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Why out-of-home advertising is a hit with Gen Z

Out-of-home advertising is once again a force to reckoned with. And much of the credit goes to a new generation of global consumers who find it “relaxing” when compared with digital advertising.

 

Believe it or not, the second-fastest-growing advertising medium in the world (after online advertising) is also one of the oldest. And by old we mean ancient: Out-of-home (OOH) advertising has been around since at least ancient Egypt, with obelisks that kept folks in the loop about all the latest, greatest ancient Egyptian laws and international treaties. Meanwhile, the first recorded instance of billboard advertising in the United States occurred in 1867, and giant-sized billboard ads were already being featured in Paris by 1889.

What's with the resurgence of old-school, OOH advertising? In part, we have the growing consumer influence of Generation Z to thank.

What’s up with Gen Z liking OOH so much?

After all, OOH seems a bit analogue for the taste of cyber-savvy kids that have a reputation for being glued to their mobile phones, yes? According to a 2017 study by Kantar Millward Brown, 55 percent of Gen Zers favor outdoor advertising because they find it “relaxing.” Right alongside email. Yeah, you heard that right.

But truth be told, Gen Z may have a point. The history of modern advertising is the history of personal intrusion. The sheer number of digital ads that Gen Zers have to wade through on their phones, tablets and computers ranges somewhere between 2,000 - 4,000 per day. You can think of it as long, long form of digital commuting that never ends for Gen Z — unless of course they apply ad-blockers, which over half of them do. At the very least, according to at least one study, 82 percent of them report skipping ads.

Not only do Gen Zs find OOH relaxing, they also pay attention to it

In contrast, 84 percent of Gen Zers “pay attention to out-of-home advertising,” according to recent research by UNiDAYS and Ad Age. Out-of-home advertising — the kind you come across on highway billboards or movie theater screens — is seen as non-invasive. To Gen Z’s way of thinking, it doesn’t feel disruptive since they’ve come to the movie theater voluntarily, or they can easily whizz past the billboard by stepping on the gas pedal. Unlike digital ads that can track them no matter where they go online, they see their experience of outdoor ads as being fully under their control.

The fact that Gen Z-favored all-digital companies like Netflix are starting to spend big money on OOH advertising can’t be seen as a coincidence. Netflix clearly understands what ad formats its favored audience segments “look up to.” In addition, well-established brands like General Motors and Hilton have steadily been increasing their OOH spend, too.

The future of advertising isn’t all digital

Gen Z is tech-savvy generation, no doubt, but it’s also considered something of a “throwback” generation in terms of the things it values. While it may come as a surprise to some that OOH advertising is in-fashion with tomorrow’s tastemakers, it’s also the reality we’re living in. Spend your ad budgets accordingly.

 

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Contributor, Gen Z Insights

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