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The latest IPA Bellwether report claims UK marketers are to see the biggest boost to budgets in four years. But one outlier is the out-of-home (OOH) sector, which is the only main media category to record a net cut. The Drum explores why.

As per the research (here), 11.9% of firms said they’d reduce OOH spend this quarter. That outweighed the 9.9% that revised upwards, resulting in a net balance of -2.0%. In context, there’s a fairly prosperous quarter ahead and spend in all other sectors was reported to increase; video (net 12.6%), other online advertising (net 10.6%), audio (net 6%) and publishers (net 5.2%).

Despite concerns about OOH, the Q3 report marked an improvement from Q2’s -7.5% net balance. Recent research from the Advertising Association and Warc details that impressive surge – even if it leaves the sector shy of other channels as per the IPA study. 

The Drum asked marketers why there may be trepidation about the sector ahead of a successful vaccine rollout and the Christmas period ahead.

OOH ad spend anxiety

James Copley, UK chief executive at Talon Outdoor, says he’s “surprised” to see the budget cut and says it doesn’t “match” what he’s seeing. “We’re seeing surging demand across most formats and environments.”

He claims that inflation of TV prices is seeing some clients up spend in broadcast-style OOH. “On top of this, advertiser confidence has improved with regards to employees returning to offices and shoppers to the high street.”

However, Alistair McCallum, Kinetic Worldwide UK chief executive, believes that some clients need convinced that the audiences are there, especially with the remaining prevalence of remote work.

“We are battling perception in the same way clients labored under the myth that TV was dead for so many years.”

During its quiet year, the sector moved fast to digitize its inventory and bidding processes to bring it closer in line to the ways most marketers now buy media.

McCallum says: “On the flip side other clients are seeing the new opportunities that exist in OOH as the medium gets smarter, more agile and flexible. In addition demand for creative solutions has never been higher.”

He wonders if there is an underlying anxiety about “future lockdowns,” but adds that the sector now has protections in place for clients.

The sector is “taking a little longer to recover” due to limited travel at the likes of airports and train stations, according to Hannah Walley, head of media at Kantar UK & Ireland.

Despite that, Kantar fully expects OOH to “bounce back strongly in the midterm.” She cites the general positivity its research has shown the public has toward OOH as a driver of that (they’re also open to cinema).

She concludes: “It’s important that marketers continue to consider digital OOH and OOH as part of their media mix.”    

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