Ditching the demographics: Why OOH advertisers should focus on consumer behaviour

For generations, stereotypical demographic profiles have been used by brands to drive their marketing campaigns.

Whether targeting a particular gender or the supposedly cash-rich, over 65’s, companies large and small have always relied on demographic insight to inform their value propositions when planning OOH advertising campaigns such as roadside billboards or bus stops.

This is a method that may be increasingly moribund in the modern age, as concepts such as big data and analytical CRM are triggering a gradual shift towards targeting behaviour rather than generalised socio-demographics.

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising has historically been able to reach demographics more accurately than alternative mediums.

With this in mind, has the time come for OOH marketers to ditch the demographics and assume a more data-led approach to targeting consumers? 

Why is behaviour more important than demographics in the modern age?

The issue with demographics is that they are outdated in a flat-age society, where consumers are living longer while retaining good health and a youthful outlook.

This has caused a sustained shift in the nature of socio-demographics, meaning that traditional profiles and preconceptions are becoming increasingly outdated.

Not only this, but technological advancement has also enabled brands to build huge data sets relating to their consumers. This information can then be collated and analysed, before being used to target the specific behaviour of individual customers.

As a result of this, brands can now delve beyond core demographics such as age, gender and social classification to create more accurate profiles and drive an improved marketing ROI. 

Has the time come for OOH advertisers to embrace behaviour? 

This trend has yet to catch on fully in the world of OOH, thanks primarily to the medium’s capacity for accurately targeting established demographics in real-time. There is no doubt that OOH advertisers need to start creating campaigns that are based on the observed behaviour of their consumers, rather than focusing solely on traditional, demographic values.

Outdoor advertising company, Airoutdoor, are embracing this change by planning and building behaviour-led OOH campaigns for clients. Managing director Paul Inman tells us why this trend should be a priority for brands in 2017.

“OOH advertising should be used as a form of persuasive communication with the public, therefore planning campaigns around behavioural patterns is a key performance factor”, Paul said.

“Brands have been successfully executing digital marketing campaigns targeted around online purchasing behaviour for years, and this is often forgotten about in the offline world, so now is the time to make that change”.

The total OOH spend has increased by 30.5% during the last year alone, so it is increasingly important that brands are able to refine their efforts and develop a viable ROI.

Additionally, there is data which suggests that customers actively seek out marketing and promotional material while they are on the move, with OOH advertising in train stations and similar entities thought to have an engagement rate in the region of 16%.

Similarly, it is thought that an estimated 71% of customers pay attention to roadside billboards while they are travelling, with many of these individuals also forging some form of initial, emotional connection to a specific brand, product or service.

These figures compare favourably with popular, online marketing channels, while it also highlights the true potential that exists within a vast array of OOH advertising channels.

Make no mistake; brands can tap into these increased levels of engagement by effectively targeting specific consumer behaviour, while also understanding how individual customers interact with their surroundings while they are out of the home.

How can OOH advertisers leverage consumer behaviour to their advantage? 

While it may be accepted that using OOH advertising to target tube or train travellers increases engagement by up to 16%, for example, this means little unless you are able to determine how customers react to the medium while in transit or in specific circumstances. Fortunately, KBH have developed numerous data sets to explore this detail, having commissioned studies back in 2013 and more recently in 2015.

Canvassing the responses of more than 2,500 commuters, it was revealed that 65% were receptive to train cards during their travels in 2013, while this figure rose to 94% two years later. In 2015, 24% of respondents also claimed that they made a branded purchase as a result of train card advertising, highlighting an extraordinary conversion rate and the effectiveness of the medium in a specific context.

Interestingly, the results did not boast any specific correlation with regards to age or gender demographics, proving that behaviour is a more accurate metric for advertisers than a series of pre-determined criteria.

Another factor to consider is one that remains relevant to all advertising methods, which is the all-important marriage of medium and message. This is particularly crucial with OOH adverts, however, where purchases are usually made either in real-time or later during the same day on which they were seen.

In terms of the aforementioned train cards, one of the most impactful advertising campaigns was implemented by Just Eat. This brand leveraged the medium to engage hungry commuters who were on their way home and planning dinner, creating a relevant message that proposition that was perfectly suited to the channel. The campaign also built on the principles of psychology and consumer behaviour, while recognising that evening commutes usually represent a time of reflection where key decisions are made for the remainder of the day (and beyond).

Using this context and established behaviours as a framework, the campaign successfully traversed a number of traditional demographics while also prompting a direct customer action (and achieving an outstanding conversion rate in the process).

The bottom line: How behaviour-led OOH campaigns will lead the way in 2017

Since its inception, OOH advertising has always combined elements of traditional marketing with cutting-edge practices and evolving trends. While successful campaigns have always combined message and location to devastating effect, for example, they have also developed a reputation for successfully targeting specific demographics with greater accuracy and in real-time. This has arguably made them reliant on outdated and increasingly inaccurate demographics for too long, however, while other channels have evolved to utilise actionable data and observed behaviours.

The next year is likely to see OOH advertisers belatedly follow this example, however, as they look to leverage behaviour to increase the reach and the profitability of their campaigns. This will also allow marketers to capitalise on the natural advantages offered by OOH advertising, such as a higher level of engagement and the ability to captivate audiences when they are most receptive to branded communications.