Out of home and Covid-19 do not have the best partnership. Covid-19 wants everyone to social distance and stay at home, where OOH’s basic requirement is for people to go out. That is what out of home is if you check the definition in Wikipedia. It is basically advertising to consumers when they are on the go, in public places, and not at home.
As one can imagine OOH has taken serious strain due to clients not wanting to invest in OOH advertising; and rightly so when there is no one around to see it.
Media owners have sent out incredible discounts on their sites, and some of the best billboards in the country have become available. It is an OOH buyers’ market… but still, no one wants to buy because even if the billboard is discounted to as little as R5, if there is no one around to see it, it is R5 too much, especially when budgets are so tight.
However, there is some good news as the lockdown regulations in South Africa have eased, and more people have been allowed to return to work (apparently eight million from 1 June and even more today with level 2 regulations in place as of midnight last night).
With this we have seen an increase in traffic on the roads. This is great for OOH media owners as they need consumers to be on the roads, going to work, dropping the kids off at school (well…), being at the taxi rank or popping past the grocery store for milk.
But I know what you are thinking! Traffic on the roads? I don’t see it! Are you sure?
Many OOH media owners keep telling us the roads are almost back to full capacity. But when you switch on WAZE to see how long it would take to get from Olivedale to Sandton at 8am, the answer is never much more than 20 minutes, even since lockdown eased to level 3. This is a trip that pre-Covid, would take an hour if you were lucky!
We wonder then, where exactly is this traffic if it’s not in Sandton, and the other business hubs?
So just like you, and in the usual Meta Media spirit of “staying curious” we have pushed back to our media owner partners, and asked them where all of this traffic is. Where are the people going if they don’t seem to be going to work?
We got some really thought-provoking replies.
JCDecaux did a study on out of home mobility (using the all-powerful Google as one of their sources) showing how things had changed between level 5 and 4, and they noted that traffic had indeed increased on the roads:
Based on this study, it seems clear that there is indeed traffic on the roads, but like everything else during Covid-19, it has evolved and changed. Suburbs and residential areas are busier than normal, with people moving close to home to go to their local grocery store (27% increase), and to the parks to walk their dogs (28% increase).
We then moved to level 3 and of course this allowed for even more ‘freedom’ of movement. More businesses and restaurants were opened (with severe restrictions of course). More and more people started to go out to support local businesses and to try and feel “normal’ again.
This opened up a greater travelling radius because people are now venturing further away from home to eat at their favourite restaurants, to exercise in their favourite parks, to go to work, and to drop their kids off at school (until they were closed and reopened, again…). Life is starting to feel a little closer to ‘normal’.
According to the JCDecaux study, 81% of the pre-Covid traffic is now back on the road, a 20% uplift since we moved to level 3 from level 4, and while there is certainly more traffic around places of work, the majority is still concentrated in and around the suburbs, grocery stores and shopping malls.
Given this evolution in traffic patterns, so too should the buying of OOH evolve. Residential OOH should be in high demand…think bus shelters, mall advertising, street poles, citilites, taxi ranks, in taxi TV, wall murals, and Spaza shop branding.
I am sure that as we hit the last two levels of lockdown and more and more people head back to the office, and the kids return to school, business hubs like Sandton will once again become congested.
But in the meantime, don’t forget about the transit, mall and residential type OOH opportunities right in your own back yard!
Sandra Cross is an OOH specialist at Meta Media.