obsolete and as a result, companies are looking to their counterparts to make the first move. But as the dust begins to settle with mass vaccinations, we are starting to get a clearer understanding of what the post-COVID consumer industry will look like- presenting along with it, vast new opportunities and gaps in the market waiting to be filled.
OOH is one industry in particular that has experienced exponential growth through technological innovations seen in programmatic DOOH, and the summer looks to be a promising (and exciting) period where these newfound strengths can be displayed widely. On top of that, the overcrowded digital marketing industry has opened the door to the OOH channel being utilized as a frontrunner for campaigns instead of a supporting role.