Out-of-home sector sees community as crucial in 2021

Community and OOH

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, the out-of-home advertising market was badly hit, with no-one in the usual places to watch their big billboards.

But the sector showed great fortitude and innovation, not least in generously using their boards to thank and encourage front line workers.

And while the OOH market may still be some way from returning to normal, Vanessa Eagle, Agency Strategy Partner at Posterscope UK, says adopting a more ‘local’ strategy around communities is on the cards for the year ahead… 

Vanessa Eagle
Vanessa Eagle, Posterscope

2020 has seen a big shift in terms of how we live, work and where we spend our time. 

For much of the year those that have been able to, approximately 30% of the UK population, have been working from home which has a caused a major shift in where audiences are being delivered by out of home advertising.

Out-of-home and the donut effect

This situation has created the emergence of a new phenomenon in mobility, frequently being referred to as the donut effect, which sees city centres quieter than normal while local towns, villages and communities experience much closer to normal levels of mobility.

As significant numbers of people have spent more time at home, we’ve seen a shift in the importance people are placing on their community, local high streets, and facilities. 

People have started to pay more attention to their local surroundings and begun to appreciate where they live, their neighbours, local councils, and services and of course the NHS. 

People have discovered a new sense of community and have become more aware of and engaged with their local environment, including out of home advertising.

Village life in lockdown
Staying local: We’re all getting used to being in our communities nowadays.

Mobility Mindset

“The Mobility Mindset” research conducted by Posterscope in late September 2020 revealed that almost two-thirds of people (6 in 10) feel more appreciative of their local community and have a developed a heightened emotional connection to their out of home environment since the pandemic. 

Two-thirds (64%) of respondents also stated that lockdown has made them realise the importance of their local high street while 50% believe they have created a stronger emotional tie with their local community following Covid-19.

The research also revealed that this appreciation for the local community was having a “knock on” effect on noticeability and positivity towards OOH advertising. 

Some 89% of people said that they noticed out of home advertising across any environment/format, while, profoundly, 45% said they found out of home advertising even more noticeable and feel even more positive towards it than before Covid-19.

On top of this, people’s feelings towards out of home advertisers have improved too, with 40% of people feeling even more favourable or positive towards brands that are currently using out of home than before the pandemic. 

Outdoor connections

Outdoor advertising has a strong community connection because it is part of the everyday fabric of people’s towns and cities, which makes the brands that are using it feel more familiar, creating an emotional connection with consumers in their local community.

So, as many people’s worlds remain smaller and more local, a robust data and insight-lead regionally nuanced approach to planning is required, as is the need for localised tonality in creativity.


The beauty of the UK’s digital out of home screen network is its ability to target specific regions, cities, towns and particular locations. 

Supermarket group The Co-op has recognised this, putting DOOH in the media mix for many of its lockdown advertising campaigns including its partnership with the charity FareShare.

The flexibility and agility of DOOH also gives advertisers the opportunity to target audiences by specific moments of relevance and to adapt creative messages dynamically against any number of criteria; reflecting time, location, weather and numerous other live data sources such as pollution or pollen, time countdowns, stock levels or price alterations. 

Another supermarket chain, Asda, recently deployed a programmatic out of home campaign to drive awareness of its cheapest fuel prices, compared to its nearest competitors, purchasing key sites in proximity to its fuel stations with a matter of minutes using fuel card data.

With the ability to turn on campaigns within a matter of hours and change them whenever advertisers want, using multiple creative executions, there really is no other medium that enables brands to reach people in such a public, yet personal way. 

2021 is set to be the year that brands will finally use digital out of home to its full potential.