The impact of Staying at Home on Out of Home

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Golley Slater take a look at the impact of staying at home on out of home advertising

Saying goodbye to 2020 has never felt so good, as we step into another year; one with a little more light at the end of the tunnel, with the hope of getting back to some kind of normality and a slightly greater prosperity than the last, our hopes for 2021 and Out of Home Advertising remains high.

What we have experienced this last year is something most of us didn’t see coming, I for one, certainly didn’t expect that I would still be working from home 10 months on, still interacting with colleagues and clients virtually.

Following on from our previous article How can you best prepare for a second wave from a media perspective? – Golley Slater | Golley Slater we take a look at the media landscape in lockdown and throughout the year to focus on the one media that took the biggest hit – Out of Home.

Effectiveness relies on human behaviour

What lockdown showed us was just how important the role of human behaviors play on media effectiveness, and in equal measure how changes in these behaviors will instantaneously impact where our audiences can be found.

Out of Home (OOH) up to this point had not only seen a steady revenue growth of around 6% YoY (, it was also the only broadcast media channel that had been able to grow in recent years. This left the likes of TV and Print trailing as we embraced outdoor lifestyles , screen time consumption with social media, and streaming over programmable predictability. With lockdown, came an overnight plummet of our OOH audiences, and with very little assurances of when restrictions would ease, OOH took an unprecedented hit in their ability to deliver audiences.

Affiliative humor

In the face of adversity, it was great to see how brands chose to embrace OOH and use the power of well-considered creative to inject some humor and lean on the notion of shared experiences.

The snack brand Emily ( ( did just this with their campaign Eat Bold, which ran for two weeks throughout the first national lockdown.

he creative, which was redesigned as a response to what was evolving, was a light hearted jibe at the fact they had chosen OOH for their launch campaign, with comments such as “Our first ever poster, seen by a runner and one pigeon. Typical” and “Hmmm… Maybe we should have made a TV ad instead”, supported with images of their Sweet Potato Veg Sticks.

Deemed a success, if only for the earned media through social and PR. The campaign even featured as a great example of this years OOH campaigns at this year’s virtual Festival of Marketing event.

Heroic recovery

We did however, see some winners in all this chaos. Not only did OOH audiences bounce back quite quickly once restrictions eased in the summer, some OOH platforms bounced back stronger than before. For example, in July and August as domestic tourism coined by many as ‘staycations’ started to take hold, we saw a 133% rise in audience figures for Motorway services advertising from their pre-Covid figures.

In equal measure, roadside saw increases in a similar way once restrictions were lifted. We can see from initial data, that audience figures bounced back well. Clear Channel reports that in the week 6th – 12th Dec there were on average 93% of the total audience figures seen throughout the first three months of 2020. Clearly the tiered restrictions had an impact on these, with tier 1 -2 baring little effect, tier 3 generating 89% and Tier 4, 74% of the pre-Covid levels (Clear Channel – UK Rate of Return). Whilst Global (Global Outdoor Bulletin) roadside digital 48 sheet advertising saw the largest bounce back in England with a 2% increase within week ending 29th Nov, when compared with a January week in 2020 baseline.

Along with roadside, a clear OOH winner in all this chaos, was of course Supermarkets. JCDecaux’s Hub provides some staggering insights into Supermarkets and specifically December’s grocery shopping behaviors. Citing that 93% of people will do their Christmas shop in-store, in fact, with the nature of click and collect for season produce being the preferred choice for consumers, this ensured that visits to the physical store remained high even when confidence around Covid was low and extra safety measures where in place.

How can we plan for lockdown life?

Lockdown behaviors and the need to plan for the unknown impact of Covid has been no mean feat. Our planners are well equipped to consider a full spectrum of environmental, seasonal and behavioral impacts that could influence the outcome of media campaigns, and Covid has created an additional layer to think about when developing these strategies.

In the Summer Coca-Cola approached us for a direct to consumer (DTC) media campaign and as the use of OOH was a requirement of the media mix, to make sure they received the best value for their budget, we used DOOH through our programmatic trading desk. We bought digital OOH inventory on a real-time basis through our demand side platform. This approach allowed us to overlay data segments that relate specifically to the target audience, such as geo-locations, demographics and previous buying habits. What makes programmatic DOOH so powerful though, is the ability to buy inventory based on real-time audience sizes, with the flexibility to turn the campaign on and off which provides huge agility that is vital for a lockdown situation.

One thing is clear, with the announcement yet again of more national lockdowns, OOH campaigns and our lockdown behavior habits does not make for a fruitful relationship. That said, once we are out the other side of these restrictions, expect OOH to bounce back with vengeance and once again we will be managing high levels of demand vs. a finite level of infrastructure. Bring it on!