Cover version of illustration of OOH outside of a city
Brand StrategyMay 12, 2022

3 Ways You Can Localize Your Next OOH Campaign

May 12, 2022
Ashley Lightfoot Photo
Ashley Lightfoot
Content Marketing Manager

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is a great way to establish your brand’s presence in a certain area, whether that be the center of a city or a sprawling suburban neighborhood. And while the options for personalization are essentially non-existent, this doesn’t mean you need to find a one-size-fits-all approach.

Indeed, OOH campaigns work best when they’re localized to reflect the lives of those consumers who cross its path on a daily basis.

There are numerous ways that brands can localize their OOH campaigns to improve the chances of their message resonating with local consumers and, in this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the various ways this can be done — and the importance of doing your research in order to do it right.

3 Ways You Can Localize OOH Campaigns

If you want your OOH campaigns to be effective, then it needs to grab the attention of consumers — and with various channels constantly fighting for their engagement, this task has become more difficult than ever.

By localizing your OOH campaigns, you’re ensuring that your message not only stands out from the crowd but has a better chance of resonating with your target audience. So, let’s take a closer look at the various ways you can tailor your campaigns to their surroundings.

1. Reference Local Culture

Whether it's a city, a region, or a whole country, by showing off your brand’s awareness of local culture you can build closer emotional bonds with consumers — this is especially true if you’re trying to break into a new market.

Generally speaking, people are proud of where they come from and they like to see the small details that make up their everyday experiences reflected in the world around them. When a brand references local culture, it can demonstrate authenticity and relatability — both of which can be powerful factors when establishing a relationship with consumers.

Here, it really pays to do your homework — especially because getting it wrong can have the opposite effect and actually alienate target consumers.

HSBC’s “Not An Island” campaign is a prime example of a successful OOH campaign that referenced local cultural touchpoints to great success. Situated in major cities across the UK with distinct copy that celebrated the cultural heritage of each, these campaigns demonstrated an in-depth knowledge that would be difficult to achieve without local input — or at least very thorough research.

The creatives not only referenced each city’s history but the names and song titles of their biggest bands, sports rivalries, local delicacies, landmarks, and other shared sources of pride.

The subtle way in which this was done also helped push the notion that HSBC really was familiar with each city’s local culture. For example, in its campaigns for Bristol, rather than simply stating that the city is home to acclaimed animation studio Aardman Animations, they included the line “Even in the wrong trousers you still have the marks of a kingdom.” — a veiled reference to the studio’s most iconic characters, Wallace and Gromit.

2. Take Advantage Of The Space Your Campaign Appears In

Another effective way of localizing your OOH campaign is to make your campaign site-specific, meaning that the copy and creatives are tailored specifically to an individual piece of advertising space.

This might be achieved by speaking to the types of people who frequent that space — commuters in train stations, shoppers in city squares, or tourists at popular attractions. Or it would be done by making references within the actual creative to the surrounding location.

A great example of this is Mcdonald’s billboard advertising overlooking the streets of Toronto — which used sections of its iconic golden arches logo to provide drivers with minimalist directions to the nearest Mcdonald's restaurant.

While you can do much more than just direct consumers to the nearest place they can find your brand, the more detail you include, the more research you’ll need to conduct in order to make sure your creative works in the target location.

Consumers will be quick to notice if your attempts at fitting in are insincere. Case in point — Magnum, whose site-specific OOH campaign in Manchester, England was met with ridicule from local observers.

While someone unfamiliar with Manchester might not instantly recognize the problem, to locals it was clear as day. See, the “gardens” in Piccadilly Gardens are a bit of a misnomer. In actuality, the square is actually “notorious for drug use, crime and anti-social behaviour” — and comprises mostly concrete and a busy bus depot. Locals aren’t typically found sunbathing in Piccadilly Gardens.

Mancunians responded on Twitter by ridiculing the campaign, with many claiming that it was a “good way for Magnum’s marketing department to reveal they’ve never been to or indeed, spoken to anyone from Manchester."

Not exactly the impression they were hoping to make.

On the other hand, chocolate brand Snickers demonstrated in Ireland that getting it intentionally wrong can be a clever way of promoting your brand. By placing an ad in support of Dundalk FC outside the stadium of rival team, Cork FC, they were able to drum up local publicity. Furthermore, other creatives with names spelled incorrectly were clever nods to the brand’s tagline — “You’re not you when you’re hungry”.

3. Use Live Data

OOH advertising has come a long way in recent years and, in many locations, there are possibilities to combine live data with a visual creative that can really help your brand grab the attention of passersby.

This can be done in myriad inventive ways — as demonstrated by British Airways' “Magic of Flying” campaign. Inspired by “his little daughter pointing up at planes flying overhead”, Jon Andrews, a creative technologist at ad agency OgilvyOne, had the idea for a digital billboard ad. On it, a small child points up at visible British Airways planes in the sky, notifying people on the street where the flight was going.

The ad also demonstrates another important point about using live data to localize your OOH campaigns — while the possibilities are endless, pulling it off can require heaps of technical prowess.

In order to realize the British Airways campaign, the team at OgilvyOne had to “build a virtual trigger zone in the sky using ADS-B antennas on the roofs of tall buildings within the flight path” to read each aircraft’s transponder.

Then, they used a custom-built app to sift through them and pull out only British Airways planes, cross-referencing the flight data with Heathrow air traffic control to determine the destination. “At the same time, a meteorological data feed” was used to determine “whether the cloud height allowed the plane to be clearly seen from the ground.”

On top of this, they had to figure out a completely new type of digital ad type — interruptive media — which would allow the ad to display when triggered by a British Airways flight and “interrupt” whatever ad was currently playing on the billboard at that moment. The ad went on to win numerous awards across a range of categories from “OOH, technology, media, direct, UX and more.”

But your own digital OOH campaign needn’t be so complex to work. In fact, sometimes a single data set is all it takes to place your brand in a new and engaging context. For example, let’s return to McDonald’s, which utilized simple temperature data to promote their latest iced drinks.

The ad was triggered by temperatures rising above 22 degrees celsius — and if temperatures rose even higher (above 25 degrees celsius) then the creative was updated to include the live temperature and the city name. By using a simple data set like temperature, the campaign allowed Mcdonald’s to promote a relevant product when local conditions were likely to create more demand for it.

Final Thoughts

The advent of digital billboards has created limitless possibilities when it comes to localizing your OOH campaigns, although simple ideas are often the most effective and still possible to achieve using traditional billboards.

Regardless of complexity, when localizing your campaigns, the most important step to undertake is research. As with Magnum, the effect of getting it wrong could be damaging to your brand — so if you want to reference a particular part of a city, use local slang, or say something about the space around your ad creative, make sure you understand how locals perceive that space too.

By using brand monitoring software, you can also track the effectiveness of your OOH campaigns and measure how brand awareness is changing across target cities — and whether new brand associations are being formed from your campaigns. With these tools, your OOH branding campaigns no longer need to be based on gut instinct but can be iterated and optimized to help grow your brand.

Brand Strategy

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