‘A better way to go than some digital’: Why a regional real estate brand is spending more in OOH advertising

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With COVID-19 vaccination rates up and many returning to their daily commutes, advertisers have recently taken a second look at out-of-home advertising, including real estate brand Windermere Real Estate, which sees the opportunity as a way to capture a bigger share of audience as the world reopens, said Julie Dey, chief marketing officer at the company.

The Seattle-based company has steadily been increasing both its out-of-home efforts and budget over the last year, investing more than 20% of its current ad budget, up from 5-10% of budget in years prior, per Dey, who did not provide exact figures.

“People are starting to commute a bit more, traffic is coming back and out-of-home is giving us this opportunity to capture this moment where people are in and out,” Dey said. 

In the past, Windermere’s OOH advertising efforts were relegated to billboards here and there. But two years ago, the brand expanded its efforts with a train station domination campaign in Seattle to better its chances at capturing commuter attention. And earlier this year, Windermere Real Estate launched a new OOH campaign that features user generated content, taking over at least five different train stations throughout the western Washington-Seattle metro area.

Currently, almost half of Windermere’s ad budget goes toward television advertising. OOH ranks next with digital advertising at less than 10% of budget, according to the company. (It’s unclear how much Windermere spends on media as the company did not outline details).

“Like many companies, we don’t have huge budgets. We have to be really laser focused about how we use it,” Dey said. “Today, out-of-home looks to be a better way to go than some digital [advertising options], but we do have a lot of digital still in our strategy.”

It’s an outlook other advertisers share as many look to diversify as Apple’s iOS 14 and 15 data privacy updates, which some have called a proverbial nail in the coffin, have hampered targeting capabilities and attribution.

As the conversation around media mix diversification heats up, more and more brands are re-considering out of home advertising, a more traditional media channel. Thanks to an explosion of digital technology and advances in programmatic offerings, analysts predict OOH advertising spend will bounce back to pre-pandemic levels before 2025, according to previous Digiday reporting.

“In this digital-focused world, it has become more challenging for brands to stand out from the crowd,” said Katie Kotsbak, associate vp of media at Good Apple ad agency, noting that more and more brands are leveraging OOH to amplify their screen-based advertising. “The frequency play isn’t new, but now brands are thinking of frequency across channels to break through.”

Traditionally, OOH advertising has been a long-end game with static billboards offering little metrics. But the space is becoming more digitized, experts say. “Just as easy as launching a Facebook or Google ad campaign, you can now put an ad on digital billboards or 39 other screen types literally within minutes,” said Jonathan Gudai, CEO of programmatic advertising platform Adomni.

To Kotsbak, the future of advertising is looking into the past as traditional media channels like television, radio and OOH get a second look in light of digital data privacy crackdowns. “While we may not have the ability to ever talk one to one through OOH, personalization in some form will be up next,” Kotsbak said in an email.

As far as investing even more ad dollars into OOH advertising for next quarter planning, Windermere says they’re in wait-and-see mode. “Every year, we look at where can we deliver the most impact,” Dey said. “We want to find whatever media opportunity is going to give us the highest impact for our dollars.”

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