As more people become accustomed to the one-way systems and sanitisation procedures in the dining and retail sectors, the easily observed reduction in consumer visits to stores and restaurants is starting to plateau and hopefully this means a return for one of the channels that was heavily impacted over lockdown – OOH – however, the game has inevitably and certainly changed.

Covid has accelerated the evolution of brand-to-consumer and even B2B interactions and relationships – we only need to look at the increase in use of apps like Zoom and Teams to appreciate this trend. Innovations in the OOH space have also been fast tracked due to Covid  – and we expect to see this include the adoption of DOOH tech. [3]

OOH is famed for effectiveness through high reach but the pandemic has led to its large scale audiences decreasing in certain demographics [3]. Key areas for OOH such as airports and the London Underground are still experiencing a dramatic decrease in footfall[2]. This means that OOH will likely have to become a more targeted and outcome-based channel to justify its use. Luckily there has been ample investment into digital screens and infrastructure over the last decade.

Bitposter and Clearchannel’s partnership with traditional OOH key-players has meant that many paper and paste locations have been digitalised, whilst Global’s purchase and integration of Exterion and Primesite (linking DAX with their digital outdoor sites) has meant data-led buying has become a reality. This also goes beyond media buying and into execution, with Ocean Outdoor releasing mid-air haptic interaction, to replace their touchscreen equipment [4].

Whilst innovation development has been fast tracked, the dynamic of clients that they were designed to serve has shifted.

The ad spend market has shifted in line with the change in consumers priorities. Essential goods, tech, and the high-frequency Public Health England campaigns have recently ramped up media spend [5], whilst industries like the restaurant sector have seen dramatic cuts. Ironically, OOH was a key channel for PHE in communicating key messages and provided a smart, empathetic and trustworthy platform [3].

So, what’s next for the restaurant sector? American super-chain McDonalds have bucked the trend, as even though they reduced their budgets by 100% during lockdown, they are now keen to use their ‘war chest’ of advertising budget for Q3 and Q4 [6].

As for the restaurant sector as a whole, total media spend was down dramatically for May and June YoY (-91% and -86% respectively), and OOH is no exception. Whilst we are seeing an improvement in August spend and expect to see more buoyant results in Q4 overall, it will be interesting to see how brands use OOH in Q4 – particularly for Christmas which is typically a strong period for OOH [1].