The World Out of Home Organization’s global conference call initiative for national associations took place this week with reports on the expected harrowing descriptions of the effect the Covid-19 virus is having on societies across the world and business - plus welcome news of inspiring social initiatives from various members and, maybe, some insight into a light at the end of the tunnel.
Different countries are at different stages with the containment of the virus but, across the board, there has been welcome support from governments for companies and employees although, inevitably, Out of Home has to fight its corner. Support will vary country by country: Dave Roberts of South Africa's Primedia observed that his hard-pressed government was unlikely to be able to help significantly.
Reductions in business rates have supported retailers in some countries but Out of Home, an important factor on high streets - still has to see a benefit. Landlords, generally, appear to have responded with more flexible terms.
More lobbying is required and Anna Bager, President and CEO of the OAAA in the United States described her association’s determined efforts to find a sympathetic ear in Washington. Government support can take a number of forms, not least government agencies choosing Out of Home as part of their antivirus media programmes.
The OAAA is already playing its part by running a major classic and digital OOH campaign for America’s CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) urging people to stay at home and, if they can’t, keep their distance. Anna Bager told the meeting that creative for this campaign is available free to other associations able to run similar campaigns. Just click on the following link
Similarly, Barry Frey of the US-based Digital Place Based Advertising Association (DPAA) showed his organization’s Wearethecountervirus.com campaign, urging people to stay home. Frey, a New Yorker, likened the current crisis to the awful day of 9/11 which he observed at first hand.
Will we pull through it? There’s much evidence showing that the industry will, even as spend - temporarily - plummets.
Justin Cochrane, Chairman of the UK’s Outsmart and CEO Europe of Clear Channel, reported that Out of Home spend in Europe was down approximately 75 per cent as streets cleared and (most) people stayed indoors. But he said the media market as a whole was predicted to be down 50 per cent in April even though TV viewership, for example, had risen sharply as people stayed home. So Out of Home is not unique, despite its obvious vulnerability as an outdoor or place-based medium.
The light at the end of the tunnel comes from China, where the virus hit first at the end of 2019. Business, and the business of Out of Home, is rapidly getting back to normal as shops re-open and people return to work. WOO representative Jim Liu reported that OOH spend in China in January was down 90 per cent when full lockdown occurred but then recovered to 40 per cent and then 70 per cent in the two succeeding months and was expected to be back to normal capacity in the months to come.
WOO President Tom Goddard concluded by proposing that these meetings to be held regularly (details to be confirmed) and urged member associations to gather as much data as possible on actual traffic to underline the case that OOH is still out there and functioning. He also reminded members that there would never be a better time to use some of the inventory now available to promote the medium itself as well as the various good causes that have benefited in recent weeks.
“We can win if we pull together,” Goddard said. National associations working hand in hand, is a good place to start. Further meetings are being scheduled.