OOH Advertising: Ditch the Demographics?

07/13/2016 10:05 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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By Ian Reynolds, CEO, KBH On-Train Media

Out of home advertising can reach specific demographics with more accuracy than ever before. Mums are targeted on the school run, families are reached on a weekend train trip while youths are hit with the latest fashions during a visit to the high street.

But socio-demographics have changed. We’re entering a ‘flat-age’ society, where people are living longer, staying healthier and remaining younger in attitude and interests. OOH advertisers need to react and start thinking about creating and planning campaigns to target behaviour, rather than demographics.

In a bid to demonstrate the value of targeting consumers by behaviour as opposed to solely by traditional demographics such as age, gender, income or social class, we at KBH have produced new OOH audience categories with our Pen Profiles, using Mosaic, Personicx and TGI data.

We studied the behaviour of more than 2,500 consumers, beginning in 2013 and then again last year. We assigned them to one of the following groups – Influential Youths, Intellectual Urbanites, Modern Families or Affluent Professionals. Although these categories are still partly segmented by age and social classifications, they are also heavily derived from attitude and behaviour.

As well as delving into the shopping and buying habits of these groups, the research looked at when, how and why consumers shopped after they were exposed to on-train advertising.

So how has consumer behaviour changed while out of home?

Technology is undoubtedly the biggest catalyst in transforming behaviour. KBH’s research in 2015 found that 90% of people use their smartphone while on a train – up from 85% in 2013. There has also been a significant rise in consumers using laptops while travelling – 34% do this compared to 21% two years ago.

On-train smartphone use is one of the key behaviours that transcends age groupings. Although there are differences between Influential Youth – 94% of this group use a smartphone on the train – and Affluent Professional – with 88% using a smartphone on the train – usage is high across the board.

So it’s clear that travellers are fixated on their devices, but they are still well aware of their surroundings.

65% of our respondents in 2013 said they noticed traincards; that figure rose to 94% in 2015. Making purchases as a result of seeing a traincard has also seen a dramatic increase across all groups. In 2013, 13% of our respondents said they'd bought a brand they’d seen advertised. In 2015, that figure had risen to 24%.

This high conversion rate shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that people spend an average of 40 minutes on a train journey.

But when do consumers act on the advertising? The research found that the most popular time to buy a product or service seen advertised on a train was later that day, with 29% having done so. 28% had bought a product almost instantaneously and 27% had made a purchase days afterwards.

How can advertisers leverage this behaviour?

The most effective ad campaigns take into account the content and messaging that is likely to be most appropriate to the individual commuter and the state of mind they’re in during their journey. The train journey is a time for reflection and planning, when people will be making decisions on the next part of their day, week or month.

Just Eat used traincards to talk to hungry commuters who are deciding what to have for dinner during their journey home. They used a last-minute prompt based on context and behaviour to reach consumers while they’re in planning mode. Consumer connectivity was absolutely key for the campaign, something which OOH advertising generally offers.

British Airways also made use of on-train dwell time and changing consumer behaviour with a campaign promoting sales and offers. The connected audience could browse and act immediately plus the ads put commuters in mind of a holiday when they're likely to be – even subconsciously – seeking a break from the normal routine.

So while demographics will always be part of the marketing mix, smart OOH planners and advertisers need to factor behaviour in alongside to execute truly effective campaigns.