OOH in New York City: Outdoorsy in a Concrete Jungle

Times Square, New York City. Everyone knows its allure. The iconic square,  the epicenter of New York, is where the city reaches the highest buzz.

Towering the swarms of people passing through the square are the gigantic billboards displaying the logos and messages of famous international brands. Out-of-Home advertising IS New York City. We spoke to one of the biggest players in this market – OUTFRONT Media. As every New Yorker will tell you, outdoor advertising is a major part of the make-up of Times Square as well as the entire city of New York. One of the biggest players in this market is OUTFRONT Media which is headquartered in the illustrious Chrysler Building on 42nd Street in Manhattan. OUTFRONT Media is one of the world’s largest outdoor media owners operating in several markets, such as the United States and Canada. The portfolio in the U.S. includes digital and static display in some of the most iconic and high-traffic spots across America as well as major municipal transit systems, such as the subway system of New York.

New York – a city with many touch points
According to OUTFRONT Media’s CMO, Jodi Senese, it is no coincidence that especially New York ranks as one of the best spots for outdoor advertising: – “New York is a very rich out-of-home market with many touch points for impacting consumers. You have a pedestrian-heavy city where millions of people rely on the mass transit system to get around town every day. New York’s public transit is in every way the cornerstone for travel in this market. Very few people tend to live where they work and they’re using the subway, bus and rail to get from point A to B.”

For this reason, Jodi Senese argues that some of the best advertising opportunities are associated with the transit system consisting of subway, bus and rail: – “Our media positions brands to reach their target audience as they commute on average for 30 minutes each way. An effective campaign reaches consumers where they commute, work, and live, and we cover all those bases. Beyond transit, we have assets in iconic locations all around New York, and we reach consumers at multiple touchpoints.”

A catalyst and amplifier for other media
Jodi Senese has been the Chief Marketing Officer at OUTFRONT Media prior to its rebrand in 2013. As a CMO, she oversees all aspects of the OUTFRONT Media brand, internally and externally. Working with clients, partners and industry leaders, the focus is on developing new business strategies and markets for the outdoor media company. In her opinion, there is still a significant and growing market for outdoor advertising: “The consumer is increasingly more elusive as our today’s media consumption is spread across multiple devices, platforms and media channels. At the same time, we are more in control of the messaging we receive, such as the rise of, for instance, streaming technology and ad blocker software. In this fragmented and complex media environment, outdoor advertising continues to be a break-through medium and a common denominator with the ability to target effectively.”

“Outdoor advertising is often a very strong catalyst and amplifier for other media – mobile is a great example. Research shows that 70% of a consumer’s day is spent out of home with 68% of mobile use conducted while out of home so there’s this inherent synergy between the two media. Quite simply, outdoor advertising is where the people are and we expect it to continue to thrive not only in New York but throughout the U.S.”, Senese adds.

Tech start-ups mushrooming in the transit system
OUTFRONT Media’s CMO has been in outdoor advertising for her entire career since interning at New York Subways Advertising (now part of OUTFRONT), which was a private company with the sole focus on marketing, selling and maintaining adverts in the NY subway system. In the past few years, she has witnessed how the profile of companies advertising on the subway system and transit formats is changing: – “We have seen many tech start-ups utilize these formats. In particular, over the last three years, we’ve seen a trend with tech start-ups utilizing our assets as a means to effectively launch and build their brands in this incredibly competitive market. You have tech brands like Casper (mattress e-commerce store), TaskRabbit (online on-demand services), Lyft (online on-demand ride-sharing), Seamless (online food ordering service), and Oscar Insurance (health insurance). These tech start-ups are now part of the New York vernacular due largely to their presence in the New York subway system.”

In her experience, the inclusion of tech start-ups among the group of advertisers utilizing the New York transit assets is a combination of the sales team prospecting and tech companies reaching out to the outdoor media owner: “Very often the marketing guys from the companies buying media are riders too and see how other tech companies use the space. If you’re a start-up in New York, you navigate the city just like all New Yorkers do, so it goes back to the fact that I think brands see their competitors on our media and reach out to us to learn more as it relates to our marketing capabilities. Nonetheless, a tech start-up or not, outdoor is the original brand builder, and if you want to create a ubiquitous campaign, then we’re the best in the game in town. You can’t turn off outdoor advertising. As a young company trying to build your brand and educate the market on your product, you need that!”

Clarity and creatives key to outdoor success
“Given our vast portfolio of assets in the market, there’s a wide range of strategies that can place advertisers in a position for a successful campaign. Utilizing transit assets guarantees a well-seen campaign”, Jodi explains.

If a company is thinking about launching in the New York market with outdoor advertising, Senese would advise them to be clear on their target audience and ramp up the creative side: “For a company looking to launch with outdoor advertising, I think the key is to be clear about who they want to reach and how they want to earn their attention. Creative is critical to a campaign’s success in New York, where the competition for attention is immense. For instance, in the Subway you have a high dwell time and a big canvas in the form of ad space to capitalize on, so you have the base ingredients for getting attention. It’s up to you to maintain it with engaging ads. We have an in-house boutique ad agency, OUTFRONT Studios that can assist in this process“.

Outdoor advertising has come a long way since its birth more than 150 years ago and according to Jodi, there is more in store in the near future: “The out-of-home landscape is evolving to include new ways to engage relevant audiences at the right moment via location marketing. The marketplace is learning that outdoor is the best primer for mobile and we have launched a mobile ad network to work in tandem with outdoor display placements by geo-fencing appropriate locations. We are in the early stages of our Data Management Platform (DMP) development, but as a ‘one-to-many’ medium we are interested in the profile of an aggregated audience and understanding their collective patterns. We are also in the nascent stages of our ON Smart Media division, which is “next generation” digital: a cloud-based, app-driven, and elegant screen opportunity for brands to advertise. I’m really excited about this as we have had strong deployments in New York stations such as Hudson Yards and mixed use areas such as Columbus Circle’s Turnstyle retail and food market, and we’re looking forward to more.”

This blog post is an adapted version of an article that featured in Leverate Media’s company magazine ‘Leverate ONE‘.