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Why advertisers should take note of the great return to the office

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

With the announcement from the UK government that working from home guidance is now over (hurrah!), employers and government alike are clearly expecting a return to some sense of normality.

Major banking firms, the civil service and even fintechs have led the way in asking employees to be back in the office from February.

But with many of us now used to rolling from bed to sofa to desk in just a matter of steps, is it realistic to expect a sudden surge into our city centres? And should marketeers be adapting their advertising strategies as a result?

Transport for London figures show an encouraging, if albeit gradual, uptick in numbers.

As of 10am on the first Monday post-government guidance update, TfL saw Tube entries and exits up 6% from a week earlier. Tube usage levels now regularly stand at 45% of pre-pandemic levels, while bus ridership is at 70%. Prior to the reintroduction of remote work rules in December 2021, TfL reported frequently seeing more than 60% of pre-pandemic demand on weekdays and up to 80% on weekends.

So, while we might not all be rammed back into Tube carriages and squeezed on to buses for our daily commute quite yet, there is an appetite by a growing majority to get back into city centres.

This is important for us marketeers.

The surge in e-commerce at the peak of the pandemic and the desire to avoid physical retail has subsided. A recent report into consumer trends by Capgemini shows 72% of consumers expect to have ‘significant interactions with physical stores’ as the pandemic diminishes. This is up from pre-Covid data (60%).

It has therefore never been more important to ensure we activate a truly omnichannel strategy that incorporates the roles of multiple mediums – bricks & mortar,, marketplaces, q-commerce platforms and DTC.

Utilising a mix of first and third party data sources, brands now have a tangible window of opportunity to tap back into pre-pandemic commuting habits through geo-targeted media, linking commuting audiences to a physical place to purchase a product.

Whether that be targeting the on-the-go luncher, the post-work socialiser or those making use of convenience stores and on-demand grocery for that empty fridge solution, advertisers should look to reallocate budget. They should look to utilise the power of data and location targeting to unlock incremental commuter on-the-go conversions.

Innocent has done a fantastic job of this using its classic tongue-in-cheek copy acros digital-out-of-home (DOOH) sites in cities to remind commuters about its on-the-go range. Bolt, the ride hailing app, has used city DOOH sites with dynamically optimised creative to remind users across London to reunite with others in real life.

In a post-lockdown age where media plans must be reactive, contextually relevant and overlaid with precision targeting, programmatic media capabilities can help deliver the best results across multiple advertising formats – from social media to digital display to OOH.

Those fmcg brands and retailers who are winning in this space – like Boots, which is using DOOH as part of its omnichannel approach to leverage geo-targeted ads to drive in-store footfall – are those who are recognising the importance of re-engaging their audiences.

The time to activate your location-based, data-driven media is now.

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