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What did OOH learn from the first UK lockdown?

19 Nov 2020  |  Tim Lumb 
What did OOH learn from the first UK lockdown?

Tim Lumb, director at Outsmart, explains the significance of a new collaborative study from the out of home sector

Effective out of home (OOH) strategy is predicated on understanding how people behave when they’re out and about. Knowing where they are, how they get around and how their mindset transitions between activities collectively provides the context for the medium’s planning and effectiveness.

Generally speaking, people are habitual, and they structure their movements around the norms of work and leisure time, family, friends, interests and preferences that collectively make up ‘real life’. When something like Covid happens we see people adapt and form new habits.

With the PM’s announcement this weekend of a less restrictive and shorter lockdown than spring’s, what did we learn from that period and thereafter?

I’m proud to say that OOH doubled down on its evidence-based approach to understanding audience behaviours. Firstly, by leveraging data sources to identify exactly what is happening, and secondly by carefully rebalancing OOH campaigns accordingly.

A few examples: augmenting OOH’s joint industry currency Route with insight derived from on-device data; taking a week-on-week view of mobility and location data to spot emerging trends; informing the impact of creative with contextual messaging so brands can drive leadership and connection; utilising classic and digital OOH to deploy that creative at scale; and crucially, evaluating the collective results.

Using data from both buy and sell side (JCDecaux, Talon, Kinetic, Posterscope, Rapport and Global), the OOH sector came together to pool results from 65 campaigns between March and September 2020.

The results show that campaigns using OOH performed strongly in terms of brand metrics, action outcomes, footfall and sales, including +51% for ad recall and +16% purchase intent.

The study is undoubtedly robust and shows the performance of brands at a time which mirrors the challenging time ahead of us in November.

As the country recovers, it is certainly valuable to demonstrate the extent that brands are influencing OOH audiences in the current conditions. Ads were both noticed and effected positive actions at both ends of the marketing funnel.

For particular categories, like automotive, the effect of brands not going dark has proved noticeably beneficial. Overall top of mind awareness increased by an effect one and a half times stronger than for all brands in the study, plus a +5% increase in consideration and a +35% increase in purchase intent.

The results are so strong that even compared with pre-lockdown KPIs, some campaigns saw reach and activation perform better.

With the recent announcement of further restrictions in England, this collaborative study demonstrates that brands taking an insight-led approach to OOH are reaping the rewards across brand and action metrics. Data often challenges our gut-feel perceptions, and we are seeing audience adaption, not significant reduction.

A final positive is that the new restrictions in England for November are both shorter and less severe than those we saw in Spring. By way of broad comparison, the recent circuit-breakers in Northern Ireland and Wales have seen only marginal decline in OOH audiences.

A predictor for England, and perhaps reflecting that we are all simply more familiar with living with Covid restrictions now. Whatever comes, OOH will continue to track mobility and trace opportunity and remain a valuable platform for driving reach amongst audiences, to fuel brand awareness, consideration and purchase.



Mediatel operate two essential services for the OOH industry. SPACE is a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart and is the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of inventory in the UK. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution that enables easy integration of Route audience data into client's systems. See mediatel.co.uk for more information.

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