Why Storytelling is the Top Trend for OOH in 2021

A digital billboard that says "Me: It's okay the breakup was mutual" and the other side says "Also me: Sad Indie Song"

Everyone loves a good story. But with the seemingly never-ending pandemic, people are looking for even more compelling stories to engage with, learn something new, or simply to just entertain them while they’re stuck in lockdown. This is exactly why the art of storytelling has drastically increased in the past few months and will continue to do so over the course of this year. Always being at home is boring, stressful, and even exhausting, so during those times that we do get to venture outdoors, we want to be excited and engaged. This is where OOH (out-of-home) advertising comes in. Advertisers are trying to make compelling and creative outdoor ads that will boost consumer engagement, bring awareness to difficult subjects, and strike an emotional response from their audience. A story can do all three of these things and more, to not only get its message across but also to keep that message in the viewer’s mind, compelling them to purchase their product or service. People want to feel like the product or service they are purchasing isn’t just for the sake of profits, they want to spend their money on things that are useful or fight for a cause, especially during the harsh times of the pandemic. There is no better way to advertise with OOH than to tell a good story, and this article will explain how.

Storytelling Boosts Consumer Engagement

Consumers want to make purchases that they feel connected with beyond the product or service itself. They want the brands that they purchase from to tell a good story by marketing themselves in ways that will boost consumer engagement. This is why advertising that has a story matters so much because it allows an audience to connect with the brand. According to a Nielsen Out of Home advertising study, 82% of billboard viewers make a point to look at the advertising message at least some of the time and over one-third look at the billboard each time. OOH advertising in particular benefits greatly from an intriguing story because unlike online, TV, or radio ads, OOH ads cannot be simply turned off, ignored, or blocked. Once a person sees an outdoor ad they are compelled to take notice and engage with whatever the call to action is, whether that is a statement of entertainment or information. Did you know that the Canadian Out Of Home Marketing and Measurement Bureau (COMMB) found that the average time a Canadian spends commuting per day is 51 minutes? That gives companies a huge opportunity to use OOH ads to build brand awareness and increase consumer engagement.

Storytelling Brings Awareness

Billboards that looks torn in the middle with a car hitting a truck and the message "Tailgating isn't worth it"

Telling a story through an OOH ad is also important for bringing awareness to important causes that are otherwise difficult to talk about. Subjects such as abuse, poverty, climate change, driving under the influence, and diseases such as AIDS are rarely mentioned as they can be difficult matters for many people. But by telling a captivating story about such subjects, it brings awareness to the matter and allows people to be more open about their own experiences, thus creating positive change in our otherwise hectic world. Especially with the pandemic, it has been more important than ever to fight for a cause that people believe in so that we can improve the future of our world for the next generation. A compelling story is important to have because it brings attention to the pressing matter since it cannot be blocked or ignored once someone sees the ad. Stephen Freitas, Out of Home Advertising Association of America’s chief marketing officer stated, “OOH is as relevant as ever because it offers high impact and amplifies all other media investments”, demonstrating just how powerful an OOH ad can be to create awareness for subjects that might otherwise be ignored on other advertising mediums.

Storytelling and Emotions

OOH advertisements that convey emotions such as sadness, disgust, fear, excitement, or joy all have a higher chance of being noticed and remembered. When telling a good story you want your audience to feel what the story is portraying, and OOH advertisements benefit greatly from that since they use both visuals and words to convey a message. According to Hubspot, a marketing platform, emotional marketing is a term that refers to “Marketing and advertising efforts that primarily use emotion to make your audience notice, remember, share, and buy. Emotional marketing typically taps into a singular emotion, like happiness, sadness, anger, or fear, to elicit a consumer response.” This demonstrates how important it is to market your products or services by conveying a certain emotion in the ad campaign. Great stories always leave the reader or viewer with a clear image in their mind of what the story was and how it made them feel. OOH advertisers should make use of copywriting, media, and graphics in a way that will evoke emotions in their audience. The stronger the emotion, the more likely they are to remember the ad as well as the brand and make a purchase either instantly or in the near future.

Domestic Violence – ‘Blind Eye’

Billboard with a woman's face that says "Look at me. If you can see domestic violence."

Women’s Aid is a group of charities across the United Kingdom that fights for women’s rights and aims to end domestic violence and abuse. They created an interactive OOH ad campaign called ‘Blind Eye’ which showed the story of a woman being abused at home. The campaign was called ‘Blind Eye’ because they wanted people to stop turning a blind eye to domestic violence and bring light to the taboo subject. The outdoor campaign consisted of digital screens in key public areas such as Canary Wharf, Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, and the Birmingham Bullring. By using facial recognition technology, the screens would first show a woman who was abused, with bruises covering her face. When people didn’t take notice of the screen it would remain unchanged. But once people stopped to look at the gruesome billboard the bruises and wounds would fade and the woman would appear healed from her scars. The more people that took notice of the screens the faster the woman would heal, showcasing how important it is to inform people about subjects they would rather ignore because they are too difficult to deal with. This was a perfect storytelling campaign that brought awareness to an important cause in an innovative and creative way.

Netflix – One Story Away

A Netflix billboard with a woman crying and a man looking at her that says "One story away... from finding love when love is lost."

Netflix created an OOH ad campaign called ‘One Story Away’. The goal of the campaign was to showcase the power of storytelling, with billboards of different genres of different movies and messages such as “One story away… from running a credit check” and “One story away… from finding love when love is lost”. Netflix’s vice president of brand marketing, Eric Pallotta, stated “Stories are powerful. The TV shows and films we watch bring out all sorts of different emotions, give us perspectives we’ve never seen before and even make us feel closer to each other. People have very different tastes and moods. But no matter who you are or where you are, we’re all only one story away from seeing, feeling and connecting more.” This was a powerful message to indicate how important storytelling is in any medium, whether it is advertising or entertainment companies, every brand should have a story to tell if they want to retain a loyal audience. By creating billboards that evoke different emotions by featuring various genres such as romance, action, and drama, Netflix was able to have a successful campaign by using the art of storytelling that would capture the attention of anyone who saw it.

Knix – Stop Trashing Your Period

Knix mobile dumpster that has a picture of a woman in her underwear and the message "Stop trashing your period".

Movia teamed up with Knix to create a creative ad campaign for their famous leak proof underwear. Knix is a brand that specializes in women’s undergarments. They wanted to make something innovative so they created designs that look stunning on any body shape as well as a never before seen hygiene product. The product is an undergarment specifically meant for women on their periods because they are leak proof. The goal of this product was to take off the taboo that periods have been seen as by making women feel confident in their own skin while also sustaining the environment. Although Movia specializes in truck-side advertising, they wanted to do something a little different and unique so this time they created an innovative campaign in New York City that included ads on mobile dumpsters. The ad had a picture of a woman in her underwear and the message “Stop trashing your period”. The ads gained a lot of attention and media coverage because of the emotions the ad conveyed and because of how interesting and unique the story was; that women should never feel ashamed of their bodies, or Mother Nature. Not only did this story engage with passersby, but it also created awareness on the taboo subject of periods.

To Conclude

Storytelling is truly an art. It requires creativity, innovation, and connecting with customers in ways that will compel them to make a purchase. OOH advertising benefits greatly from telling an interesting story, especially during the pandemic when people want to be entertained and informed. Storytelling boosts consumer engagement, brings awareness to pressing matters, and evokes emotions in people that would otherwise be impossible with an ad that only cares about profits. By telling a story you can boost your brand awareness which in turn will gain the loyalty of your customers so that they keep purchasing from your business for years to come.

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