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Nearly Half Of Americans Notice OOH Advertising More Than Before The Pandemic, With 7 In 10 Reporting An Increased Appreciation And Awareness Of Surroundings Post-Lockdown, According To Research From OAAA & The Harris Poll

Two-Thirds Still Plan to Travel for the Holidays & Nearly Half Expect to Journey the Same Distance or Further Than Last Year
While Holiday Shopping Preferences Have Altered, New Brands Have Opportunity to Get in the Mix

The out-of-doors has taken on new resonance in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, with nearly half (45%) of American adults saying they are noticing OOH (out of home) advertising more than before the pandemic began. This heightened awareness and receptivity are particularly prevalent among those ages 18 – 54. Overall, a significant percentage note seeing safety and hygiene or sales and promotions advertisements to be useful. A similar number remark that they were grateful for useful information from OOH messages, were educated about something new, or were simply comforted by the signage or outdoor display, since it was a harbinger of businesses’ return. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds (68%) of U.S. consumers agree that they are spending so much time looking at device screens these days that they are tuning out digital online ads.

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Those are some key findings from “Consumer Trends & OOH – Q4 2020,” a new research report from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), the national trade association for the entire OOH and DOOH media ecosystem, in partnership with The Harris Poll. The survey confirms that these trends are in sync with consumers’ renewed appreciation for the outdoors, with 69 percent of adults saying their positive awareness of their surroundings has increased now that COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are gradually lifting.

When it comes to getting out and about, the study found that Americans are walking (40%), driving (29%), and biking/scootering more (27%). While many are sticking closer to home, over half (55%) say their travel patterns will be the same or greater in the number of trips and distance in comparison to pre-COVID. In fact, 65 percent cite interest in taking a road trip due to the pandemic.

“After the challenges of lockdown, we are all enjoying time in our neighborhoods and beyond—with a greater appreciation for everything we experience outside of our homes,” said Anna Bager, President and CEO, OAAA. “This research has confirmed that OOH has the power to influence consumers as never before.”

In terms of holiday-related trips and activities, the survey found that COVID-19 has upended holiday season plans for the majority of Americans (80%). Nonetheless, more than two-thirds (67%) still expect to travel for the holidays—and despite pandemic-related obstacles, 42 percent of U.S. adults actually anticipate traveling as much or more than last year. When asked about specifics in terms of distance, a quarter are staying local, remaining within 50 miles of their home. However, nearly a fifth expect to travel up to 200 miles, and one-quarter report that they will travel even further afield within the country. Regarding modes of transportation, “hitting the road” is the preferred way to go, with more than half (56%) preparing to travel by personal car. A much smaller percentage plan to travel by air (16%), with bus and trains tying for third place (8% each).

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The study also looked at shopping plans, finding that most Americans expect to spend the same or more this year on holiday meals/cooking (68%) and holiday gifts (62%). However, shopping preferences for the holiday season have been altered by COVID-19. Shopping is now all about efficiency and safety:

  • 43% say, “I try to make fewer trips to the store and stock up on items as much as I can to minimize the number of times I go shopping”
  • 34% say, “I’ve stopped casually shopping in-person and only go into a store for pre-determined items,” and safety matters
  • 29% say, “I prefer to shop at retailers that have thoughtfully planned the store traffic for COVID-19 (e.g. one-way aisles)”

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The pandemic has also led consumers to consider new brands, opening the door for rethinking brands for the holidays. Four in 10 are currently using a mix of new and familiar brands. More than 1 in 10 (12%) say that they are going to continue to use these newly discovered brands. The same number (12%) say that they are using new brands because it is their only choice, planning to switch back once possible. Only one-third (32%) are continuing to use the same brands they did prior to the pandemic.

“Pandemic or not, travel plans are in the works for the holidays,” added Bager. “Couple these holiday travel findings with the dramatic increase in people noticing and appreciating OOH—and it’s clear that brands have a strong opportunity to reach consumers on-the-road, at the airport, or at the checkout line when buying what’s needed for the festivities. Moreover, the shifts in the supply chain have opened doors for new brands to find a way into shopping carts and gift boxes this holiday season.”

“Out is ‘In’ this year,” said John Gerzema, CEO, The Harris Poll. “Americans are doing as much as possible outside to make life as normal as possible amid the pandemic. Our survey shows the majority of Americans intend to drive, ride, walk, and bike more––even into the colder months. In addition, holiday trips are still in the works. This makes out of home advertising an especially smart buy right now.”

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