A Year of Lessons: The Future of OOH

By Martin Porter, SVP, Managing Director, OOH at dentsu

The Out of Home industry took some big blows from the pandemic, but it is recovering fast. Along the way, we have learned some interesting things over the last year. These four trends emphasize the importance of OOH and how it can help the industry navigate its way out of a tumultuous 12 months.

It’s programmatic’s time to shine

First and foremost was the need for speed to pivot in the Out of Home arena. Certainly, vendors have changed up their terms to allow for more flexibility, but after many years of expecting Programmatic OOH to take off, this could actually be the year. Data targeting and its ability to buy discreet audiences when it matters is a key selling point, but the speed and agility to both get in and out of market will be the fuel that drives trial in 2021.

Flexibility will still be the centerpiece

The other trend that we saw the flexibility of digital OOH being used to maximum effect. Given the fluid nature of Covid, an advertiser’s message needed to reflect messaging that was more appropriate. It still surprises me how few advertisers take advantage to what is possible in Digital OOH in that creativity can change based on a multitude of relevant triggers at a moment’s notice. We have seen some great examples of brands who are running dynamic creative all year, but I think we will see more brands realise the potential of Digital Creative Optimization in OOH and not just see it as the preserve of digital online.

Leveraging the prominence of QR codes

The third trend we saw was the renaissance of the QR code. Close to ten years ago, advertisers rushed to place QR codes on their OOH ads, mostly to poor effect. This has all changed during the pandemic with restaurants and bars leading the way and a recent study showed 67% of people said QR codes have made life easier in lockdown. Back in the day advertisers saw it as a way to direct you to their website and in most cases not even optimizing it to work on mobile, making a poor user experience. The pandemic has highlighted the way that OOH doesn’t have to just be a brand awareness play. With the huge rise in online and mobile purchasing happening over the last year OOH can actually be a store window, with the QR code a clear call to action delivering direct sales at the moment.

Gaming proved its success and will continue to do so

Another trend is the more prolific use of video gaming, fuelled further by new consoles and PC components being released. The game delivery platform, Steam, actually broke records in December with 24,8M concurrent users online at the same time. Interestingly, these virtual worlds take inspiration from OOH to enrich and make authentic the stories they tell. Take a look at the latest releases of Cyberpunk 2077 to see the important role OOH advertising plays to immerse the player in a dystopian future. OOH in many respects is realised in these games as a way to make them feel real, that OOH is considered a part of the fabric of a local community and indeed our daily lives. There is an expectation from us to see OOH advertisements and indeed view them. We all know where our local bus stop is, the subway station, or whether there is a big billboard at the end of our street. It plays context in our lives and will be the one medium that will genuinely be top of mind in our celebrations when we begin to return to normal.

If we put all these trends together, the industry can grow stronger than before and deliver a highly targeted, flexible medium where we can pivot with real-time messaging to bring greater relevancy. We will also deliver an immediate call to action, facilitating the online transactions and engrain ourselves once again in the very fabric of our communities. Perhaps the most interesting of all is the fact that 45% of adults are saying they are noticing OOH more than before the pandemic started. The future is looking bright for OOH.