How to generate an ROI that makes you go OOH

Paul Sinkinson
By Paul Sinkinson | 19 June 2024
Paul Sinkinson.

Out of Home (OOH) ad spend is skyrocketing, but are marketers getting the most bang for their buck? Paul Sinkinson, Managing Director (Australia) of Analytic Partners, shares insider tips for high-impact success stories.

This is a time of shrinking budgets and uncertainty - we all know that. Every marketer out there is looking for ways to make their ad dollars stretch further, hit more marks than ever before, score more ROI than their competitors - but inspiration can run a little thin.

That’s where out-of-home comes in.

The out-of-home (OOH) sector is one of the fastest growing channels we have at the moment. It has seen somewhat of a boom over the past few months, with the latest Standard Media Index (SMI) report tracking a record ad spend increase of 1.4%, particularly when we consider that the report saw a 6.6% fall in overall ad spend in March. 

So while ad spend is slowing down, it’s actually channels like OOH that are most promising in this current window, and that might deliver the most return on investment. 

The growth in OOH is also a welcome change from the usual chatter about how spend is moving from traditional media channels into online. TV ratings will likely continue to decline, but traditional media is not dead in the water, certainly due to the growing power of OOH, which many are now touting as the last mass media channel left for marketers. 

But if advertisers are shifting spend into OOH from TV, how can we best judge what success looks like in the channel? For every report investigating what success means in TV or on YouTube, there’s a glaring lack of the same assessment when it comes to OOH. 

The planning team behind a TV campaign can be either confident or terrified when the results come in - they either tested the creative beforehand, or knew they had to compromise and launch in a way they didn’t intend to. But for OOH, most teams have no idea what the results will be.  And this comes through in the range of results we see - there is usually a fairly tight range of results when it comes to TV but when it comes to OOH, the range of results is massive. Some can be absolute powerhouse performers, and others a total disaster. Predicting what the results will be is the tricky part because rarely is OOH creative ever tested.

I’m not saying that you need to go to the extent of pre-testing OOH but marketers are at risk of not getting a good return on their spend because they don’t know, or haven’t thought about, the tried and tested strategies to deliver the best results on OOH. 

The risk is that growing investment in this channel is certain to fall again if marketers aren’t able to more impactfully develop their campaigns to target certain results.

So with that in mind, what are the strategies that are designed to give marketers the best results from OOH?

Ensure that creative is fit for purpose

OOH is, by its nature, an impactful medium. It deserves better than to simply be served the end shot of a TVC as the creative. 

We recently ran some neuro testing with a client to help optimise their creative, with the results showing the campaign performed 250% better than the average. Of course, the average brand won’t be able to test every piece of creative it produces, but at least adjusting the creative for the format - ie. to match the bigger space, high-impact imagery (rather than the end frame of a TVC), large readable font, easy to digest messaging and so on, will deliver better results.

Leverage the power of digital

Creative that is made to exploit the features of the modern OOH market work extremely well. Take advantage of what digital placements offer, the same as you would other digital platforms. 

We know that contextual ROIs are high when you can have a message that is tailored to an audience and specific placement. For example, we’ve seen that weather-based triggers, like triggering ice cream ads to serve when the temperature peaks, can increase ROI by over 50%. 

We’ve observed the same thing with contextual OOH buys, where creative has been tailored to an audience for that context, for example creative which speaks to the demographic of that suburb.

One example of this is a Domain campaign that ran in recent years, where the brand used bold, clear creatives centred around over 60 localised suburb insights. The campaign used Domain’s then-recently launched Domain for Owners offering to create the insights, which were aimed at helping owners make the right decision on selling their homes. 

That’s just one example of what can happen when you think more contextually around OOH - and particularly when you engage the use of data insights as well.

Build towards synergy - don’t just expect it to happen

Synergy is one of the clearest and most powerful ways to add value to any campaign, and marketers need to be intentional about it. Adding OOH to a TV campaign will drive cross channel synergies, which can on average deliver an 18% increase in ROI.

This is where timing becomes important. The best synergy can be achieved in making sure that the TV and OOH assets run in alternating weeks - for example, starting a week later than TV means a 3% lift on returns, but running OOH for four weeks longer than the TV campaign will provide 11% more returns. Getting the schedule right is crucial.

Synergy may also change depending on the sector. For FMCG in particular, you need to consider how your OOH campaign aligns to your in-store spend. Running them in the same week will reduce the improvement in returns by 9% as you’re essentially doing the same job twice in driving people to the product. However, if you run brand creative instead of performance on that retail panel, you can get an 8% improvement. 

OOH’s fall from fashion for marketers in the earlier part of the 2000s has definitely seen a dip in the overall craft and strategy expertise used across the channel. But by putting this growth channel nearer the top of your media plan and spending the time to seriously consider how you activate, it will give you a much bigger chance of bringing in the return on investment you are hoping for from this advertising powerhouse.


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