TOP OF THE CHARTS: OMD study of billboard recall among Klang Valley commuters to enable data-led decision-making on OOH adspend.

No advertising medium has been hit harder by the COVID-19 crisis than the out-of-home (OOH) sector, as global work-from-home and stay-indoors orders are keeping more people off the streets and out of retail buildings and cinemas.

While digital out-of-home (DOOH) has been changing the medium, the sector continues to lag far behind most emerging digital media when it comes to the measurement of ad effectiveness and ROI. However, a new study from OMD Malaysia in partnership with AIMs Research, could provide some much-needed research around OOH effectiveness to help arm the sector when it is able to recover post-crisis.

Looking at 195 billboard sites (including 21 digital billboards) along 20 top Klang Valley highways and city roads (in pre-crisis 2019), the study is the first of its kind in Malaysia and Asia-Pacific to explore the impact of 40 factors on the medium’s effectiveness. These include the placement of mediums and their viewing angles, durations and frequencies, the contents of the ads (in terms of colour, language, copy and models), and accompanying media activations.

Static versus digital OOH ads

The research found that static OOH and digital OOH ad formats are definitely not interchangeable, but their use should depend on hitting particular business objectives.

To no one’s surprise, DOOH ads had a significantly lower visibility rate (14%) since they rotated at an average rate of 10 to 15 ads every two to three minutes. Static OOH ads fared much better by visibility (53%) but required longer-term durations, ideally 18 months or longer to improve brand recall on these billboards significantly.

As such, the report noted that static and digital OOH have different roles to play, with brand-building campaigns ideal for static billboards with long-term exposure, while DOOH is better suited for tactical campaigns with short-term messaging.

Size matters, and so does the angle 

Not surprisingly, the research found that the larger the size of the OOH ad, the higher its visibility. But medium-sized or even smaller-sized OOH ads could yield the same results as billboards larger than 1,000 square depending on where they were viewed from. Viewing angle was another significant factor, with ads placed directly head-on to traffic receiving a 14% boost in effectiveness over other positions.

Competitive clutter also played a part, with higher recall for ads with fewer than three other billboards in view. However, there are other factors that can mitigate the clutter factor, such as the creative within the ad itself depending on the artwork, colours, copy length and language, and especially if the billboards ads use 3D effects or incorporate elements from the surrounding environment. 
Linking OOH to length of consumer commutes 

The study found that OOH ads wear out after a certain amount of exposure, depending on the length of consumers’ commutes. Those travelling 120 minutes a day on average, for example, were more likely to form OOH blind spots compared to those only travelling up to 30 minutes a day. Advertisers were therefore encouraged to consider commuter routes and the need to refresh creative in order to keep campaigns effective. 

In the end, the research found that only one in two (53%) of OOH ads in Malaysia’s Klang Valley are seen, while only 17% of the brands being advertised are actually recalled by consumers.

“The existing OOH measurements in the advertising industry are mostly estimated reach, based on traffic or opportunity to see,” said Anisha Iyer, managing director of OMD Malaysia. “This study brings in science and enables data-led decision making in a space that has typically used a gut feel-based approach.”

“This study sets crucial benchmarks on OOH ad effectiveness, scientifically answering many questions that were previously subjective,” Edgar Lim, executive director of AIMs Research, added. “OOH advertising has always been revolving around the questions of its effectiveness. This research has made a breakthrough to ascertain the threshold for almost every OOH characteristic that you can think of.”