How the World’s Oldest Advertising Medium Uses Creativity to Drive Salience

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In recent months, the advertising industry has had to weather increasing concerns around data privacy and ethical advertising, while clients continue to raise questions about brand safety and viewability.

Combine this with downward pressure on budgets and influential figures such as Unilever’s Keith Weed calling for a metaphorical draining of the “digital swamp”, and it becomes clear that the industry must rethink how to it drives long-term brand salience in the era of clicks, shares and shorter attention spans.

Thankfully, they may not need to look far – possibly just out of their office windows. Out-of-Home may be the world’s oldest advertising medium, but its ability to build iconic brands, as it has done for the likes of Coca-Cola and Jack Daniel’s, remains undiminished. The medium’s unarguable strengths – mass reach, visual impact, and the ability to leverage location – continue to be key drivers of brand metrics over time, building sales without the peaks and troughs associated with short-term, tactical messaging.

And while digital may be the key driving force in Out-of-Home right now, it remains a one-to-many medium that builds on the fundamental strengths of the medium in its ‘traditional’ analogue form.

Brand equity

So, how can advertisers most effectively tap into this channel to build long-term brand equity? By their very nature, static billboards are perfectly placed to add to what Heather Andrew, UK CEO of Neuro-Insight, calls the “brand room” – the neuro-networks in our brain which collect and store information about brands. Repeated, long-term exposure to OOH advertising grows our understanding of what a brand means and primes us on the path to purchase as a result.

Indeed, in their 2017 study Media in Focus, Binet & Field demonstrated that OOH was second only to TV in generating the “very large business effects” of sales gains and market share gains. Consider as well that, according to IPA’s Touchpoints research, Out-of-Home holds the lion’s share of time spent consuming content – over three hours a day on average – and its heavy-hitting brand-building qualities are clear.

As with any medium, however, the effectiveness of the message depends how you choose to communicate it. Out-of-Home certainly allows brands to communicate with a creative flourish, and, beyond standard formats, many are beginning to take advantage of the possibility of using special builds or even large-scale urban wall murals to stand out and attract attention. The continuing usage of these more ‘traditional’ creative executions at a time when digital OOH is very much in vogue again demonstrates the power of the medium overall and the trust that brands have in its effectiveness.

Creative approach

Big name brands, such as Aperol, have used physical installations as part of a wider campaign, complementing both PR and social activations, and making OOH a central tenet of a broader marketing mix. Indeed, the use of a consistent creative approach across a multi-faceted campaign succeeds in enhancing brand salience by growing our understanding of what the brand means and building a sense of familiarity with the messages conveyed.

Nonetheless, special builds are not the only way to leverage creativity in static OOH. The recent “Oops” campaign from O2 is a brilliant example of how even a traditional billboard can be used creatively and with great impact.

Other advertisers have used OOH’s ability to leverage location nudges to drive sales and achieve a targeted broadcast approach, which is hard to achieve through other channels. Recent research conducted by Kinetic, MediaCom and Subway, found that there was a “personalisation sweet-spot” when it came to OOH and location. Using this insight, we were able to optimise creative executions and drive incremental sales for the brand by nearly 10%.

Amplify effectiveness

This is one of many insights around creative and format that can be leveraged to amplify ad effectiveness. Food advertisers, for example, can tap into neuroscience to drive an emotional response from consumers, leveraging “gastrophysics” insights to shape effective creative. The gastrophysics theory, pioneered by Professor Charles Spence, found that we’re naturally draw to foods which have one of the following properties: crispy, crackly, carbonated, creamy, or crunchy.

This has been borne out by research we conducted with Out-of-Home media owner Primesight, which found that better recalled posters featuring food, after accounting for spend, were those that featured one of Spence’s 5C’s – demonstrating how creative underpinned by scientific insights can be a powerful tool in cutting through the noise.

As clients and agencies alike move to reconsider how to drive salience and communicate meaningfully with consumers in the age of the (dwindling) attention economy, classic OOH formats continue to offer a creative and powerful means to cut-through. The oldest advertising medium it may be, but traditional OOH continues to deliver results.

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