Illustration of OOH billboards with Covid-19 (Cover Image)
Brand MarketingDecember 29, 2021

The Impact of Covid-19 on OOH Advertising

December 29, 2021
Cory Profile Picture
Cory Schröder
Senior Content Marketing Manager

Covid-19 has affected almost every area of our lives — work, school, travel, free time… the list goes on. And while many of the changes brought about will prove to be temporary, others are here to stay.

Restrictions around the world kept many consumers home-bound for extended periods of time — but that didn’t stop them from living their lives. From remote working to online shopping, the pandemic required people to adapt to their new environment.

This resulted in less time spent commuting to offices or trolling the high streets — which signaled a huge drop in inner-city traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. While this may have been a welcome respite for inner-city residents, it’s not a situation as well-received by Out-of-Home (OOH) advertisers, who rely on these areas of heavy footfall.

With “lots of activity on the outside, but a big hole in the middle”, they’re now faced with “The Donut Problem” — a phrase coined by media & marketing agency Carat UK. Over the course of the pandemic, Carat has identified a distinct drop in both footfall and mobile data usage in city centers. However, they also found usage increasing on the outskirts.

Even when the pandemic is over, this shift towards local living is likely to remain. So, what does this mean for OOH advertising in 2022? And what can brands do to ensure OOH ads are worth investing in? This article will break it down.

Why Could Localism Be Bad News For OOH Advertising?

Source: Unsplash

For decades, city-centers have been a goldmine for outdoor advertising — overflowing with potential customers, like commuting workers, tourists, and shoppers. But Covid-19 has forced people to live more local lives, which has led to “a dramatic shift in how people travel and move around.”

In her article for Think With Google, Susie Walker explains this phenomenon perfectly, stating:

“Driven as much by the necessity of lockdowns as by ethics, the localism trend accelerated throughout 2020, as people were forced to stay in their local areas.”

And while this trend may lessen when the pandemic is over, it will not disappear altogether. For many years, there have been grassroots movements encouraging people to shop locally and support neighborhood businesses. These types of campaigns were often a direct result of hyper-globalization and our on-demand economy.

Want something no store nearby has in stock? Don’t wait, just order it online. Sure, it may come from a factory manned by severely underpaid workers on the other side of the world — but it’s convenient, right?

However, a recent survey conducted by BCG revealed that nearly 95% of those surveyed “said they believed their personal actions could help reduce unsustainable waste, tackle climate change, and protect wildlife and biodiversity” — a statistic that fits right in with the move towards localism.

Furthermore, Walker points out that “throughout 2021, even as many parts of the world began to open up, localism has not declined. Instead, (we witnessed) a renewed commitment to local communities. As city workers continue(d) to work from home offices, they’re (spent) more time in their local areas.”


Of course, there has been a boom in online shopping in response to the pandemic. That was to be expected. However, as previously touched upon, there have been other (more positive) changes brought about by Covid-19 — namely an interest in sustainability and supporting local businesses.

According to Retail Week, 64% of people “want to support local businesses and buy local products, with women being even more likely to shop within their community (70%)” — something brands that target female consumers should keep in mind.

And based on the results from Uberall’s 2021 survey, 37% of respondents from the US, UK, Germany, and France stated that they “shop locally even when it’s more expensive or less convenient” — the highest percentage of all possible responses.

When asked how they plan to shop post-Coivd, 43% of the same group of respondents stated: “Most of my shopping will be in stores”. Clearly, consumers are ready and willing to dip their toes back into the offline shopping world — something OOH advertisers and brands alike should rejoice in.

However, many brands traditionally “used transport and travel patterns as cues for media (evening newspapers, drivetime radio)” — with popular OOH ads locations being tube cars, billboards, and train stations.

And though offline shopping will increase, the localism trend also means fewer consumers will be heading into city centers to do their shopping — which spells out bad news for OOH advertisers unwilling to alter their traditional methods.


Clearly, changing consumer behavior and preferences can be both positive and negative for OOH advertising in 2022 — it’s all about how they approach it. But with the shift towards local living, traditional methods and hot-spots for OOH advertising won’t work as well in 2022 and beyond.

Instead, OOH advertisers will have to find new ways to get their ads in front of consumers. So, how will they accomplish this? Let’s discuss.

3 Ways OOH Advertisers Can Reach Consumers in 2022

With the new year comes new challenges. And for brands using OOH campaigns, 2022 will be a year of ingenuity.

In order to reach consumers and ensure the continued success of this form of advertising, brands will need to consider the following tips.

1. Test Out New Geographic Targeting

For decades, geotargeting city centers was a fool-proof plan. With the high foot traffic and millions of potential impressions, it just made sense for brands looking to increase brand awareness.

However, with more and more consumers choosing to shop locally and visit the nearest city center with far less frequency, brands and their advertising campaigns will have to come to them.

By choosing to geotarget new areas (suburbs, towns, villages, etc.) brands are more likely to capture consumer attention going forward — maybe even the same ones who used to see their more central ads.

However, to figure out which areas these potential customers live in and frequent, brands will have to use their customer data strategically and, then, extrapolate. But keep in mind — with the death of third-party cookies and the rise of zero party data, brands will need to be smart about how they gather and utilize customer information.

2. Try Out Less-Traditional OOH Options

Brands will also need to change the framework of how and when they target consumers. Traditional methods, such as using popular commuting routes, will no longer suffice.

Instead, brands should consider how consumers are now living — and try out OOH ads that fit into their new routines. From bench ads to digital placards in bus shelters, there are plenty of ways to capture consumer attention in new their geographies.

Furthermore, brands should also consider trying out less-traditional types of OOH advertising. When most people think “OOH ads”, their minds go straight to huge billboards and signs in train stations. But OOH can be so much more than that.

Consider putting your branded ads on options such as bags, bike seat covers, or wall murals. Consumers are shopping at their local stores? See if any local businesses would like a free supply of eco-friendly canvas bags — covered in your branding, of course.

More people are biking instead of riding public transportation? Consider giving out free, branded bike seat covers. This will get your brand all over town!

At the end of the day, it pays to be inventive when dealing with new challenges, and brands will need to figure out ways to connect with consumers in their new normal. We suggest getting creative.

3. Invest in Advanced Consumer Data

To make it in this brave new world of OOH advertising, you’ll need to understand your target audiences. And we mean really understand them. The shifts towards more local living and working from home will result in changing consumer perceptions and behaviors.

What once worked wonders in downtown digital billboard campaigns may not connect with your target consumers anymore. In order to understand their evolving needs and preferences, you need access to advanced consumer insights.

Data like this is most readily available using brand monitoring — with a tool like Latana providing reliable, nuanced insights into consumer perceptions. When you know your target audiences’ brand awareness, consideration, and preference levels — as well as their brand associations — you’ll be better equipped to connect with them using new OOH digital marketing formats and locations.

Final Thoughts

Global digital OOH spend is set to increase by 91% between 2021 and 2027, with ad spend projected to reach $15,905,700,000. Clearly, OOH advertising is and will continue to be a growing market.

However, how successful brands will be when utilizing OOH ads will depend on their willingness to adapt to new consumer lifestyles and preferences. And if you want your brand to succeed in 2022 and beyond, we recommend getting started with brand tracking software as soon as possible.

It’s a choice you most definitely won’t regret.

Brand Marketing
Brand Insights

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