The outside opportunity in 2019

Quick: who were some of the top U.S. spenders in outdoor advertising last quarter?

It’s not just the usual consumer brands – McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Ford – that may spring to mind. Did you say Apple, Facebook and Netflix?

These high-tech powerhouses are all dumping significant portions of their marketing budgets into channels that are decidedly low tech: billboards, buses and other outdoor opportunities. Outdoor ad spends are up nearly 3% year-over-year globally, according to a recent report from Zenith media.

It’s not the nearly omnipresent iPhone XS ads that now seem to be everywhere. In the last few months in Portland alone, I’ve seen ads on billboards and bus stops from the dating site Match, online car renter Turo, clothier Everlane, and big building takeovers from AirBnB and Mailchimp.

Why the boom in so-called “out-of-home” advertising when all the buzz for the last several years has been to go all-in on mobile and digital?

Part of the answer, I think, lies in the fact that internet advertising is now everywhere. It’s easy, cheap and ubiquitous. You can track users across devices, platforms and browsers and through apps and target them in “micro-moments”. Powerful stuff, to be sure.

But it’s also precisely because of those three characteristics – cost, ease of placement and nearly endless inventory – that anyone, and by extension now virtually everyone, is doing it.

It’s all become noise and made it much harder to reach a mass audience as people tune out (though, arguably still easier to reach niche audiences). So the big tech companies are seeking new, old pathways to build brand recognition.

You know who else has figured this out? The big companies in real estate.

Case in point, this bus rolling around the streets of San Diego:

This is why in 2019, we’re recommending our clients reserve a portion of their marketing budgets to seek out and test outdoor opportunities for their brands.

We recently crafted a campaign and designed a series of outdoor formats for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth Real Estate to tell their new story and visibly establish their expanding footprint in their market. Plans are in place to roll out this creative throughout the fall and winter in strategic locations around the Greater Boston area.

Despite being weeks away from launch, the buzz and excitement coming from their agents is already being felt.

I’m not saying that you should ditch your Facebook marketing budget completely, or toss out your programmatic campaigns. But, while the trend for many years was to pull back from traditional channels and go all in on new media, we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns on those investments.

More importantly, it’s always a good strategy to think about zigging while the rest of your competition is zagging.

Brokers, where would it make sense for you to put your brand outside, in front of your people? The people you want to recruit?

Vendors, too. Where are the places that your customers are congregating and can you get outside of them to show off your product?

If you aren’t already, it’s a good time to consider adding some outdoor advertising to your 2019 marketing mix. What you should be saying in those ads… well, that’s another post altogether.