4 major forces shaping OOH advertising in the post-COVID world

‘Tis the season for talking about “trends” yet again. And if you’ve just rolled your eyes, trust us, we feel you. Making predictions in a sea of uncertainty—much less when a good chunk of the world is going under various stages of lockdown once again—seems like a fruitless effort.

This also comes on the heels of us making some pretty bold claims last year about 2020 being positioned as the breakthrough year for out-of-home advertising. But then this little thing called COVID-19 happened—and, as you know, the rest is history.

Even so, albeit with a bit of trepidation, it’s safe to say that a lot of what we expected and knew to be true for the OOH industry a year ago is still relevant today as we edge closer to 2021.

If anything, this past year of unexpected (and unwanted) surprises has been a lesson in patience. As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the entire world to a screeching halt, we had to hit the brakes, too. But in a rare occasion of “seeing the light at the end of the ever-so-distant tunnel,” our team at AdQuick seized the opportunity to reimagine outdoor advertising in a post-COVID world.

So today, we’re not here to talk about trends. We’re also not going to make some big, bold predictions. But we will underscore some of the key forces within the industry that have been on simmer this past year, just waiting to bubble over (in a good way) once life starts to look something akin to “normal” again in the coming months.

What the OOH & billboard advertising markets will (most likely) look like in 2021

It’s easy to set aside 2020 as a ‘gap year’ or an ‘outlier’ for billboard advertising in our minds. For starters, we certainly can’t make the assumption that all pre-pandemic trends industry-wide will just magically pick up where they left off in a post-pandemic world. What we do know, however, is that COVID-19 has fundamentally reshaped both business and consumer behavior in a massive way—and that a lot of these shifts will manifest themselves in out-of-home advertising in the year ahead.

1. OOH advertising will rebound like it’s nobody’s business

Take a quick second to sing the “I’m A Little Teapot” nursery rhyme in your head. This is basically the world in a nutshell. Humans aren’t meant to be pent up in their homes for months on end. When we are all able to finally rip off those masks and resume our once-normal activities, the proverbial teapot will need to be poured out. And as you may have guessed it, the more people go outside, the more opportunities brands will have to engage with them via billboards and other OOH advertising formats. This doesn’t mean people will suddenly unhinge themselves of their digital devices—because, let’s face it, we’re past the point of no return—but engaging with the physical world again will take on an entirely new meaning for some time. Brands should plan for this now.

2. Billboard Advertisers will see new value in second- or third-tier markets

The pandemic has hit the hardest in big metropolitan areas. Population density alone is to “thank” for this. So while lockdown measures are far from uniform across the U.S., there’s a good chance that they will be relaxed more quickly in less populated areas. This will signal a new and relatively untapped opportunity for many brand marketers who, for vanity alone, have consistently targeted their ad spending toward major cities, like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. But knowing that cities experienced an exodus throughout the pandemic, this should give advertisers a reason to think twice about where their target consumers now live, shop, and spend their time. (Hint: It’s not just the big cities, nor was it ever.)

3. Optimizing for ROI/ROAS will be more important than ever

If you are still of the mindset that OOH can’t be measured, please leave that in your “preconceived notions” pile when 2021 rolls around. With the growth of digital out-of-home advertising (DOOH) and the rise of real-time and programmatic OOH advertising solutions—like AdQuick’s very own digital OOH DSP—planning, targeting, deploying, and measuring the performance of OOH campaigns has never been easier or more accurate. And now the same applies to traditional out-of-home as well. In fact, the powerful combination of audience-based targeting, place-based targeting, and multi-channel retargeting is turning the entire out-of-home ecosystem into a powerful performance marketing channel that drives both (measurable) physical and digital ecommerce conversions. Sure, out-of-home advertising will always be a solid brand marketing channel, but it’s also so much more than that—and sophisticated marketers at advertisers are catching on.

4. Brands and agencies will turn to technology to plan OOH campaigns

Last year, we talked about brands bringing planning and buying in-house. This has been accelerated even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brands have had to cut costs to stay afloat during this recession and also learn how to operate with fully distributed teams. Technology’s role in enabling people to be more productive than ever before has been central to this—and this is not likely a trend we’ll see disappear anytime soon. This isn’t to suggest that technology is “taking over” people’s jobs. Rather, it underscores the reality that new solutions are emerging each day making once-manual or time-consuming processes much more efficient.

Don’t let OOH advertising become an afterthought

We will be digging into each of these ideas (and more) in tons of detail in 2021. So consider this just the appetizer—and a fair warning that you will fall prey to a serious case of #FOMO if you don’t give out-of-home advertising its well-deserved place in the spotlight in your marketing plans next year. If you’re not sure where to start, take a moment to learn more about how AdQuick is revolutionizing OOH advertising today.  

This article originally appeared in ClickZ.