Out-of-home advertising may not have traditionally been the first choice for healthcare marketers — or even the second, third or fourth. But new research conducted by Talon America suggests that OOH advertising evolved considerably during the COVID-19 shutdown and, as a result, is extremely effective when paired with social media and digital marketing.

“The pandemic reinforced the importance of flexibility for marketers to be able to quickly adjust their media strategies in response to changing local market dynamics,” said Talon America chief operating officer Jonathan Conway. “Out-of-home has proven its adaptability as both a brand building and performance marketing channel.”

Part of that adaptability stems from the expansions of digital options in the out-of-home realm, Conway added. “The growth of digital out-of-home allows for more tactical, responsive and measurable forms of OOH advertising that are more attuned to the needs of performance marketers and short-term goals,” he explained.

Forty-three percent of survey respondents reported that OOH advertising, in combination with social media and online ads, was effective in informing them about COVID-19 news. More importantly for healthcare marketers, 45% of respondents said they trusted that three-headed combination in healthcare brand marketing. One campaign that mixed those elements well came from Twitter — which, last fall, launched an OOH campaign that combined social media with billboards to help fight mask fatigue.

The Talon America study honed in on the move toward telehealth as a major shift during the pandemic, arguing that OOH advertising can help raise awareness about telehealth services. Sixty percent of respondents said they had a virtual HCP visit within the last year, with 40% using virtual care three or more times.

Talon America, as an out-of-home specialist firm, clearly has a horse in the race. That said, its findings gel with what numerous healthcare marketers have been saying over the past 18 months or so.

“The [healthcare] space is competitive, so raising brand awareness and driving brand trust, especially in health, is key,” Conway said, pointing to the importance of mining consumer data to develop more precise OOH campaigns. “After developing a better understanding of the places our audience is most likely to go, we would use these insights to inform and mold our OOH media plans to increase on target reach.”

The Talon America research also highlighted OOH’s potential in increasing awareness of care centers beyond the traditional doctor’s office, such as urgent care centers and retail health clinics. OOH advertising, the study found, can provide particularly hyper-localized content in these settings.

And it became a useful tool in PSAs during the pandemic, with 66% of respondents noting they turned to PSAs for information about COVID-19. Indeed, Talon America noted that the OOH industry “stepped up like no other channel” to provide public health messaging.

Conway called attention to another aspect of OOH: That it is particularly “brand-safe,” with consumers equating product and brand credibility with channel credibility. “Indirectly, it is well-known that out-of-home boosts the effectiveness of other marketing channels,” Conway argued. “When OOH is leveraged with social and online, the combination is ideal in creating an interactive and engaging multichannel campaign.”

“Out-of-home, online and social have many similarities, such as use of dynamic real-time content, targeting capabilities and endless creative possibilities,” Conway continued. “Together, the channels have the ability to merge online and offline conversations.”