Frequency of Exposure: Out of Home’s Superpower

By Dan Levi, CMO, Clear Channel Outdoor

I think it’s an understood reality in digital media that putting frequency caps on your campaigns is essential to drive efficiency and not “waste” your budget delivering the same ad too many times to the same people. And if you attended Advertising Week New York recently, you likely heard discussions on this ongoing challenge for brands – that excessive frequency in digital advertising, including in the CTV realm, can directly impact the customer experience, resulting in ad fatigue.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the opposite is true in Out of Home: frequency drives measured performance, and in research done over the last few years, it’s been consistently proven that the more times a consumer sees an Out of Home ad, the more likely they are to exhibit the measured behavior. Allow me to explain both from a consumer point of view and via highlights from some of this innovative research.

We’ve all had this experience. You’re watching video on an ad supported streaming service – likely because you couldn’t find the content on an ad-free platform or didn’t want to commit to yet another monthly subscription fee – and the content goes to a commercial break. You check your email, use the restroom, or otherwise try to get through the ad break, eventually get back to your video, and here comes another break where they play the same exact ad! It’s bad enough that they interrupt your experience, but can’t they at least run more of a variety of ads, instead of pounding you over and over with the same message?

Recently, IPG Mediabrands’ Magna Media Trials released results of a study that once again reinforced how bad of a brand experience consumers can have on streaming services that repeatedly show consumers the same ad copy. In this innovative study, done in partnership with ad tech platform Nexxen, 87% of the more than 1200 viewers who participated in the test agreed that they see too many of the same ads on streaming services. And while excessive frequency drove a small increase in awareness and brand recall, the study also proved that seeing the same ad creative too many times can damage consumers’ perception of brands and reduce their intent to purchase. 

Let’s say that again for emphasis: too much frequency in video streaming can actually hurt your brand and decrease the likelihood that viewers will want to buy the advertised product. Why would brands pay money to drive reach in ways that can put their brands at risk and potentially backfire to reduce consumers’ interest in and trust of the advertised brands? Especially when there are other media options that allow them to drive efficient and effective reach against specific audiences, tell impactful and creative brand stories, and deliver measurable results, all in a brand-safe, fraud-free viewing experience? Like, for example, Out of Home.

Over the last few years, the Out of Home sector has focused on attribution measurement to demonstrate the efficacy and impact of the medium. At Clear Channel, we’ve not just focused on understanding if Out of Home drives measurable results but diving deeper to understand why. And this is where the insights on frequency come to light.

For example, 11 studies conducted over 15 months for a range of retail brands demonstrated a direct correlation between frequency of exposure to OOH ads and visits to the specific advertised stores. Consistently, the data showed that the more people saw the OOH ad, the more likely they were to visit the advertised store.  Across these 11 studies, 6.28% of people who saw the OOH ad one time were observed to visit the advertised store. Those who saw the ad 3 times were more than twice as likely to visit. But those who saw the OOH ad 14 or more times? They were 4 times as likely to have visited the advertised store, with average visit rates of nearly 25%, meaning fully one quarter of people exposed to the OOH ads were observed to visit the advertised store.

And this dynamic of frequency driving conversion behavior isn’t limited to visits to stores. In an innovative study conducted for an app-based delivery service, we found the same to be true: the more consumers saw the OOH ads, the more likely they were to install the advertised app, place a first-time order, and make a repeat order. In fact, when compared to people who only saw the OOH ad one time, those exposed to these ads 10 or more times were 10x more likely to install the app, 8x more likely to place a first order, and nearly 10x more likely to place a repeat order. 

Beyond just frequency of exposure, the same dynamic is true when looking at the number of unique Out of Home displays that consumers see. In other words, the more a brand covers a market and buys more locations that people see, the more likely consumers are to exhibit the measured conversion behavior. A recent study for a credit union showed that 2% of consumers who saw the OOH ad on 3 unique billboards were observed to visit the website of the advertised credit union. But those who saw the ad on 9 unique billboard locations were nearly 3x as likely to have visited the credit union’s website, clearly reinforcing that OOH not only can drive effective reach, but the broader a brand covers a market with OOH, the more likely it is that consumers respond.

These insights, when combined with Out of Home’s massive and dynamic creative canvas, and the ability to leverage a brand’s data to plan and optimize Out of Home campaigns, clearly demonstrate that digital and performance marketers should be thinking of Out of Home as a performance-driving medium, especially those struggling with how to ensure that their digital media efforts don’t backfire and inadvertently cause harm to the advertised brand.

The bottom line is this: the media industry and marketers need to update their expectations when it comes to OOH in order to leverage its full potential to optimize the effectiveness of their overall media campaigns. Embrace OOH’s superpower of delivering frequency that is proven to deliver results.