People who see an OOH campaign are 17% more likely to engage with the brand on their mobile

While out-of-home advertising can have an impact on long-term metrics like brand awareness, new research finds it can also trigger short-term consumer behaviour and drive new customers to engage with brands on their smartphone.

New research claims to have found a clearly identifiable correlation between out-of-home (OOH) advertising and consumers’ online interactions with brands. The study by OOH industry body Outsmart suggests that the medium can drive short-term metrics such as sales, rather than just long-term factors like brand awareness.

Working with research group Ipsos Mori, Outsmart recruited a sample of 470 people aged 16 to 44 for a study that ran throughout the course of November last year. Each participant downloaded two apps onto their smartphones; one that tracked their location and another that monitored their online behaviour on the phone, such as URLs visited and search terms entered into their browser. The participants were told the study was about how they use their smartphones, but were not told that it related to OOH advertising.

Uplift in brand actions

This allowed Outsmart to passively capture behaviour and see if there was any relationship between smartphone activity and the OOH sites that people walked past or were exposed to. It finds that people who have seen an OOH advert are 17% more likely to interact with the brand or campaign in question on their phone than those who have not.

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In total, Outsmart looked at 35 campaigns across the country and worked with OOH media owners to find the sites where each campaign was displayed. According to the research, the 20 most effective campaigns achieve a 38% uplift in smartphone ‘brand actions’ compared to people who have not been exposed to the campaign. This could include direct actions such as searching for the brand name or campaign tagline, or navigating to the brand’s website, as well as secondary actions such as researching a particular aspect of the advert’s creative or something indirectly related to the brand. The research finds that 66% of all smartphone actions are direct to the brand, while 57% of all actions occur within two days of the last exposure to the outdoor ad.

Outsmart’s insight and effectiveness director Tim Lumb claims the study is proof that OOH can trigger consumer behaviour. “OOH has always been known as a brand builder that drives long term success,” he says. “That’s all well and good and has been proved time and time again, but this study is showing that with an industry-wide perspective, you can also start to see more short-term effects.

“That fits with how marcomms is moving in general. Marcomms is moving to shorter-term performance metrics, so it’s interesting to see that OOH can also work within that kind of remit.”

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Engaging outside the customer base

In addition, the research suggests that OOH can help brands to engage with people outside their usual audience segments. For example, it finds that 57% of people who engage with a campaign on their smartphone after an OOH exposure are either new or lapsed customers of the brand in question. Outsmart calculated this statistic by surveying the participants about their shopping behaviour and preferred brands prior to the passive measurement.

Outsmart CEO Alan Brydon argues that engaging with new or lapsed consumers is vital to business growth. “The example that everyone uses is if Coca-Cola gets its most regular purchasers to buy more Coke, it doesn’t really do a lot for its business, but if it gets the people who only buy one a year to buy two a year, their business doubles,” he says. “That’s why it’s important.”

Young people are more likely to interact with a brand on their phone following an OOH exposure, according to the report. Those aged 16 to 24 are 140% more likely to perform a brand action when exposed to the top 20 performing campaigns than those who do not see them. This compares to an average uplift across the entire sample of 38%.

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Lumb suggests it is logical for there to be higher levels of engagement among younger people, but concedes the trend needs further investigation given the relatively small sample size. “The millennial age group is out and about more than others – they are often out socialising with their friends, so that’s one thing in favour of out-of-home [advertising],” he says. “The other thing is that they are constantly on their phones, so you can see why that uplift has happened.”

Given the challenges of advertising on other media, Lumb believes brands should pay closer attention to the performance marketing potential of OOH. This could include using location-based marketing platforms to target mobile marketing messages around outdoor ads.

“There are now issues around ad blocking and ad visibility on different devices, and the fact that young people are not watching linear TV as much as they used to. All of those things make OOH a more reliant medium for talking to that audience,” he claims.