Top 3 Tips for Building a Successful DOOH Tentpole Marketing Strategy
By Marissa Bernstein
Tentpole marketing has been a long-standing component of any marketing mix. It involves centering marketing efforts around big events, holidays, seasons or any other cultural moment that has broad appeal and captures wide audience attention. These efforts are generally broken down into three distinct phases: pre-event, event, and post-event buzz.
The idea behind tentpole marketing is to create a marketing campaign that taps into the excitement and energy around these events to generate awareness and demand for a product or brand. By centering marketing efforts around tentpole moments throughout the year, brands can piggyback on the existing buzz around an event to amplify their message and reach a wider audience.
On paper, it all seems well and good – brands leverage the buzz from specific events, build massive awareness and see tremendous interest or sales as a result. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The challenge with tentpole marketing
One of the biggest challenges marketers face launching campaigns centered around any culturally-significant event is competition from other advertisers and brands. This often means that ad costs leading up to (and during) these culturally-significant events skyrocket.
The Super Bowl is a classic example of how certain moments can push advertising to untenable heights for advertisers. For instance, the cost of a standard 30-second TV ad during a regular Sunday Night Football game for the 2023 season was around $830,000.
However, during a tentpole moment, like the Super Bowl, the cost for a similar 30-second TV ad ballooned to $7m, a 743% cost increase. Granted, $830,000 for a TV ad is already exceedingly expensive for many brands out there, but a 743% increase would be a hard pill to swallow regardless of the starting cost.
In addition, while advertisers can plan around specific events that occur annually (ex: summer season, back-to-school, Black Friday, Christmas, NBA Playoffs, etc.), certain events or moments happen throughout the year that are impossible to predict. These viral moments (like slap gate) or black swan events (like a global pandemic) can often become ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist and cause ripple effects that last for weeks, months and even years.
Events like these essentially remove the first third of the tentpole model as they are often unpredictable, which throws advertisers into a reactive state and can lead to them missing the boat of any media buzz.
The DOOH solution
Programmatic digital out-of-home (DOOH) offers a high-impact way for brands to get their message out around specific culturally-relevant moments without the exceptionally high costs or lead times associated with traditional tentpole advertising. Programmatic DOOH allows advertisers to strategically purchase share of voice based on any budget, making it an easier and much more effective way to reach high-value audiences.
Buying out-of-home (OOH) used to mean planning out campaigns months in advance, leaving little to no room for ad opportunities around unforeseen or unpredictable events. However, today’s DOOH technology offers rapid activation capabilities with robust flexibility — allowing advertisers to upload assets electronically, schedule and launch new campaigns the same day and even pivot their messaging at a moment’s notice. Whether marketers need to launch a campaign on short notice, just activate for only a few days around an event or react quickly to breaking news, DOOH offers the ability to turn around a campaign when and where it will have the greatest impact.
Finally, it’s no secret that advertising tends to heat up during certain events, seasons and holidays, and with increased competition for consumer attention, ad costs also increase. DOOH allows advertisers to break through the noise and clutter around tentpole events and reach people at multiple touchpoints throughout their day in the lead-up to any given affair.
Tips for building a DOOH tent
For brands looking to tap into tentpole moments throughout the year, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Align online and offline marketing efforts
Online ads are and will continue to be a major part of every marketing blueprint for the foreseeable future. However, brands that want to build a well-rounded tentpole strategy should focus on aligning their online efforts with offline touchpoints to solidify their message in consumers’ minds and connect the dots between all the pieces of their omni-channel initiatives.
Targeting audiences in the real world is one of the defining features of DOOH. As a one-to-many medium, OOH has the benefit of providing massive reach that puts advertisers’ messages in front of huge audiences in a cost-effective manner.
If a brand is already an official event sponsor, it can extend its sponsorship and amplify the impact of its messaging with DOOH by reaching people while they are offline, away from their TVs and moving throughout their day.
Alternatively, brands whose competitors are official sponsors of an event can leverage DOOH to conquest and gain market share by ensuring their brand is also top-of-mind surrounding the same event.
For instance, SkinnyPop, a well-known snack brand, tapped into the excitement of New Year’s Eve (NYE) to generate awareness and gain maximum reach for its non-GMO and gluten-free products. To create a sense of urgency among shoppers, SkinnyPop focused its DOOH campaign specifically on the days immediately leading up to New Year’s.
The brand used programmatic DOOH to activate its creative messaging across Volta’s high-impact electric vehicle charging stations located in front of grocery stores and shopping centers to catch consumers as they were getting ready for their big plans.
SkinnyPop also strategically launched its DOOH campaign in the lead-up to its massive NYE sponsorship, where its Whole Bag Kinda Night music-style video creative premiered on linear New Year’s Eve TV broadcasts. This coordinated flight allowed SkinnyPop to reach consumers with a cohesive and impactful brand message in the lead up and throughout the duration of the major tentpole moment.
Flex those creative muscles
OOH advertising presents a unique opportunity for brands to showcase their creativity and incorporate unique elements that elevate their messaging and more effectively tell their story. Brands looking to build DOOH campaigns around tentpole events should build tentpole-specific creative to make it easy for the audience to connect the brand to the event.
Going one step further, brands can leverage dynamic creative to pull in real-time elements like countdowns (or count-ups), live sports scores, local weather, store location and additional data feeds to drive home relevance, create a sense of urgency and encourage immediate response among audiences.
For example, a retail brand launching a campaign around a Halloween sale might use an orange and black color scheme with cobwebs, ghosts and black cat imagery peppered into the background and text referencing its “spooooky savings.” They could also include a countdown clock showing the weeks, hours, days, and minutes until the holiday begins to increase anticipation and excitement among passersby. All of these elements contribute to the connection of the brand to Halloween.
Use time and place strategically
It’s no secret that different holidays, seasons and events can change people’s habits — everything from the places they go and how they dress, to the foods they eat and who they socialize with. DOOH allows advertisers to leverage screens in relevant environments in their campaigns (like gyms, bars, restaurants, etc.) to increase the effectiveness of their ad spend. Brands can even day-part campaigns to strategically activate screens at specific times to drive maximum awareness and action at a fraction of the cost of other channels.
For instance, despite warm weather being associated with higher physical activity, the summer months are often some of the slowest for indoor gyms.
Conversely, the winter months (January and February in the US) are some of the busiest as people seek to drop any weight gained over the holidays in preparation for beach season.
So, a CPG brand launching a campaign for a new line of sports drinks can activate screens located within gyms in the winter months, and screens near parks, lakes, beaches or other activity-related areas in the summer. The brand can also focus its ads to only run between certain hours (like peak gym times, or midday near beaches) to increase the likelihood that the people who see the ad will be in the market for that kind of beverage.
Amplifying brand messaging with DOOH
Programmatic DOOH offers an incredibly effective way for brands to tap into the buzz of culturally-relevant moments and amplify their messaging. By aligning online and offline touchpoints with high-impact creatives on relevant screens, advertisers can reach their target audience with a cohesive message that captures attention and influences consumer behavior.