Outdoor giant opens £10m free ad space fund for SMEs

digital_poster2Out of home advertising giant Ocean Outdoor is aiming to come to the rescue of small businesses whose operations have been decimated by Covid-19 with the launch of a £10m advertising fund to give firms access to free advertising space across its digital screens in 12 UK cities.

The support fund will be administered in partnership with the local authorities Ocean works with and is aimed at supporting and stimulating businesses, jobs and the local economies in the cities where Ocean operates.

The company insists the fund is more than sufficient to cover multiple ad campaigns for SMEs across Ocean’s roadside and city networks.

Ocean screens are located in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, London, Bristol and Southampton.

Like all outdoor media companies, Ocean is facing a torrid Q2, with brands delaying out of home campaigns due to the current lockdown. After all, if consumers are not allowed out, why would companies pay top dollar to run digital outdoor campaigns?

Ocean also has its own issues. It has already said it is cutting all discretionary spend, reducing staff hours, approaching suppliers and landlords, and introducing “other cash-conservation measures”.

Meanwhile, rival JCDecaux has cancelled its 2019 dividend proposals in an effort to strengthen its liquidity and balance sheet.

But when you are the biggest digital out of home company in the UK, you are faced with a stark choice; turn the screens off, keep them running with old ads for which you will not get paid or help those businesses who are suffering the most.

It is a strategy which could well pay dividends to Ocean in the long-term by attracting new entrants to the outdoor sector, and potentially converting them to the joys of digital outdoor when things eventually return to normal.

And Ocean argues that there still is an out of the home audience, including the one in three people who are not able to work from home and the millions of people who are still going out, be it to buy food and essential supplies or to exercise. These trips may not be for long, but they are frequent, it maintains.

Data from the TomTom data monitor shows on average 51.7% of UK roadside audiences are still in play, offering brands millions of potential contact points every day.

In a joint statement, Ocean Outdoor UK managing directors Phil Hall and Steve George said: “Brands, retailers and SMEs need to continue to market themselves, so our message is do not go dark. Previous crises have seen a reasonably rapid return to ‘normality’ for strong brands – and research from Kantar shows that stronger brands recover nine times faster.

“However, for many SMEs, income streams and operating costs are under incredible strain. Ocean hopes to alleviate some of that stress through this fund. If we can leverage our network to help keep businesses and local economies going, or kick-start them even, then that can only be a good thing.”

The Ocean SME support fund is open for all small to medium sized businesses affected by coronavirus. Participants need to be open for business or be able to trade in the short term.

The digital campaigns will be posted based on availability between April and June but businesses are responsible for the layout and supply of their creative campaigns. SMEs can register their interest for the fund at this link on the Ocean website>

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