How to boost your back-to-school campaigns with OOH advertising

June 19, 2024Anya Leibovitch

Yearly back-to-school shopping typically involves students leading their parents on a scavenger hunt through department stores in search of school supplies. For many, the beginning of a new school year means new clothes, shoes, and a fresh start. 

The back-to-school season is also an important time for brands and businesses, both online and in-person. As the second-biggest shopping event of the year, it provides an opportunity for retailers to attract consumers online and in-store. This influx of shopping activity significantly boosts sales revenue for retailers and brands, especially those selling school-related items like clothing, electronics, stationery, backpacks, and more. In fact, Americans spent a total of $135.5 billion for back-to-school and back-to-college shopping in 2023, a number projected to grow to $189.7 by 2028.

According to Sensormatic Solutions’ U.S. Back-to-School Consumer Sentiment Survey, 79% of shoppers plan to head into stores this year, a steady increase from previous years, with 80% planning to start back-to-school shopping in July or August. “The entire shopping journey will be about minimizing costs. Parents plan to shop earlier for deals, pay with cash, and prioritize in-store purchases,” Stephen Rogers, Managing Director at Deloitte, said in last year’s Deloitte back-to-school survey.

This early shopping mindset presents a significant opportunity for brands, retailers, and advertisers to capture consumers’ attention. One of the most effective ways to do this is through out-of-home (OOH) advertising, which drives traffic and influences purchasing decisions in person and online.

Strategies for effective back-to-school OOH advertising

According to new data from the OAAA and The Harris Poll, 73% of consumers view OOH ads favourably, higher than other media channels like TV/video, social media, and online ads. Here are our top strategies for leveraging the medium to capture shoppers’ attention during the bustling back-to-school season. 

Targeted ad placements

With 60% of shoppers planning to visit two or three stores for their back-to-school shopping, activating strategic OOH ads can help boost foot traffic and drive audiences directly in-store. Placing ads in high-traffic areas, like near schools, shopping malls, and transit routes frequented by students and parents, can maximize visibility. Transit routes like bus shelters, subway stations, and billboards on roads used by students and parents are a great way to ensure the right people see your ads.

Kellogg’s back-to-school ad promoting its cereal brands

Ads placed in close proximity to retail stores can capture consumers when they are already in a shopping mindset. The OAAA reports that 30% of consumers have recently noticed ads providing directions to businesses. Of those who saw directional DOOH ads, 51% visited the advertised business, and 93% of those visitors made a purchase, highlighting the real-world business impact of DOOH ads. Engaging audiences directly at or near a point of sale allows advertisers to streamline the customer journey, capitalizing on the effectiveness of OOH in boosting brand awareness and driving sales. 

Contextual, relevant messaging

Crafting timely and relevant messages for your OOH ads can significantly enhance their effectiveness. With 67% of back-to-school and college consumers reporting higher prices on back-to-class items, dynamic OOH ads tailored to contextual settings or time-specific discounts play a key role in capturing attention and prompting action – especially as inflation continues to affect the average household. 

Thanks to ongoing advancements in programmatic digital OOH (pDOOH), advertisers can also trigger ads based on real-time data conditions like weather, traffic, special offers, events, and more. Retailers can even run ads based on inventory triggers, like promoting special discounts when a particular store has an overstock of supplies. 

It’s also important to customize your messaging to resonate with the specific needs and culture of the local community. For example, ads in university towns might focus on dorm essentials and campus gear. And it’s not just retailers who can benefit; local businesses can also take advantage of the season by running offers in student-heavy areas, like promoting discounts for students or special deals on group meals. 

Tesco promotes its back-to-school via OOH in a shopping mall

Timing is everything

Timing your ad campaign right is essential to maximize ROI. Planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time to perfect your creative and think through your strategy will set you up for a successful back-to-school campaign.

  • Get started early: Launch your OOH campaign several weeks before the back-to-school rush to build awareness and anticipation.
  • Peak shopping periods: Focus your advertising efforts on peak back-to-school shopping periods from late July to early August.
  • Dayparting: Schedule your ads to run when your target audience is most likely to see them, such as morning and afternoon commutes.

Amplifying digital reach with OOH

OOH advertising is not just about physical presence; it can also drive digital engagement. According to data from a recent study by The Harris Poll and OAAA, over three-quarters of US adults recently used their smartphones to engage with an OOH ad, with 43% of these interactions leading to online purchases. 

OOH ads can effectively drive traffic to online stores and social media platforms. For example, including QR codes or short URLs on OOH ads can encourage viewers to visit your website for exclusive back-to-school deals. Additionally, promoting social media contests or giveaways through OOH ads can increase engagement and followership, like a campaign where students share photos of their back-to-school outfits with a specific hashtag for a chance to win a gift card. This integration of physical and digital marketing strategies amplifies reach and fosters a more interactive consumer experience.

Retargeting campaigns

Geofencing technology can enhance the effectiveness of OOH ads by enabling retargeting. Brands can define virtual boundaries around specific geographic areas. When a mobile device enters these areas, it can trigger location-based ads or notifications. This allows for hyper-localized advertising, ensuring your message reaches the right audience at the right time. Brands can also leverage Connected TV (CTV) to deliver highly targeted campaigns, effortlessly expanding the reach of video promos by repurposing them in DOOH venues such as elevator screens in residential and office buildings, malls, and other locations with longer dwell times.

The back-to-school season is a prime time for brands to connect with consumers and boost sales. Incorporating OOH into your marketing strategy is a strategic way to reach parents, students, and teachers where they’re at, increasing brand awareness and prompting them to take action. 

Interested in getting started with DOOH this back-to-school shopping season?

Explore curated audiences in our Retail package here!