The programmatic DOOH industry is a lifeline for Australia’s public health authority 

Matt Bushby, managing director ANZ/SEA at Hivestack, examines the potential of Digital Out-Of-Home (DOOH) to engage in the COVID-19 crisis like never before.

Surging case numbers drove a shift towards harder hitting COVID-19 advertising from Australia’s Government. However, these campaigns also sparked criticism for their provocative, scaremongering approach, such as an ad featuring a young COVID-19 patient in a critical condition.

While rules are gradually easing in some parts of New South Wales and beyond, there is a growing outcry from the population over the closure of state borders which is halting domestic travel and isolating scores of Australians locally, even as the vaccination rate ramps up.

Authorities are still under pressure to win back lost confidence and communication in times of crisis is crucial, requiring a thoughtful approach. Programmatic DOOH has proven itself to be an effective marketing channel in fast-changing situations, as demonstrated by various global initiatives such as the COVID-19 dashboard for the ​​Public Health Agency of Canada and New Zealand’s ‘Keep a metre from the heater’ campaign.

The unmissable, unskippable nature of OOH advertising has always made it an effective channel for public announcements, and recent programmatic DOOH examples have shown how the channel can be used for good in delivering vital and contextually relevant public safety messages.

Influencing behavioural change

Programmatic DOOH offers advertisers agility, scale and unprecedented targeting capabilities using live mobile location data. Combined with powerful creative and flexible pacing strategies, these capabilities proved valuable when the Canadian government was looking to share impactful COVID-19 public safety messages. It also allows for personalised or curated messaging that is relevant to the context of the environment and audience.

The government’s communications objectives centred on encouraging behavioural changes that would save lives with an awareness initiative led by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Using the data-driven capabilities of programmatic DOOH, the campaign focused on inspiring behavioural responses by carefully delivering dynamic ads in line with the activity of nearby individuals.

The campaign dashboard transformed the data into actionable insights allowing creative assets to be triggered based on key moments such as heavy street traffic, to maximise immediate relevance for passers-by, as well as ensuring efficient use of ad spend.

The end result speaks for itself. In addition to reaching over 9 million Canadians with inspiring messages about protecting communities, post-campaign surveys found nearly half of respondents had adapted their activity after seeing ads, with 59% urging their loved ones to follow suit.

‘Keep a metre from the heater’ 

Closer to home, Fire and Emergency New Zealand also recognised that issuing versatile and targeted programmatic DOOH reminders could play a vital role in helping to reduce fatalities.

Launched in early 2021, its ‘Keep a metre from the heater’ campaign set out to serve several dynamic DOOH creative executions encouraging New Zealanders to comply with advice around the use of home heaters as winter kicked into effect. To enhance engagement, outdoor screens were wired into live temperature readings that allowed digital ads to be pushed from an array of creative variations when certain temperatures hit, to accurately mirror local conditions.

When it came to optimising compliance with crucial guidelines, data-assisted ad delivery went even further. After identifying 4pm-8pm as the prime slot for reaching New Zealanders when temperatures dropped below 15 degrees, programmatic buying tactics were deployed to only purchase inventory during drive-home hours. As well as minimising wastage on inefficient ads, this ensured programmatic DOOH ads were seen at key moments when they had the best opportunity to both seize attention and prevent later fire hazards.

These examples demonstrate that programmatic DOOH is well positioned to play a critical role in delivering contextually relevant messages at scale, thereby assisting governing bodies during times of crisis with their communication efforts. These capabilities help reinforce the position of OOH as a reliable channel, an important factor for brands looking to win back consumer trust.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present an unprecedented and ongoing challenge to public health. Campaigns such as those by the Canadian and New Zealand governments are just two examples of how the technology can deliver dynamic messages at the right time and in the right place to enhance awareness, improve adherence to public health warnings and provide a vital source of information to support the safety of citizens. As Australian authorities grapple with a new wave of COVID-19, local programmatic DOOH industry leaders are ready to deliver digital advertising strategies that support the nation’s ongoing recovery.

Matt Bushby is the managing director ANZ/SEA at Hivestack.


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