Digital Signage

Out of Home’s Moment of ‘Resilience, Reinvention and Revitalization’

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Life lessons as the global OOH community pulls together to push its way out of a pandemic

By Barry Frey

Out-of-home advertising faced the most extreme challenges among all ad categories over the past 15 months. And while the pandemic is by no means over, the OOH category has rebounded. The actions taken by the industry and the lessons learned offer overarching universal guidance as we move beyond this very difficult Covid-19 period.

The global OOH industry has demonstrated tremendous resilience, reinvention and now, strong revitalization. These have occurred resulting from a variety of factors including the coming together and power of a community, diligent creative and an aggressive focus on digital expansion.

During the pandemic, the OOH community is focused on conserving resources, emboldening internal and external relationships, all while maintaining positive outlooks.

At the same time, the industry aggressively stepped up innovation and expanded the digitization of processes, products and services. There has been accelerated growth of available digital data, mobile tie-ins, platforms, video availability, high-quality content, digital screens and programmatic services and trading.


During this period, our industry put resources to good use by learning new digital skills, providing connective outreach to customers and connecting the programmatic “pipes” amongst other critical parts of the ecosystem.

In fact, the prolific use of digital-out-of-home (DOOH) programmatic during the pandemic, enabling the pausing, pushing and movement of schedules to where audiences existed, firmly demonstrated DOOH’s flexibility and agility so critically needed and utilized during this period and beyond.

The OOH community is not only persevering during this period, but is also now projected by the large agency holding companies to finish 2021 with double-digit ad revenue increases.

According to a survey by market research consultancy Advertiser Perceptions, 76% of agencies are aware of or currently buying DOOH programmatically. And 22% of brands will now be using DOOH for the first time.

The Covid-19 period further emboldened and strengthened the growth of DOOH business to come out of this difficult time ready to vigorously deliver targeted, digital, omnichannel impressions to brands and their partner agencies.

In addition to delivering value to digital, video and location-based advertisers, the plethora of digital data sources developed over this period, along with new targeting capabilities, delivers impressions against goals up and down the total marketing funnel from branding and reach (always strong for OOH) right through consideration, action, store, website visits, purchases and ROI. This has all enabled an expansion of ad spend for DOOH.

As populations are coming back outside, DOOH is in the spotlight more than ever. In sunlight and in public, it is challenging to proffer up “fake news,” echo chamber messaging, unsafe brand environments and of course in the OOH medium, you can’t skip the ads. 

Now, with increasing focus on privacy, the deprecation of cookies and dissolving of IDFAs, advertising is focusing on the foundational benefits of context, environment, brand safety and other ad values that OOH has always been so good at delivering.

Yet, looking back and looking forward with hope, what I am most proud of is how our global community came together during this challenging time. 

With regularly scheduled leadership meetings, we all exchanged war stories, frustrations, staff furlough strategies and personal woes. In the midst of Covid-19, we see the establishment of new representation agreements and growth revenue streams keeping many afloat.

These, plus programmatic and other innovative relationships, enabled the industry to “fight to see another day.”


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