What was already a transitional year for Ocean, as we brought our new European businesses into the family fold, turned into a voyage into the unknown as Government after Government took a sledgehammer to outdoor audiences and the pandemic wreaked havoc with our lives.
It is important for us to acknowledge the personal and financial hardships people have faced and we continue to express our sympathy and support for those who have lost loved ones. It’s a year we are all glad to see the back of.
As a business, Ocean has weathered the storm thanks to the resilience and efforts of our people and all the asset partners, specialists and agencies who have oiled the OOH wheels with some truly inspirational work.
Now, as the industry and our business sits on the cusp of 2021, could it be that the stars are finally aligning for a resurgence of out of home and DOOH?
Already mustering for next year is a barnstorming line-up of global opportunities. Each one takes on an even greater significance for insatiable out of home audiences who have been deprived for far too long of the experiences they want and value.
And if the measures we need to get to this point prevail, 2021 promises audacious opportunities for growth, something for which I believe the medium has to be prepared.
Resilient & Innovative
Imagine a scenario in which the Government banned people from watching TV. And if they did, they would be fined £5,000.
This is effectively what happened to our medium this year, but our people ploughed on at pace.
No one disappeared. We pivoted, we gave £millions of ad space to the arts, charities and businesses that were worse off than ourselves, we introduced Covid safe technologies, we kept our customers close. We put Her Majesty the Queen on the world’s most famous screen. We kept the Lights on throughout Europe.
In the face of adversity, our medium was resilient.
The digital nature of our business and its stoic, focused approach during the pandemic, means DOOH is now best placed to capitalise on the recovery.
Difficult as it might seem today, now is the time to look ahead and plan ahead for how we begin the big fight back. Armed with not one, not two, but three vaccines, Europe will start to reopen to brands - and it will do so with gusto.
The polar opposite narrative of doom and gloom that has enveloped us since March will emerge and not long after that the Sun will have his hat on. Hip-hip-hip, hooray.
This is the spirit we must capture.
As a Group we are well placed. Each of our businesses - Ocean Netherlands, Ocean Nordics and Ocean Outdoor UK - are commercially astute, entrepreneurial and at the cool, tech savvy edge of what DOOH can deliver in each territory post pandemic.
In fact, this month (December) marks the first full operational year of Ocean Nordics which has successfully expanded its OOH infrastructure with an impressive string of contracts wins. And there have been healthy gains too for Ocean Netherlands, culminating in a new media partnership with Westfield Mall of the Netherlands.
Injection of Hope
Access to a vaccine together with a relaxation of all the tiers and restrictions will see a welcome return to liberty and free movement. This will prompt a big shift in consumer behaviour and advertising spend next year.
Naturally, the lucky brands that thrived during Covid will want to ringfence their market share gains, the brands that managed to survive will look to rebuild their sales and the tech based brands that emerged or were supercharged will work to hang onto that fortuitous momentum.
The fight for attention, footfall and spend means brand visibility becomes all important. Particularly outside the home, which is where key audiences will be, making up for lost time responsibly and safely by enjoying some of the feel good factor events that were so obviously absent in 2020.
I can’t remember a year when so many famous global fixtures and tournaments have been crammed into such a short period.
In any normal year, these occasions would not be seen as “firsts”, but in 2021 they will become just that, creating a crescendo of unprecedented customer demand. Four of them take place in the UK. All of them will deliver global audiences.
UEFA Euro 2020 - come the summer, the Euros will be upon us. And with Denmark, England, Finland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden and Wales all qualifying, Ocean’s assets will be centre field.
The Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 - From football we head straight into the 2020 Olympic Games. What an opportunity for brands and sponsors to reignite the army of fans supporting all the national teams. The Rugby World Cup was a dress rehearsal for Japanese fans and hospitality and Tokyo 2020 will be an inspiration for the whole world.
Wimbledon - At the same time, we will see the welcome return of another international favourite. This Wimbledon will feel special. This national institution will serve up a real sense of normality.
What a summer.
Rugby League World Cup - A British Lions rugby union tour to South Africa is followed by the RLWC, 61 men’s, women’s and wheelchair games played at venues in England in October and November opening in Newcastle. Yet more opportunity for brands to regain lost ground by celebrating the Power of Together through world class performance.
But it isn’t all sport. Arguably the single most important event and certainly the biggest conference ever held in the British Isles takes centre stage in November 2021 when the world’s most influential people descend on us for COP26.
Coming off the back of a global pandemic, what could be more important than the health of the planet and all its citizens? As the biggest ever climate change summit unfolds on our doorstep, and with President-Elect Joe Biden rumoured to be making an appearance, the eyes of the world will be on the UK, Scotland and Glasgow.
With an expected 30,000 plus delegates under close scrutiny from the world’s media, Ocean Scotland’s unmissable OOH assets, and our partnership with Glasgow City Council, will be right in the public eye.
COP26 really is an unprecedented opportunity.
A Modicum of Optimism
Unimpaired by lockdowns, our job is to draw a straight line between all of these iconic events and our medium.
Yes, the way things happen will be different. New rules will apply, but whilst the behaviour of audiences may change, high OOH volumes will return.
The single most important fact is that people who have been forced to stay at home for months at a time AREN’T going to remain indoors watching more terrestrial TV. They AREN’T going to be streaming even more content on demand or ordering yet more on Amazon Prime.
What people WILL be doing is exercising their right to go out where and when they choose.
People have been starved of being outside, of being able to shop, to meet and to socialise. And that means our medium will return the fastest as audiences actively seek to feed this voracious OOH emotion.
Remember too that a world where the good news stories swarm back and brands need to respond in real time, DOOH offers that hybrid of long term impact and short term flexibility.
Which means advertising budgets are never wasted even when campaigns are laid down in advance because DOOH responds and adapts so rapidly to changing circumstances and messages. All we have to do is flick a switch.
A vaccine was top of everyone’s Christmas list. That along with a win for Joe Biden and a Brexit deal would make our world and the narrative that surrounds it feel more progressive.
The first two have happened and the third is looking more plausible.
Just imagine where we’d be if the reverse scenario were true. Trump + No Vaccine + No Brexit Deal.
That alone has to justify a modicum of optimism.