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COVID-19’s effect on out of home advertising

Pre-2020 out of home (OOH) advertising was in a strong position, revenue was up 7% year-on-year (YoY) across all environments. Digital OOH had been key in driving this as total reach grew to 69%, a 9% increase YoY, forming over 50% of total OOH spend.

As we entered 2020 and the lockdown period, it is no surprise that the natural decline in impressions had a huge effect on revenue, as the below graph demonstrates. From April to July, average monthly spending dropped by 80%. With many media owners reportedly giving away much of their inventory, it is expected the decline was even greater.

Although the market has recovered somewhat in August and September, with restrictions easing and mobility improving up to a reported 71% in September, the lasting impact of how this media is consumed and bought must be assessed.

An immediate impact on planning is about the change in journey patterns, as people are traveling earlier and leaving earlier to avoid rush hour commuter traffic. Footfall is now taking place 2 hours earlier within the commuter daypart compared to before lockdown. For example, 6am to 8am accounted for 29% of morning commuter footfall before lockdown, whereas it now accounts for 51%.

With developments in terms of local lockdowns, these trends will continue to shift. As the need for revenue continues for the medium, the pressure is on out of home media to become increasingly flexible. This has already been recognised by the industry with media owners changing the way they work across a number of factors, including:

  • Updating their cancellation terms
  • Last-minute buying availability
  • Further flexibility in scheduling
  • Start and stop campaigns to increase agility
  • Copy changes in campaign for greater creative flexibility

JCDecaux has looked to set out at the forefront of this shift by committing to several promises. For one, they are offering flexibility in cancelling or moving bookings in the event of local lockdowns; that is if the campaign is running or due to go live. They have also increased their agility in getting campaigns live (within 3 hours) and can build in automated optimisations around weather or time of day to suit impressions delivered.

All Response Media viewpoint

Optimisations are key to how we plan and buy all media, and our approach to OOH planning is no exception to this. The news that in-campaign optimisations are increasingly available is therefore of great interest.

However, we still must question how extensive the optimisations on offer truly are, given the speed and level of detail we can achieve in-campaign across digital and other offline media, such as TV. Similarly, it is important to evaluate the CPMs on offer, comparing again to the likes of TV and digital, and the abundance of inventory created during lockdown situations.

Nonetheless, it is positive that these types of optimisations are available, and the greater flexibility is something we would certainly take advantage of when booking and buying OOH for clients.

For more information on the outdoor services we offer, click here.