Out-of-home (OOH) media is any advertising that reaches consumers outdoors. Billboards, posters in transport hubs, sky writing, screens in supermarkets, promotions on buses, and even posters on the back of doors in public bathrooms all qualify.
But make no mistake: The category includes some of the newest forms of advertising and can be pretty high-tech. It is also tricky to measure, which is why, despite the channel’s increasing popularity, marketers in the Asia-Pacific region still struggle to demonstrate its effectiveness in any detailed way.
“This is one area where OOH really needs to step up and take ownership,” said Roy Partho, managing director of Publicitas India. “Audience measurement in terms of qualitative analysis will have to be factored in soon or brand managers will find it very hard to allocate budgets for OOH.”
Front And Center
OOH media is pervasive in densely populated markets, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, in the forms of static and digital billboards, screens in taxis and on public transport, as well as sophisticated networks in public spaces, such as airports.
Investing in digital OOH media is an expensive exercise, perhaps best left for brands with big budgets, according to Pauline Wong, managing director, Hong Kong, of media solutions firm Publicitas.
“Luxury, fashion, and financial brands position OOH as a key component in a brand-building campaign or new product launches in Hong Kong,” she told CMO.com APAC.
According to Ron Graham, a Malaysia-based media consultant and outdoor advertising business strategist, OOH can work as either a standalone play or part of a broader campaign. It can amplify the effect of other media and reach additional audiences not reached by other media, he added.
An increasing number of marketers in the Asia-Pacific region agree, and research backs the effectiveness of a well-designed OOH component.
For example, a late 2014 international research study conducted by FEPE International, the worldwide association of outdoor advertisers, found the impact of OOH considerable, with 79% of consumers reporting they have “taken action” after engaging with an OOH ad.
The study also found OOH advertising worked well in conjunction with online and mobile communications, with 40% of urban consumers looking up information online immediately after seeing an OOH ad. That figure swelled to 62% for urban consumers engaged with their smart devices while travelling.
“In the Asia-Pacific, we can learn from and be encouraged by the findings in those more mature markets, although this is at best an indication, not a proxy for actual situations,” Graham said.
In terms of projections, according to Graham, OOH is growing in most markets and quite consistently stretching its share of spending by outpacing overall market growth. This is largely thanks to an increase in urbanization, which is allowing for additional OOH inventories--new roadways, railways, airports, shopping malls, and related infrastructure where OOH media is deployed.
More To Measure
Still, deeper measurement of OOH media is a key challenge, Publicitas India’s Partho said.
The fragmentation of OOH media ownership in the Asia-Pacific region and the relatively low total market value in each country has prevented organised research into campaign tracking, added consultant Graham.
“There is no doubt that OOH media reaches the masses, but it is more difficult to know which of any target group is being reached or how effective the result,” he said.
That’s where digital is expected to help. Increasing digitisation of signage, design, buying, and placement should boost measurement capabilities, making it possible for marketers to set and reach specific goals.
“We will see more effort given to measuring and reporting OOH media to define audiences and to express the effectiveness of OOH,” Graham said.
And as long as these measurement mechanisms come online, the consensus is this old but modern form of connecting consumers with brands will keep gracing our skylines, roadsides, buses, and bathroom doors.