Q&A: Out-of-Home (OOH) and the Rise of Digital OOH

Pharmaceutical Executive reached out to Ross Krentzman, VP of Sales at Intersection to discuss out-of-home (OOH) advertising over the past couple of years as well as what to expect going forward. Intersection is an experience-driven OOH media and technology company with media found on city streets, across transit systems, in airports, and other destinations. OOH has always been a part of media mixes, but providing data-driven solutions for advertisers to reach those audiences at scale has taken it up a notch in today's digital world.

Krentzman and Intersection work with multinational brands, startups, and local businesses across industries. For pharma, that includes the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world as well as DTC and startup brands.

Pharm Exec: What have you seen in terms of pharma advertising in OOH media over the past couple of years?

Ross Krentzman: We’re seeing a massive increase in OOH media buying by pharma brands across the board. This is coming off the heels of recent advances in data and technology in OOH, including audience targeting to reach the right audience at the right time, automation for campaign execution, and measurement solutions to measure business outcomes.

Pharma brands have also found a way to translate their TV ads to OOH by balancing marketing creative with FDA compliance copy in new and creative ways. We’re seeing brands split a 15-second spot in half - with the first half identifying the brand, the condition it treats and the benefits, while the second half lists the required disclosures.

Overall, the three most common forms of pharma ads we’re seeing include:

  • Product Claim Ad: As described above, product claim ads promote a specific prescription drug, establishes the condition it treats, talks about both its benefits and also lists the required disclosures without overwhelming the creative.
  • Reminder Ad: The “ask your doctor” ad, which encourages consumers to talk to their doctors about how certain drugs can help, creating a memorable encounter for well known brands with impactful executions.
  • Help-Seeking Ad (unbranded): This style describes a specific condition without suggesting a specific drug and includes a brand name and phone number or website for consumers to find out more information.

As pharma brands look to build consumer-centric strategies that drive cohesive brand experiences across different channels, OOH becomes an important component of engaging consumers anywhere, anytime.

We're aware that there was a huge drop in OOH advertising in 2020 as people were trying to make sense of the pandemic, but a big rebound in 2021. Where are we now in terms of yearly averages?

The entire OOH industry saw declines in revenue in 2020 across the board, however the decline in pharma and healthcare were not as steep as some other verticals. The good news is that Intersection saw a 202% increase in pharma campaign revenue between 2020 and 2021. In terms of programmatic pharma campaigns, we saw a 293% increase between 2020 and 2021.

When did you see the most prolific boosts in OOH?

We see increases in pharma OOH campaigns throughout certain seasons, like allergy season, where brands can use dynamic campaigns based on weather triggers, such as an increase in pollen count.

Another boost to OOH budgets is the availability of hyper-targeting based on audience demographics and location. For example, OOH is also a great way to reach doctors who aren’t getting ads through digital media because they pay for premium subscription services (news, TV streaming, music streaming, etc.). Brands will plan their OOH ad campaigns around medical events or place their ads near hospitals, which is cost-effective and can reach an elusive audience, since OOH cannot be blocked, skipped, or missed. Pharma brands, especially OTC, are also looking to be close to points of purchase, so they want to be near pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS.

Other advances in targeting capabilities include dayparting, days of the week, geo-targeting, and point-of-sale radius targeting.

In addition to advanced targeting and seasonality, there have been massive improvements in measurement and in data, meaning pharma companies can measure the effectiveness of their ads in the same way they do in digital. For example, we can measure “script lift,” an attribution study strategy that connects advertising audiences to pharmaceutical outcomes.

Programmatic solutions for OOH are making these campaigns easier and more effective for pharma brands since they can now use the same systems - demand side platforms (DSPs) - and strategies to buy OOH as they can digital media.

Can you provide a good example?

One pharma company leveraged audience targeting, retargeting, and a brand-lift study as part of their programmatic OOH campaign. We used audience data to identify the client’s target audience and the corresponding screens that over-index against that audience. After deploying the OOH campaign, the brand retargeted consumers online who were exposed to the OOH messaging. As a result, the campaign saw an increase in click-through rate performance for the users who were retargeted. Intersection also included a brand lift study for that campaign, and 77% of the respondents said that they liked the ad or had a better brand opinion following the exposure to the OOH ad.

Where do you see the relationship between the pharma industry and OOH headed in 2022 and beyond.

Looking ahead, 2022 could be another record-breaking year for pharma in OOH, especially through programmatic buying. Over the last two years, we’ve seen shorter planning cycles that turned advertisers in various industries - from pharma to tech to retail to telecom - to programmatic OOH because of its flexibility and advances in campaign planning, execution, and measurement. We expect this trend to grow as more buying systems (DSPs) integrate OOH channels into their offering and make it available to more marketers and their omnichannel strategies.

Beyond this, as the decline of third party cookies continues in digital advertising, OOH’s hyper-targeting capabilities based on audience demographics and location will continue to be attractive to pharma ad buyers and drive advertising budgets into OOH. More ads will be strategically placed in specific locations at points of purchase, like near pharmacies as mentioned, and can be placed based on hyper-specific audience demographics to reach the right audiences in the right places - such as medical conventions and hospitals.