OOH Advertising Seizes Opportunities As Travel Demand Surges In 2023
While the strange phenomenon of “revenge travel” — which came as the result of pent-up travel demand during the COVID-19 pandemic — is reportedly waning, the drive by the general public to explore nature, experience the sights and sounds of big cities and quaint towns, to travel for business, or to feel warm sand between their toes, is strong. According to a survey conducted by Forbes, nearly half (49%) of Americans plan to travel more in 2023 than in 2022. Top plans include road trips, beach vacations, camping, outdoor adventures, and more.
For the out-of-home (OOH) advertising space, the goal of travel and tourism-focused work is two-fold: to compel consumers to go places, and to compel them to do things when they get there. In many cases, producing the work isn’t that different than, say, retail campaigns. What is different is the client’s needs, the “ask” of the messaging, and presenting a strong value proposition for consumer and business travel spending.
Data Shows Opportunity in OOH
According to figures released by the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), OOH advertising increased by 1% during the first quarter of 2023, as compared to the previous year, accounting for $1.82 billion in sales. The quarter marks the second highest first quarter volume in the history of OOH advertising, outpacing 2019 figures. Of note, digital OOH accounted for over 31% of sales, increasing by more than 4% over a year ago. Billboards rose by nearly 2%. About the recent report, Anna Bager, president and CEO of OAAA says, “Out-of-home advertising’s resiliency continued in the first quarter despite a challenging ad marketplace. Our medium is well-positioned to connect with consumers at the most critical moments to drive awareness and engagement, which is why OOH continues to thrive.”
The OAAA data showed that billboards loom large (literally) in the OOH space, accounting for more than three-fourths (76.3%) of Q1 2023 revenue. Transit-based applications accounted for 14.4%; place-based applications, 4.8%; street furniture, 4.5%.
Lisa Cross, principal analyst for NAPCO Research, says a recent survey focusing on buyers of wide-format printing found that 26% see outdoor advertising as a priority, and their primary goals for that work are to attract customer attention to products and services, promote events, and create a customer experience.
Converging for OOH
What exactly out-of-home advertising is — in the broader sense — has become more difficult to define, says Beau Wells, president of Convergent Print Group based in Phoenix, the recently-formed company resulting from the merger of Vincent Printing and BP Graphics. He says the emergence of digital OOH has had a transformative effect and sees growth in that area.
That said, he believes there is space for static, printed elements. “Well thought-out marketing and experiential [elements] are going to do both, and traditional formats will continue: stadiums and event venues, in buildings — all of it is OOH media.”
As a producer for OOH markets including travel and tourism, Wells says the “client” could be a media agency or owner, an ad agency, or even an installer tasked with doing building or retail graphics. Regardless of the customer or the message they seek to convey, he says Convergent Print Group positions itself as a valuable resource. As a vertical segment, he says travel and tourism has less variability than retail rollouts, where asset placements have greater variety.
“We want to be in the conversations that are propelling the industry forward,” Wells says. “We seek to understand different services, maintain installers around the country — we find our hand in a lot of different areas.” He says the company’s geographic placement, with locations in Arizona and Tennessee, allow it to quickly serve either coast, bringing faster delivery to meet tight campaign schedules.
Wells says Convergent Print Group produces traditional signage, fleet graphics, posters for transit, and wall murals for its OOH customers. In the travel and tourism market, where he says there was “a huge boom after the pandemic,” he currently sees a leveling off. For OOH, he sees increasing opportunity in truck-side signage — these vehicles inherently populate a city’s major arteries, and space can be sold to generate impressions, perhaps inspiring travelers to visit a restaurant or attraction.
For small and mid-sized graphics producers looking to increase their presence in OOH, Wells says the constant drive for greater creativity is creating opportunities for those who can help present novel campaigns in innovative ways. In OOH, whether for travel and tourism or another vertical market, he says, “Customers have to be engaged.”
Anatomy of a Travel OOH Campaign
According to a recent campaign profile in Media Post, Visit Tampa Bay — a not-for-profit organization that works to encourages travelers to take advantage of the offerings of Florida’s Gulf Coast — recently launched a multi-channel promotional campaign that includes both static and digital elements. Created by FKQ Advertising + Marketing, the campaign is focused on English and Spanish-speaking audiences in the Atlanta, and Florida's Orlando and Miami-Fort Lauderdale markets, and highlights key Tampa-area attractions. It provides a unique view of what a broadly focused travel OOH effort might include.
Assets within the campaign include the following:
- Digital OOH placement in retail spaces and casual
- Ad placements including bulletins along major Orlando-
- Ad placements on street furniture in popular
- Ads placed on 48 Atlanta-area bus routes, focusing on upscale areas in that market.
- A wrapped fleet of Uber and Lyft vehicles placed in both Miami and Atlanta markets.
- 30-second commercials featured on connected TV systems
- Digital ads targeting mobile devices and social
The breadth of this campaign means the Visit Tampa Bay messaging will likely provide multiple impressions for people within its geographically targeted areas, with the likely result of increasing interest in booking transportation, finding accommodation, and taking a deeper dive into the possibilities of a Gulf Coast vacation. In this campaign, it is easy to see opportunity in the wide-format space, particularly in the printing and installation of graphics on passenger vehicles, bus fleets, and street furniture. As with broad campaigns in other vertical markets, the wide-format segment is but one part.
Visual Engagement and Beyond
For Jordan Weinstein, director of business development at Candid Worldwide (Farmingdale, New York, with locations in New York City and Las Vegas), there is variability in the OOH space, and bigger is not always better. “If you’re selling local, lawn signs may be more important than a billboard in Times Square.”
Weinstein says for campaigns that use standard applications, such as billboards, taxi toppers, and bus shelters, the production design and printing aspects can be rather formulaic. It is for custom, often-experiential work that the jobs get more complicated, and the company’s core competencies come to the fore. He says that experiential marketing — that which extends beyond simply conveying a message and instead reaching the customer emotionally or through their senses — can require a variety of static and digital elements.
Recent travel and tourism-focused campaigns Candid Worldwide has undertaken include the TEFAF New York Art Fair, which takes place in New York, with messaging promoting the main TEFAF event, TEFAF Maastricht, held in Maastricht, Netherlands — a destination-level international art exhibition. Another promotion was for Formula 1 auto racing. While the specific event was a race in Las Vegas, it also promoted attendance of, and travel to, events on the worldwide Formula 1 circuit.
One way OOH is changing, Weinstein says, is that it’s becoming hyper-local. “For a store [or attraction] in Soho, New York or in West Hollywood, California, the focus may be a three-mile radius, not a 30-mile radius.” He adds that hyper-local is a “call to action,” such as, “go to the store,” or “go to the hotel.” Using one of the inherent benefits of digital printing, messaging can become variable: “turn right ahead,” or “look across the street.”
Asked how serving travel OOH is different than serving, say, retail, Weinstein says, “It’s more action-based, shorter timeline, so it needs more impact. With travel, you’re calling toward a season — something is happening.” Finally, he says print quality is essential, and it’s all about attracting the traveler to a space, a location, an event. “It has to be a quality space. You need the images and the actual quality to present a better look than the other [options].” This extends, he says, to marketing collateral, which Candid Worldwide also produces: “It has to be high-end. It has to match what they’re projecting.
The Potential of Digital OOH
The growing strength of digital OOH advertising is best illustrated in iconic city centers — Times Square in New York City; Piccadilly Circus in London; Tokyo’s Akihabara district — where once static advertisements have given way to a riot of content, colorful and dynamic. It can further be witnessed on roadside billboards, where the task of applying or rigging large static images has given way to beaming a file to a digital screen.
The attraction of digital goes beyond ease of use, or even the presentation of animated or video images. It extends into selling not just space, but also time, following advertising models more akin to television advertising than the static-image models so common to the wide-format graphics space. Whether digital OOH is an opportunity for wide-format producers depends on numerous considerations: market access, technical prowess, and whether it make sense for the future of the business.
The travel and tourism industry is witnessing a strong resurgence as people are eager to explore new places and experiences. This growing demand presents significant opportunities in the OOH advertising space, where the goal is not only to compel consumers to go places but also to engage them in activities and experiences attheir destinations.
For companies looking to enter the OOH market, there is a need to focus on creativity and innovation, as campaigns that offer unique and experiential elements are becoming more valuable in attracting consumer attention.
For wide-format producers, embracing digital OOH could open new revenue streams and align their businesses with the future of advertising. Whether it’s catering to local businesses or global travel campaigns, OOH advertising is well-positioned to leverage the travel industry’s resurgence and connect with consumers at critical moments to drive awareness and engagement.