The scale, viewability and dramatic effect of outdoor advertising helps marketers create cut-through and capture consumer attention in a world where other messages struggle to get through.
Less appreciated is the variety of marketing objectives it can achieve. As brands have shown recently, outdoor has applications at different stages of the purchase funnel and can execute on several elements of a marketing strategy.
1. Creating interest via experiences
In July, Sony marked the release of Ghostbusters with a takeover of London’s Waterloo station, centred on a giant installation of the film’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Man character emerging from the ground. Waterloo was chosen for its footfall and scale. The station was adorned with ectoplasm, ticket barrier branding and a wrap of the Underground station. Collaborating with JCDecaux, screens showed spoof news footage, while a pop-up shop offered Ghostbusters merchandise and Odeon representatives sold film tickets.
Instead of a simple awareness drive, the takeover aimed to push the concept further, explains Sony Pictures deputy managing director and marketing director Stuart Williams. “We wanted an integrated experiential outdoor element that worked on a number of levels. We always look at how to ‘eventise’ a film and be part of the zeitgeist, and the scale of this installation allowed us to do that. We were trying to give a nod back to the original film with the iconic Stay Puft character, but with a new spin.”
"The objective of outdoor is not to go viral on social, it’s to build awareness and increase engagement"
- Darcy Keller, Financial Times
The outdoor activity impressed Williams with its amplification through publicity and engagement, helping the film have a point of difference among the summer blockbusters.
2. Providing product education
Outdoor advertising has been part of the Facebook media mix for several years. While brand awareness was the focus of the ‘Friends’ (2015) and ‘A Place For All’ (2016) campaigns, Facebook’s latest out-of-home (OOH) shifted towards product awareness.
“The Facebook Live campaign is designed to educate people on how to go live on Facebook, and to inspire people to go live with their friends,” explains Ewan Adams, communications planning manager. “For these two aims OOH works well. We get the awareness-building performance from large format OOH and contextual relevance from street-level OOH.”
Large format ads were run in conjunction with smaller format street level tutorial ads in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Times Square in New York.
Digital boards promoting Facebook Live at the BFI IMAX and Waterloo were designed to reflect the time of day and whether it was a weekday or weekend. Other boards changed message according to their proximity to a sports stadium or music venue.
3. Brand repositioning
This real-time approach was also the focus of the England & Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) summer digital OOH campaign, which broadcast live scores and Twitter updates of England’s summer internationals against Sri Lanka and Pakistan on screens in city centre locations. Working with digital OOH agency Grand Visual, the campaign ran across nine cities including Leeds, London and Manchester, taking in more than 20 outdoor sites. The aim was to attract new consumers, as well as die-hard fans.
“This was the first time we have done anything like this, but today sport is all about live and making it feel important in the moment,” explains ECB head of marketing Rob Calder. “We wanted to look for opportunities to put cricket in areas people wouldn’t normally expect, as part of the overall plan to drive reach. Outdoor not only gives scale, it helps us connect to audiences, and it’s an opportunity for our partners to see we’re doing something different.”
4. Communicating brand purpose
To promote its US election coverage, in October the Financial Times launched ‘Facts. Truths’, a campaign highlighting the real statistics behind a range of election issues. Drawing on the newspaper’s reporting, the campaign was designed to grow readership and increase engagement with its journalism.
Spanning print, digital, experiential, broadcast and paid media, the campaign used outdoor elements in London, New York and Washington – cities where the most voracious readers of its election coverage lived. The ‘reverse graffiti’ style campaign saw FT verified facts power-washed onto the pavements in each city.
“We wanted to follow the work and bring everyone back to the coverage,” explains senior vice-president of communications and marketing Darcy Keller. “The aim was to take a disruptive approach and do something experiential. We wanted to have a 360-degree approach to reach consumers wherever they are.”
The outdoor activity played into the FT’s mission to strike up conversation with consumers, explains Keller. “The objective of outdoor is not to go viral on social, it’s to build awareness and increase engagement, enticing people back to the work itself. We are saturated with information and it can be hard to stand out. So if you can do something to capture people’s imagination and get them to pause, that’s the most effective connection you can have.”
Disruption was also the aim last month of Go Vegan World’s outdoor campaign in Birmingham, which flipped the traditional presentation of animals on its head through a high-impact OOH campaign spanning taxi adverts, digital billboards and video screens.
“People are inundated with images of animals as products, so we wanted to show the person- hood of the animal in contrast to how they are normally advertised,” says campaign organiser Sandra Higgins. “The video, for example, shows people more about veganism in 10 seconds than they could read in a newspaper article.”
To coincide with the outdoor activity, Go Vegan World distributed pamphlets and held talks exploring the issue in more depth. People could download guides to veganism by scanning QR codes on the billboards.
5. Unveiling a new identity
Outdoor represented a significant proportion of Monster's biggest advertising campaign for the past four years. The online recruiter harnessed OOH's scale and visual nature to reinvigorate its brand, introducing a new monster character to appeal to 18 - to 35 year old job seekers.
"Outdoor not only gives scale, it helps us connect to audiences"
- Rob Calder, England & Wales Cricket Board
“We used to do more advertising a few years ago, which means there’s a generation less familiar with the brand,” explains Andrew Warner, vice-president of marketing. “We wanted to introduce them to the new Monster brand ambassador and use outdoor to convey the powerful force embodied by the purple monster.”
Staggered in two waves – May and June and September and October – the campaign included a takeover of BFI IMAX and bus wraps, as well as ads at London underground stations and shopping centres. Monster also engaged street artists to paint the purple monster onto high profile sites in Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, Brighton and Manchester.
The activity had a big effect. Warner reports above-average recall for the campaign, which was seen by 77% of the target audience.
“We saw a 15% increase versus the baseline we would expect to apply for jobs during the period, with Google searches for the related terms ‘jobs’ and ‘Monster’ up 20% to 25%,” he says.
In a world of digital advertising, social media and high-profile TV slots, outdoor advertising offers the scale and theatricality to drive not just mass awareness but also consideration and intent to purchase.