Street advertising: understanding outdoor space

aerial image of london with street advertising

Street advertising provides a powerful way to connect to a majority of UK consumers outside of the home. It has a big impact on sales activation and helps keep brands front of mind. It is also a significant driver of both online and offline shopping.

But “street advertising” is a very broad concept, with many different facets. There is no one-size-fits-all way to run an outdoor campaign. So, to better understand street advertising, we need to break it down into its various constituent parts.

High street advertising

A lot of the time, when people talk about street advertising they are talking about high street advertising in particular. High streets have a high density of shops, cafes and restaurants, and a large volume of footfall, especially at the weekend. It is an arena where a wide range of brands and marketers are all competing for audience attention.

Despite doom-filled headlines about the decline of the British high street, the numbers of visitors still rank in their tens of millions. And although consumers are buying fewer things, they are spending more money on them. What’s more, nearly 60% of UK shoppers prefer to buy products in person than online, according to Vista Retail Support, with an extra 30% of people using bricks and mortar shops as a “showroom” to try out products before they buy them online. This adds up to a whopping 81% of consumers who think real-world shopping is an essential part of their shopping lives.

This means that the vast majority of shoppers, whether they buy online or offline, are likely to be seen traversing UK high streets up and down the country. That’s tens of millions of people who you could potentially reach with your street adverts.

Context is king

Of course, not all streets are high streets, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise on them, it’s just that such ads might serve a different purpose. It pays to think about the context in which audiences come into contact with your outdoor ads.

Suppose you advertise on a street that has a lot of footfall because it leads on to an industrial estate, business park or office complex; this would be a good way to target specific socio-economic groups.

Also, people are in a certain frame of mind when travelling to work. Maybe they’re thinking about the challenges of the working day ahead of them. If you are selling some kind of productivity boosting software, for example, you may want to advertise in areas with lots of commuters.

What if a street leads up to, say, a hospital? It’s probably not a great context to advertise alcohol products, but it might be a good opportunity to run ads for health classes at a local gym.

Navigating the OOH space

When thinking about targeting audiences with street advertising, think about the different ways they will be navigating the outdoor space.

Are they waiting for a bus at a bus stop?

This will entail significant dwell time. This means more opportunity for audiences to engage deeply with your ads. Walkers’ 2014 Tweet to Eat vending machine campaign is a great example of making the most of bus stop advertising.

Are they ambling down the high street, window shopping?

The more time audiences have on their hands, the more deeply they can engage with your ads. If they are in a shopping mindset then your ads may influence their buying decisions. If they are rushing for the train, you’ll need very catchy ads that work on a more subliminal level. This kind of advertising aims to get your brand’s foot in the door of the busy minds of your audience, who are likely the make a mental note of ads they glimpsed on the street and research them later.

Are they walking quickly down the street on the way to work?

 When people are on their way to work they often have utilitarian, everyday issues on their mind. Maybe they’re flagging towards the end of the week; ads for nutritional supplements, energy drinks, or even stress-busting fitness classes may be highly effective in this context. Think about the way your brand might relate to people as they travel to work; what sort of messages could resonate with them?

 Are they on their way out on a Friday night after a busy week?

People are in a totally different mindset when they are out and about on the town to unwind than when they’re commuting to work. Ads for alcoholic beverages, restaurants, and movie screenings have much more resonance in this context. These kinds of street ads can serve to entertain audiences as well as inform them about your products. Digital screens also work well in this context. You might not want 8am commuters to see your new drink brand, but come 6pm on a Friday it’s a different story. Digital ads help you display ads at the times you think they will be most effective.

This all goes to show that the more granular you are about your street advertising strategy, the more opportunities you will discover to connect to audiences in an effective way. Jump on our interactive panel map to search for outdoor ad sites across the UK.

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