Why OOH Advertising is Effective In Reaching Millennials and Gen Z

When planning an advertising strategy targeted at Millennials and Gen Z, it’s easy to overlook Out Of Home (OOH) advertising. 

Gen Z and Millennials are digital natives and digital almost-natives. They use their devices more than any other generation, so it stands to reason that they would like advertising that is native to where they spend a large amount of their time — on their screens.

Right?

Wrong.

Gen Z and Millennials Just Plain Don’t Like Digital Ads

The truth is that Gen Z and Millennials don’t want to see ads when using their device. In fact, according to a study by Kantar Millward Brown, Gen Z and Millennials have the most animosity towards digital ads.

64% of Millennials use ad blockers so that they can browse in peace, while Gen Z are the most likely of all contemporary generations to skip, block or avoid advertisements than any other generation.

Heck, Gen Z hates looking at digital ads so much, 69% of them will physically do something else to avoid having to look at an ad on TikTok or Instagram. That’s right — 7 in 10 Zoomers would rather do literally anything else than watch an ad.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? if Gen Z and Millennials spend more time on their phones than any other generation, they’re also going to be the ones who are most annoyed by companies seeking to steal their attention and force them to look at content they otherwise wouldn’t have.

It’s this very always-online lifestyle that severely hurts the effectiveness of digital ads in reaching Gen Z and Millennials. 

It’s also the reason that OOH advertising is so effective at reaching these crucial demographics.

So They Hate Digital. But They Like OOH Advertising?

In a word: yes.

In the same Kantar Millward Brown study referenced earlier, Gen Z and Millennials overwhelmingly rejected digital advertisements while preferring OOH advertising like billboards or posters. Study participants in China even referred to billboards as “relaxing”.

Why?

Well, OOH advertising, unlike digital formats, gives Millennials and Gen Z a sense of control. In general, these groups don’t like the feeling of getting advertising stuffed down their throats, and the passive nature of OOH advertising gives them the power to control how they interact with the ad.

Unlike a shouting video ad that appears while you’re swiping through stories, a billboard is non-invasive, non-intruding and non-aggressive. You can simply choose not to look at it, allowing the viewer to feel empowered and more in control.

As a result, when they do choose to engage with OOH media, Gen Z and Millennials tend to feel more positively toward the brand.

It’s this feeling of personal choice that makes OOH advertising so effective for these generations. When you’re bombarded by an endless stream of invasive, aggressive, unskippable digital ads all day like Gen Z and Millennials are, the ability to “skip” any ad they want just by turning their head is a breath of fresh air.

Gen Z and Millennials love a sense of freedom and control over what media they consume and what information they engage with. It’s this audience empowerment that makes OOH so effective at reaching these generations. They even, in some cases, may feel “relaxed” as they engage with your brand in a way that they control.

A Perfect Storm

There’s no better time than now to include OOH advertising in your marketing strategy.

Not only is OOH advertising the preferred method of reaching these younger demographics, the conditions could not be more ripe for a successful OOH campaign targeted at Millennials or Gen Z.

After 2 years of being stuck inside, people are ready more than ever to get back out there. This lends itself to a greater possibility for OOH impressions on your audience than pre-pandemic, as people’s brains delight at the new sensory experiences that exist outside of being stuck at your desk, skipping ads left and right.

Furthermore, the pandemic has pushed more of life online. With WFH sweeping the nation as a prevailing way to work and with schools and universities going completely remote, there’s an increasing mental fatigue amongst Gen Z and Millennials that accompanies staring at a screen for 8-12 hours a day, including the incessant barrage of unskippable advertisements.

Our brains are simply not wired to take in this much digital information — which leads to decreased recognition and recall of digital ads and increased agitation at digital advertisements crowding the now-digital workplace or school. OOH gives people a relaxing counterpoint to this constant digital bombardment that many of us — through no fault of our own — simply cannot escape.

A Caveat

While OOH advertising is one of the most effective ways to reach Gen Z and Millennials, there is a huge caveat for this channel: it cannot function on its own.

This is largely due to physical constraints. You only have so much space for a billboard, so the messaging has to be short and perfect; the visuals eye-catching and on-brand. With digital, you not only have far more time and space to get your crucial value propositions across, but you can also test and iterate as many different versions as you want to optimize performance toward conversion.

With OOH, you have limited space, so you can’t dive deep into the customer benefits that are often crucial to convert a prospect to a customer. With that in mind, OOH needs to be deployed in conjunction with other forms of advertising.

It’s best utilized as a wrap-around channel, supporting a more primary messaging channel like TV or digital, where you have the opportunity to properly educate and entice the audience on the benefits of your brand, product or service. OOH should be used as a simple way to remind the audience of this piece of content that they’ve already been exposed to.

In other words, OOH advertising is best utilized towards existing customers or customers who are already familiar with the brand and this particular campaign. OOH can be used as a prospecting campaign, but again, due to its very brief and fleeting nature, it needs supporting media to flesh out the why and how of your brand, product or service.

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