During a global crisis, advertisers will second guess the need to spend; they will consider going dark to ride out financial uncertainty. There are many articles out there warning against this, but inevitably advertising spend will decrease, driven by a need rather than a want,
Being an out-of-home (OOH) media owner during a time when people are subjected to restrictions in movement means we have been affected on another level. Media budgets have been cut but our audience delivery has been compromised too.
During a recession people are still on the move; they are still travelling to work, they are still travelling to the mall, they are still travelling to see friends. Their spending considerations may have changed, and brands will have to fight harder for their attention, but they are still out there moving around.
We aren’t in a normal recession; we aren’t officially in a recession yet, and although the population is now allowed to move more freely, there is still uncertainty and caution, meaning a more static population. OOH advertising budgets are still on hold, although audiences are increasing, and brands are looking for the right time and the right message to return to OOH media.
The key to success for BackLite Media, and all other companies, will be to have a long-term perspective on both the day-to-day operations and product development. This virus has hit hard and fast, but businesses decisions should be based on a long-term vision.
BackLite Media has had many of the same clients for two decades, and hence we are working with our major clients, including working with them on payment terms and extensions on our unipoles. It isn’t easy for our core luxury and premium brands; however, their customers will return, and we will be there with them. On the business development side, BackLite Media is moving forward on our massive investments with the installation of world-class quality digital signs on Sheikh Zayed Road. We had intended to have our iconic signs installed by the original start date of Expo 2020, and will still have
our signs fully installed by the new schedule in 2021.
We are also launching a new digital network at Dubai Festival City, which is one of the most capable signage networks in the region. This isn’t easy or cheap, but it is important to continue to push the boundaries of OOH advertising and be the leader in the market. Companies that continue to invest
in technology and Dubai will come out stronger in the end.
The media industry has become data-hungry, and in some cases data-dependent. Programmatic advertising would not be possible without audience data; the digital world revolves around data. The
OOH sector, however, lags far behind and is still predominantly traded on sites and panels. The UK market has a leading audience analysis measurement in Route, and is slowly moving more towards an audience based buy and sell, but there is still a very linear buying process here in the UAE.
As consumers have been driven indoors, advertisers will undoubtedly have moved budgets towards a
targeted digital strategy. Once this crisis is over, brands will demand more from their OOH media; they will want to know who they are targeting, where, and with what message. The OOH sector will need to embrace its audience, analyse the audience and offer more targeted solutions to brands. The long-term effect on the OOH sector will be a movement towards more data and audiencecentric
With the launch of BackLite Intelligence, BackLite Media is leading the way in audience analysis and
targeting in the OOH sector. BackLite Intelligence tracks daily audience figures around digital screens and static inventory. This is done through the use of highly accurate mobile location data and carefully selected geofences, helping brands understand their audience more.
We have used this data to track the effect of Covid-19; we can see that the population movement of Dubai fell by 90 per cent as the government imposed the lockdown and local communities began to observe social distancing. As advertisers and agencies look to understand the impact of these numbers, we can already see the green shoots of recovery. Traffic volume has tripled after the lockdown restrictions were lifted on April 24, with counts now at 50 per cent of the baseline set back
in February. This is still a long way off the pre-Covid counts, but they are definitely trending in the right direction. A variety of sources indicate audiences will gradually recover across the coming months as social restrictions are eased, most likely in stages to avoid a second spike of infections.
In conclusion, we will expect to see a steady recovery back to normal, both in traffic flow and in consumer and brand confidence. Media owners will have to be able to offer more flexible, relevant and dynamic solutions to adapt to the new market demands.