How ambient DOOH rose to the occasion in a pandemic year

OOH experts detailed how the year of 2020 has expanded ambient DOOH solutions and the offerings they were able to provide brands with this year

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Published: Dec 15, 2020 8:21 AM  | 7 min read
year ender

The OOH industry was in murky waters this year due to the COVID pandemic. At the onset, when the nation was in a lockdown, the possibility of gaining consumer visibility was diminished. Even though OOH ad campaigns began to pick up after the Unlock stage with “Welcome Back” campaigns and efforts from the FMCG and OTT sector, social distancing was still the norm. Opportunities for the industry started to grow only when the government allowed restaurants to function and with DOOH screens displaying COVID social messages, according to MHA guidelines. 

With the lockdown phasing out, OOH agencies played their cards right and leveraged the current situation to the best of their abilities. DOOH has been the growing offering for brands in the OOH ecosystem. With the pandemic, it was put in the spotlight yet again offering ROI driven solutions. Since data is paramount in a post lockdown environment, we saw brands avail DOOH offerings that got them more bang for their buck. 

From zero fillings in Q1 to offering brands with ROI driven solutions in a confined space, the OOH industry has had a roller coaster ride. Looking back at the pandemic year, industry leaders share insights into how 2020 has been the year for DOOH ambient advertising. 

Amplification of DOOH ambient advertising in a pandemic market 

Aman Nanda, Chief Strategy Officer, Times OOH, sharing his perspective, said, “Ambient OOH allows customers to experience a brand first hand hence directly influencing them. It also provides brands with many more ways to tell a story. With the onset of the pandemic and restrictions on travel, staying indoors was the norm causing the ambient OOH media industry to slow down. However, with the change in consumer’s post-COVID, a shift is caused in consumer categories and subsequently the brands coming on board to advertise. COVID has given the OOH industry time to re-evaluate its offerings and realign with the new world order. We at Times OOH, too are adapting with the times and aligning our media to suit client needs and objectives. Ambient OOH inventories are on a rise owing to the responsibility of spreading messages of social distancing and safety measure tips. Additionally, as internet virality gains more and more influence, many brands have begun executing experiential marketing campaigns that exist on their own.” 

Gautam Bhirani, MD, Eyetalk Media Ventures remarked, “2020 has been an eventful year for DOOH. At the beginning of the new decade, 2020 was considered the year for DOOH as the industry was coming together to make the big leap with new inventories, technologies and demand for the shift. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, everything came to halt and the momentum was lost. However, every crisis breeds opportunity and the pandemic ended up putting DOOH under the spotlight.” 

Bhirani added, “DOOH became the most widely used and effective communication channel for safety and societal messaging as people started stepping out of home. Government bodies across the globe used DOOH inventories innovatively to connect with their people using social media channels and building conversations. With things getting back to a level of normalcy and public places reopening, the adaptation of digital signage has grown considerably. Digital signage is helping businesses connect efficiently with their customers in a contactless world keeping them aware and informed on safety measures and other protocols. With COVID accelerating this shift, there is a huge surge in numbers of screens and it will create new and bigger opportunities in times to come.” 

Upinder Singh, Project Director, Edge1 OOH Software stated, "During these COVID times, brands are using DOOH quite well as a creative canvas to deliver very succinct clear messages to people. One might say that DOOH's distinctive ability to mass communicate across a variety of technology platforms in real-time obligates us to help with disseminating important public health information.” 

Singh pointed out that at a time when marketers need to do more with less, programmatic DOOH technology offers greater flexibility and efficiencies. “When the swift and sudden arrival of the pandemic forced brands around the world to pivot and upheave their messages on a dime across all marketing channels, it provided DOOH with the opportunity to showcase its dynamic creative capabilities like never before. OOH is doing its part as an industry to use the power of the medium to inform communities about how to stay safe and access resources against the threat from COVID-19”, shared Singh. 

Brand Solutions

Airport Runways also allowed putting out campaign messaging in a confined environment with higher dwell time this year. Nanda shared that ever since travel restrictions have been eased, Ambient DOOH has given transit media a boost. He said, “Passenger traffic data shared by Airport authorities also reflects a jump in traffic over the last month. For example, Mumbai Airport passenger traffic grew by almost 45% in October as compared to the previous month. Coimbatore airport has shown 3X growth in aircraft movements from 344 in June'20 to 936 in Nov'20, the airport has shown phenomenal growth. Likewise, at Indore airport, there has been a 3X increase in the flight movement from 325 in June’20 to 1034 in October’20. This could be due to the ongoing festive season considering that travel booking websites observed a surge in bookings ahead of festivities. To complement this growing traffic, advertising at Airports has been amplified, and more and more brands are coming on board to leverage this. The festive season has always been important from the overall OOH perspective and brands are keen on tapping into the increasing number of travellers, to receive greater visibility and wider reach via their campaigns.” 

Nanda talking about the offerings Times OOH provided the brand with said, “Intending to provide innovative and strategic solutions to clients, rather than simply selling space. Times OOH rolled out new offerings such as Cricket updates on Digital screens at Mumbai and Indore Airports, and Mumbai Metro. In partnership with brands like Delta Faucet, Elica, MCX, and NCDEX, these screens showcased real-time score updates, team standings, and upcoming matches, while catapulting the brands out to the major chunk of cricket-loving travellers. Brands like Netflix, Renault, Mankind Pharma, Odisha Tourism, Gujarat Tourism, Tamil Nadu Tourism, and MX Player have come on board ahead of the festive season as well.” 

As for Eyetalk Media Ventures, they have been helping brands reach millennials across metros in context and a captive environment at a click of a button, driving cost-effective data-driven measurable digital campaigns. Their recently launched online SaaS-based model to extend the digitization drive across the country is expected to boost their network of 350+ premium eateries by 30-40%. 

Bhirani stated that at Eyetalk Media Ventures, with their recent collaborations, they are introducing 2000+ more live displays across the country providing support for the hospitality industry. “The new inventories will extend our network to 15 cities and 5-star hotels as well”, he commented. 

The future of Ambient DOOH stepping into 2021

Nanda says, “Ambient DOOH is the future and with the growth of digital and technology in this space, it will lead to accountable and engaging communication with the consumer in a relaxed mind frame. With the lockdown in place in most parts of the country, it is time for OOH to embrace its digital arm."

OOH advertising offers a brand-safe environment, with unparalleled viewability. Nanda stated, “Digital screen ads are 100% viewable to travellers. DOOH is the ultimate form of OOH advertising: ads are more than twice as likely to be seen and are 2.5 times more impactful than any other. Add data feeds, video, and developing programmatic capabilities to the mix, and digital out-of-home is an unbeatable offering, it has an immense technological opportunity to scale up. Well, digital out-of-home looks set to go one step further in 2021, as out-of-home networks expand digital signage options, plus more brands are now exposed to and using this platform.” 

On a parting note, looking at a future-oriented approach Bhirani concluded saying, “With the kind of DOOH inventories coming up the OOH industry needs to adapt to this change, invest in digitally inclined talent and create strategic new opportunities for brands complimenting consumer behaviour in the new normal.”


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