World Out of Home industry leaders from Australia, the UK, US and Germany have revealed that audiences are returning to public spaces despite ongoing challenges from COVID-19, and that they anticipate improved market fundamentals in coming months.
In an interview for a podcast being released today, leaders including oOh!media CEO Brendon Cook, President of the World Out of Home organisation and Chairman of Ocean Outdoor in the UK Tom Goddard, CEO of Outfront Media in the US Jeremy Male, and CEO of Ströer in Germany Christian Schmalzl, agreed that the industry was well placed to return to its robust, pre-COVID growth trajectory.
“Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, they're all back and audience numbers are going well,” Mr Cook said. “Victoria's been hit hard, but overall, suburban areas have really seen billboards, bus shelters and shopping centres attract advertising dollars.”
In Germany, Mr Schmalzl reported that local business has normalised and conditions were improving. “In Q4, there’s a fair chance we’ll get to at least 80 to 90 percent of where we were before the crisis,” he said. “In fact, following lockdowns, when people go out again they are almost celebrating their new freedom, which makes the Out of Home medium more attractive than ever when you position brands in that context.”
From a US perspective, Mr Male said that despite some gloomy predictions about the future of cities and people working from home more, the fundamentals for the Out of Home industry remained sound. “This is a bump in the road and it doesn't change the basic growth story of cities – and indeed the structural growth story of Out of Home that we've been seeing over the last 25 years.”
Mr Goddard agreed with this assessment, saying the industry had always bounced back after previous shocks like the 1990s recession, 9/11 and so on. “I think the effects on people’s behaviour and mobility will be far less pronounced when we get to the other side of the pandemic,” he said.
“In the UK audiences are already back over 50% of the level they were before, and certain categories are bouncing back strongly, like government messaging with its public health focus. Automotive has come back, as have the telcos and companies like Amazon, Netflix and subscription TV – media that have done relatively well during the pandemic.”
The leaders’ comments, which are available via the Mi3 podcast, echo recent data collected by oOh!media and DSpark, which shows metro suburban areas and regional areas strength in Australian Out of Home audiences.
Combined roadside and retail audience volumes in regional areas have recovered to 93 per cent of their level compared to the same week last year, having dipped as low as 57 per cent in mid-April.*
This regional trend is also reflected in an improvement in suburban areas, which are currently at 69 per cent of 2019 levels according to roadside audience measurements.
By the same scale, the national audience level is currently at 77 per cent compared to last year, although this has dropped from 84 per cent over the past month due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions in the Melbourne area.
From a retail perspective, the regional strength continued with audiences bouncing back to 104 per cent of their 2019 levels, while the overall national retail audience is at 78 per cent. In all markets aside from Victoria, audiences are 91 per cent of 2019 levels.
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* Source for all statistics: DSpark data, week ending 27 July 2020 vs same week 2019