The Importance Of OOH For Climate Change

We’re living in a time where we have just over a decade to stop the irreversible damages of climate change. As we become increasingly aware of the detrimental environmental impact we have on the earth — especially considering the frequency of fires, flash floods, hurricanes, and droughts – more of us have begun to make changes to what and how we consume. Consumers (especially the younger generations) have been looking to their favourite brands to change the way they create, produce, and sell their products. Sustainability has not only become a trend for brands, but a responsibility. According to a recent WARC survey, 83% of respondents claimed that they will always pick the brand that has a better record of sustainability and 90% agreed that companies and brands have a responsibility to take care of the planet and its people. As more and more brands begin to adopt more eco-friendly practices and products, they also want to let their consumers know about the changes they’ve made. In doing so, brands have turned to OOH advertising to make big, bold, and impactful statements. Not only are brands promoting their efforts to combat climate change, but the OOH industry itself is creating more environmentally friendly features. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the ways in which brands are utilizing OOH to promote sustainability and how OOH advertising is doing its part in making positive environmental changes.

Brands going green with OOH

Brands are constantly looking to align themselves with the same mindset as their consumers. Now more than ever, consumers are thinking about how they can be more environmentally conscious. Therefore, brands are beginning to advertise their environmental interests in order to gain popularity – and hopefully make a change in the process. After all, according to a report by the nonprofit organization CDP, corporations that are actively managing and planning for climate change, secure an 18% higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that aren’t.

Just last year, the mattress company, Casper, teamed up with Cossette Media to create their extremely fascinating “Lights Off” campaign. The billboards were displayed along the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, which is the 5th brightest city in the world. The International Dark-Sky Association estimated that 30% of outdoor light pollution is wasted, which is equivalent to 21 million tons of carbon dioxide being released into the air each year. Furthermore, according to numerous studies done by an array of scientists and psychologists, an increased amount of artificial light can result in sleep disorders, fatigue, headaches, stress, anxiety, and other health problems. So, every night around 9:15PM, Casper’s billboard mimicked the setting sun, which eventually turned to a night sky. This creative move called attention to the detrimental effects of light pollution to the environment and to people. The campaign was also launched in tune with the company’s new Glow Light – a natural lamp designed to help wind down naturally. The ingenious creativity of the dimming billboard, combined with the important environmental message that Casper delivered with this OOH campaign, is exactly the kind of advertising that today’s consumers are hoping to see and willing to endorse.

Climate change is also endangering the bee population, which is essential to the pollination of a wide range of crops, and vital for our ecosystem. In 2019, McDonald’s partnered up with JCDecaux and created what they called “bee hotels” behind a number of billboards in Sweden — where 30% of the wild bee population don’t have nests to live in. The campaign was created in Stockholm where burrow holes were drilled into the front of billboards to provide access for thousands of bees to make nests in. On other billboards, “bee hotels” were created on the back of unused billboards for bees to inhabit as well. This campaign garnered an insane amount of praise and recognition for McDonald’s efforts and demonstrated their commitment to the sustainability of our ecosystem.

Two images. On the left an image of the back of a McDonald's billboard that has little wooden houses built for bee's nests. The image on the right is the front of a McDonald's billboard with a bunch of holes for bee's to borrow in.

The OOH industry doing its part

An image of a green forrest.

Not only are the brands that use OOH advertising environmentally conscious, so too are the OOH providers themselves. Movia, a mobile billboard advertising company, offset all of their production and operations by planting a tree for every truck they place on the road. They work with the company Trees for the Future and Highway of Heroes, where 100 trees are planted for every truck that completes 4 weeks of driving. So far, Movia has planted 55,000 trees and are working towards their one million tree goal. Many truck-side ad companies, like Movia, are also aiming to have net zero emissions. Movia has already taken that initiative. They partner with delivery trucks that are already driving on the road, so they aren’t adding any new CO2 to the environment. This is just one of many examples of an OOH ad company that’s putting in the effort to promote sustainability and do their part in helping to save the environment.

An image of a wrapped truck with advertisement for Explore Georgia.

In celebration of Earth Day last year, Rapport, an OOH media planning agency, offered clients their more environmentally friendly billboards. Rapport teamed up with a digital printer company called Circle Graphics to create a smog-eating coating to the billboards that cleans the air by converting greenhouse gasses, often produced by cars, into harmless nitrates. So the billboards are doing their job while also, giving back!

An image on the side of a highway of a billboard ad for air-purifying billboards.

Likewise, the New Zealand-based OOH company, oOh!media, is a strong believer in environmental sustainability. In the last 4 years, oOh!media has upgraded 550 sites to have LED lights, which has resulted in an 85% reduction in power usage. They have changed their OOH billboards to adjust to ambient levels in order to save power. Currently, the company is undertaking a large eco-friendly project to install solar powered bus shelters across Auckland.

An image of some construction workers putting up solar panels on a road-side billboard.

DOOH making a difference

Digital OOH (DOOH) is also making great strides in creating environmentally friendly advertising. A large portion of DOOH industry leaders have adopted LED lighting, including big-time agencies like Pattison – who converted roughly 7,800 of their billboards to new energy-efficient LED light fixtures.

Not to mention, there are benefits to using DOOH advertising in general, when compared to other mediums. They can be used to promote multiple advertisements on one screen — saving materials, time, money, and electricity. Additionally, new and improved DOOH ads are meant to last several years – which also saves time, money, and power.

In Oregon, the general manager of Meadow Outdoor Advertising, is making his environmental impact by installing LED lights across his billboards in several Western states. Not only will this upgrade reduce future costs by $116,030, but it will also reduce Meadow Outdoor’s carbon footprint – by saving more than 1.2 million kilowatt hours. Not to mention that with the change in lighting, the billboards look more crisp and brighter! The switch really is a win-win!

An image of a billboard ad for Florida Hospital with a kid reaching his hands out on the left-hand side.
(Non-LED Lights)

Same image as the one above, just with better lighting.
(LED lights)

Activists use OOH to get their message across

Kicking off this week’s NYC Climate Week, a Climate Clock was assembled and erected where the Metronome, a famous art installation in NYC, usually displays the time of day. The clock was assembled by a team of scientists, artists, and activists and is part of the Beautiful Trouble community projects. The main purpose of the installation was to pressure governments worldwide to take action in reducing global warming before it’s too late. The installation displays 15 spinning LED digits that tell the time of day and the time remaining before the average global temperature reaches an irreversible level. The installation will run for the length of Climate Week and will remind everyone that passes it of the deadline we all must strive to meet. Activists, scientists, and artists alike, decided that displaying a public OOH call-to-action would be the best and most effective way to raise awareness. This bold and important statement has already made headlines across the country and has sparked a flurry of online discussion surrounding climate change.

An image of building with numbers counting down and a large clock.

Wrap up

The Vice President of the production at Rapport said it best, “as a leader in the out of home space, it’s important to us not only to implement dynamic campaigns hand-in-hand with our partners but to find ways, whenever possible, to improve the world around us and to contribute to the greater good”. Especially at a time when broadcasts and digital audiences are fragmented, OOH is the most effective way to reach a large number of people and raise awareness about climate change. Although the advertisement of environmentally sustainable products and services may have begun as a trendy topic, it’s now an extremely urgent and important issue that we all must work to solve together. The best way for activists, consumers, OOH advertisers, and brands to do their part is by spreading the word and keeping the issue at the top of people’s minds through OOH advertising. Big, bold, and timely OOH messaging is what gets people’s attention. If there’s one thing that should be taken away from this article, it’s that we all need to work together and do our part in the effort to help save the planet, and the best way to keep people engaged in the conversation and the movement is by promoting it through OOH advertising.

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