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More TV than OOH: shifting the perception of out-of-home TV

This article first appeared on The Drum on 09/06/2023

According to Plato, the ancient aristocrat Phaedrus said, long ago, that ‘Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden’.

The segue from Phaedrus to advertising might seem like a bit of a leap but bear with me. Out-of-home (OOH) TV advertising has been around for years (albeit not quite as far back as Plato), but its positioning in the marketplace is still debatable.

For planners, the barrier to entry is understanding which media plan out-of-home TV belongs to. The simple answer is TV, but this channel is not without its nuances; it can also include things like video-on-demand and broadcaster-video-on-demand.

Still, the out-of-home TV market is estimated to have increased by 45% since 2019. With increased accountability and third-party research, the medium should become less opaque.

It would be easy to assume that if you combine out-of-home and TV, you create a hybrid with which the consumer can continue to engage passively. But out-of-home TV, with its unique blend of shared audio-visual and content entertainment, bucks this trend. It’s the audio and the premium content that distinguishes between the two channels, providing critical dwell time and creating more active engagement.

As Chris Poole, Head of Insight at Spotlight Insight elaborates, “Traditional OOH has long had the perception of a passive engagement tool, something for people to idly look at through misty bus windows on commutes to work.  While standard OOH is static in nature, out-of-home TV has certainly progressed the medium and is a huge boost to the overall market.”

The medium and the message

By using premium content relevant to the consumer environment and the context of the screen itself, out-of-home TV creates a platform where messages are absorbed differently from traditional OOH counterparts. This premium TV content, delivered with audio-enabled screens, re-positions the medium closer to the TV advertising landscape. It also provides deeper engagement and screen dwell time, which is critical to delivering an advertiser’s message.

What aligns it even closer to the TV advertising world is that viewers positively engage with the screens and the content. Like its TV sibling, it uses the same creative message, providing campaign synergy and consistency for viewers. It is trusted, remembered, and acted upon. Screens that were maybe thought of as having a passive engagement appear to be showing a different side.

While TV is still the most effective medium, returning (according to Thinkbox) more profit than any other advertising medium, when you reach the right audiences at the right time with out-of-home TV, it delivers positive results. Research shows that audiences agree it is a good way of reaching people like them; one in two will act on the campaign message they just saw – be it considering your product, looking for more information or speaking to others about it.

Recently, the Armed Forces used the large screens at football stadiums to reach a male-biased audience, engaging with their passion point. The research ran in partnership with C-Screens found that these screens reached an extra 13% of football fans who would have otherwise not seen the campaign at all, demonstrating incremental reach.

Here’s Chris Poole again: “It offers many points of differentiation. It is moving and speaking to you, alive almost, and this resonates with people. Through multiple studies into the effectiveness of out-of-home TV, interviewing 800 people across the country, what is clear is the level of engagement people have with this channel. And when people engage with your content, they tend to act on it.”

So, Phaedrus may have a point. People may look at the out-of-home TV market and latch on to the first part of the name. This is far from accurate and it does not tell the full story. With the key attributes and benefits of impact, audio and the provision of premium content, it moves the screens into a different arena. Engagement levels are high and contrary to some beliefs, and the experience is far more active than passive. That’s why many clients and agencies see out-of-home TV as part and parcel of the TV advertising sphere, rather than being bundled in with more traditional OOH opportunities.

By Steve Chambers | Commercial Director