Experts Speak: OOH Advertising in 2021 – Is revival on the cards?

OOH advertising in 2021

Media Samosa speaks with industry experts to gauge the current situation of one of the most impacted advertising formats during the pandemic – OOH advertising.

As we gear up and move towards a glimmer of hope with vaccines, normalcy is expected to return in various areas. But, back in 2020, at a time when WFH had just begun and the roads and streets were mostly deserted, OOH advertising was the most impacted for obvious reasons.

Media Samosa speaks with the experts and attempts to trace the ups and downs of OOH advertising, to understand if revival is on the cards in the days to come.

The Initial State

According to Dentsu Digital Report, OOH advertising was predicted to grow by 9% in 2020, while Group M’s TYNY forecasted a 6% of growth but owing to the pandemic, advertising on hoardings and billboards showcased a decline. Where do the projections stand now?

Gour GuptaMD & CEO, Tribes Havas, shared, “The industry saw the abrupt dropping of campaigns and they dropped to almost 55% in the first half of the year. The Experiential businesses came to an absolute halt.”

While COVID-19 might have transformed the landscape of Outdoor advertising, the learnings accumulated during the challenging phase, helped the marketers re-evaluate their offerings and realign the brands as per the New Normal.

Aman Nanda, Chief Strategy Officer, Times OOH, explained, “It could be easy to set 2020 aside as a ‘gap year’ for OOH advertising. However, COVID-19 has fundamentally redesigned both our business and consumer behavior in a massive way.”

With the onset of the festive season, OOH advertising displayed glimpses of recovery and boost backed by the unlock phases and traffic getting back to 80%-90% of normality. This was followed by the IPL, opening up of eateries pan-India, which provided some respite.

Jayesh Yagnik, CEO, MOMS Outdoor Media Solutions, pointed out, “Transit and destination advertising were the last to recover, however as the time is progressing we are seeing some traction in those touchpoints.”

The future, however, seems brighter. Rajneesh Bahl, National Head – Business Growth, Laqshya Solutions, re-affirmed that OOH propels the concept of Zero Touch media for the viewers, and with traffic back on the road, it is gaining the preference with each passing day.

The new year is slated to bring forth promise of hopes of improvement in the industry.

Also read: #RoadTo2021: PR trends that need to die in 2021

OOH Advertising Trends for 2021

As the lines between offices and home continue to blur, marketers will also look at locations with new lenses, making local connect with audiences more pronounced.

Fabian Trevor Cowan, Country Head, Posterscope India, shares, “Context will come to the fore and creatives will use location intelligence while creating for OOH and data will become even more relevant in driving home brand messaging.”

Highlighting the trends for 2021, Nanda encapsulates:

Consistent Increase in Digital Outdoor Advertising – DOOH is the future and the growth of digital and technology in this space will lead to accountable and engaging communication with the consumer in a relaxed mind frame. It provides flexibility to add data feeds, video, and developing programmatic capabilities to the mix. 

DOOH contributes to almost 30% of OOH revenues worldwide.

Innovations in technology have broadened the horizon and possibilities of placements of outdoor advertisements, particularly – from AR, VR, Mixed Reality, Gesture motion sensors, Beacon/RFID, mobile-retargeting for hyper-targeting to PDOOH, IoT, cloud computing, and real-time feed integration in digital screens for advertisements. Advertisers have started adapting such technologies well in busy public places such as airports and metros with high dwell time in waiting areas.

Further, experts suggest that the hyperlocal approach would get momentum, targeting their customers where they are at home/their localities, through DOOH and mobile integration in outdoor marketing. Gour adds that over the year, we have seen practices of online bidding being widely adopted which would continue for OOH media buying.

Yagnik re-emphasizes that multi-channel integration is instrumental in ensuring that the message delivered across all mediums is coherent and consistent with the brand’s image. This will lead to the brand’s TV advertisements align with DOOH initiatives.

Impact on AdSpends 

Experts opine that OOH AdSpends in 2021 will depend on the COVID-19 threat and the success of the Vaccine. However, even with restricted movement, it should reach 80+ percent of the level of the normal spends. Bahl puts forth, “I feel Q3 of next financial year could be the time when we’ll see 100% normalcy.”

When the OOH industry started showing signs of recovery, categories like OTT, Real Estate, and Automobiles were the first to take the plunge. This was followed by BFSI brands, Mobile handsets, Health & Hygiene, Retail, and even FMCG brands to give a positive push to the OOH advertising, suggest the experts.

Further, Nanda shares, “We will see new categories like Home Decor, Education, Healthcare, Smart gadgets spending more on OOH media for brand awareness and category building.”

Gour highlights that, “The reset in the Tier 2 markets were to the tune of 60-70%. In metros & Tier 1 markets, the uptake has been a bit low due to the high costs”, he adds.

Elaborating on the impact on the media budgets, Yagnik explains that the media budget percentage share for OOH varies drastically from category to category. For example, brands that need greater hyperlocal connect continue to have a high share of pie in OOH. The new emerging categories such as OTT, EduTech, and gaming are exploring this medium in a better way. 

On the overall level, OOH will continue to be under 10% of the advertising pie.

Way Forward

There were encouraging signs of recovery, in the last month of 2020 which seems to have overflowed into the first month of 2021.

For the months ahead, Bahl shares that most brands have started investing their pent-up budget in OOH media as they can’t shy away from the impact which can be achieved only through this medium. 

2021 will be a year of improved advertisements that will witness DOOH grow. Experts further anticipate 100% mobility in the next couple of months. With a higher dose of interactivity backed by data, digital, and analytics, outdoor billboards will deploy smarter advertisements to connect with the target audience.

“Advertisements will not only show information about a particular business, product, or service, it will also predict the user-profile of those audiences who interacted with it. As a result, augmented reality and virtual reality will make outdoor advertising campaigns more visceral and engaging”, Yagnik concludes.



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A storyteller and a narrator by heart, vocalist by genes and a thesaurus-bee. Also, an explorer, traveler, and trekker, Aishwarrya has myriads of interests with love for music and movies. Writing is not just a hobby but her first love with a Facebook page on perspectives, channelizing the passion. Got her research paper published with IGI Global US on music. A maverick by nature and a feminist by choice, to challenge stereotypes.


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