Advertising has always been a key component of political campaigning, and Out-of-Home (OOH) continues to play a defining role. The changing media landscape has increased competition among channels, first with the emergence of TV ads, and most recently with social media. Building trust among the electorate in a noisy landscape is a growing priority for political parties and organisations; what has been the role of OOH in achieving this goal, and how has it evolved?

Clarifying the message

Out-of-Home (OOH) forms a crucial part of the media mix for political campaigns. OOH suits political campaigns well as the messaging normally fits the requirements of the medium; it is concise and quickly digestible with striking and memorable artwork.
OOH provides the broadest reach of any medium and is therefore highly effective for mass communication – a key goal for political campaigns. But with the rise of Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH), political parties have the opportunity to also target on a local level with contextualised messaging tailored to the most relevant concerns for a local electorate.
Although political OOH campaigns often focus on building awareness of the party or the policy (or critique of their opposition’s policies), campaigners are also realising the long-term brand-building opportunities that the medium offers. Furthermore, the mass reach of an OOH campaign can consolidate and reaffirm the more targeted messaging distributed through other media channels. The most resonant OOH campaigns use the medium to provide the clarity that the audience seeks.
Labour isn't Working, Conservative billboard campaign 1979The billboard campaign by the Conservative party during the 1979 election became one of the most iconic political campaigns in modern history. The message was clear, smart and eye-catching. The Conservatives won the election.

Showing respect

In a world where people are losing trust in both politicians and online content, a potential pitfall for online political campaigns is that messaging can seem disingenuous, and even intrusive. This perception is most prevalent among the younger generation. 16-34-year-olds are probably the most digitally savvy audience, yet they have a preference for ads in traditional media. For them, OOH does not have the same negative associations. The physical, irrevocable presence of OOH makes a strong statement that creates confidence in its messaging. With long-term campaigning, OOH remains unchallenged in building positive associations, which are necessary to win an election.
Labour Party campaign, UK Elections 2017, I am a ThreatIn May 2017, Labour’s ominous ad targeted the Conservatives. Labour gained 31 seats in the election, despite the unfavourable polls in the run up to the election.

Building trust

While the influence of social media in campaigning is undoubtedly growing, political campaigns are still developing the optimal strategy for digital and social media advertising.
Political messaging needs to establish a position of strength and trust. But one of the challenges of online and social media ads is that there is limited control of where and when the ads appear. Despite their strength in micro-targeting, digital ads can be easily lost among the online noise and retargeting campaigns. An OOH campaign is unmissable, it commands attention and projects an image of strength unmatched by other media.

An integrated strategy and call-to-action

Campaigners who understand the strengths and weakness of each medium and the growing relationship between online and OOH, integrate their media strategies to make the most of both.
Innovation in media is changing both the abilities and the perception of OOH. Although seen as a traditional medium, today, it plays a significant role in driving people online. It has been proven to increase brand-related smartphone searches by 17% among those exposed. This multiplying effect is especially crucial in political campaigning where momentum and consistent messaging are vital. 
Twitter ran its first OOH campaign; simple yet powerful creatives featuring visual representations of the most topical, and often political hashtags of 2016. Twitter won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions this year for this relevant and relatable campaign.
OOH advertising remains a key component of political campaigning. The medium is perfectly suited as a nonintrusive method of mass communication, delivering concise and digestible messages. When combined well with other media, a political OOH campaign can unite an audience, give clarity and create trust among the electorate.

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