An on-the-ground view of NYC’s re-emerging OOH market

Article by
Miriam Buireu

This article appeared in Billboard Insider on 11th September 2020.

Miriam Buireu updates us on the current climate in New York, how businesses in the city are adapting to COVID-19 restrictions and the new behavioural patterns of residents.

With September now upon us, New Yorkers are preparing for the city’s final phase of reopening following one of the most severe and well-respected lockdowns anywhere in the United States. 

Signs of life and normality have been re-emerging in New York for some time already. Outdoor dining has taken over the city’s avenues in recent weeks, competing for sidewalk and even road space with steadily increasing volumes of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Similar to every other major world city, the re-emergence of urban audiences and apparent return to normality is a welcome sign of better times ahead for OOH media owners and advertisers. 

In the US, Geopath – the industry body and standard for OOH audience measurement – has led the market with authoritative tracking of population movements throughout Covid-19. Location data businesses have also provided granular, daily and market-level insights. Together, they have been telling a clear story for some time. The US remains a highly fragmented market in terms of attitudes, behaviours and lifestyles, but population movements have been steadily returning to pre-Coronavirus levels nationwide and are expected to make a full recovery in some markets by Fall. 

Average miles travelled daily is stabilising, up 75% versus the April low. Distance travelled daily is now at 94% of the travel occurring the first week of March before COVID-19 restrictions. These are encouraging signs, but the headline figures mask the important shifts in audience habits that have emerged, perhaps permanently. 

One of the most apparent trends is the exodus from Manhattan to the surrounding upstate New York and residential areas of Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. New Yorkers tend to escape the city during the long, humid summer. But there is a growing realisation that many do not intend to return any time soon. The city’s apartment blocks are growing increasingly vacant.

The challenges of commuting by public transport, navigating elevators and social distancing in workplaces is even more pronounced in a city full of skyscrapers. Remote working is likely to be present on New York’s working life well into 2021. 

Popular shopping and tourist districts are light on foot traffic. Broadway remains closed. But outside of Manhattan’s most popular Midtown areas, the city’s trendier downtown and Brooklyn neighbourhoods have been faster to recover. People are still going out and socialising, but increasingly in smaller groups and in more local areas where larger crowds can be avoided. 

Advertisers are adapting to these changes and are editing their strategies to reach audiences new traffic and behaviours patterns effectively. Digital OOH and location data will become even more critical in these changing market conditions offering advertisers increased flexibility to react efficiently and effectively and a geo-targeted approach to reach and engage with their key audiences. Our new partnership with Hivestack provides Evolve with the planning platform to enable real-time audience planning based on defined audience metrics set by our clients. The mobile and movement data is refreshed daily ensuring that we can deliver an audience-led planning approach and buy programmatically too.