4 Considerations for a 2022 City Takeover

Execute a campaign with tactics that evolve with your audience.

Leaving your logo etched into the fabric of a city with a takeover is an exciting thought. And there’s tons of opportunity in execution—you’ll be building awareness in a location you’ve identified as a hotspot for your audience and disrupting a physical space with your brand’s message. And as time and changing world context open the doors to new ways to reach your audience, it’s important to stay intentional about the tactics and strategies that will help you do so. 

Cities and urban spaces look different today than they did two years ago, and so do peoples’ schedules (both work and social). These four considerations will help you get in the headspace to tackle a city takeover for your brand that takes these changes into account—and set your brand up to become a pillar of your target community.

1. Think like a local.

In big cities, you’re getting exposure to all kinds of people with a takeover—many of whom are tourists and out-of-towners. And while exposure is never a negative thing, those groups aren’t always your core audience. When we worked with mobile payments company SumUp, our primary focus was on small business owners in the cities we targeted. That meant we had to see the city through their eyes, considering things like regional lingo and inside jokes that only a local would know.

We showed business owners that the SumUp brand is “one of them” with clever copy that breaks the ice—every Nashvillian knows that bachelorettes are the unofficial mascot of Broadway. By making their audience feel understood, we created an opportunity for SumUp to build trust with the communities targeted in the takeover.

2. Consider a saturated vs. localized approach.

A primary goal of any city takeover is to build a high level of awareness in a specific geographic area. But there are many routes leading to that summit. One approach is saturation—filling the city with OOH and targeted ads so that the messaging becomes a part city’s current landscape. When the brand leads a conversation that continues throughout the flow of your audience’s day, the messaging can’t be ignored. In our SumUp work, we saturated Nashville, Charlotte, and Charleston with tailored creative, making SumUp billboards a literal part of the cities’ iconic skylines—positioning the brand as a true part of their identities (a local, if you will). OOH ads helped generate the awareness needed to send our audience further down our media funnel, with tactics spanning across radio, digital video, display, and social.

An alternative approach to saturating the city is to pinpoint smaller neighborhoods with hyper-local relevancy and/or higher engagement activations. This strategy could work well during periods where people may be staying home more, for brands with small budgets or just for any brand who has a deep, specific knowledge about what areas of a city their audience lives in and frequents—especially as analytics capabilities improve. Underwear brand Parade (photo below) is an example of a brand doing this strategy well, opting to execute OOH with pop-ups in small neighborhood parks instead of traditional ad hubs like Times Square.

3. Anticipate changing consumer patterns (because they will change).

The last time we covered city takeovers on our blog, the world was not recovering from a global pandemic. Since then, that context has changed consumer patterns—people may not be commuting in to work in-person as often or spending as much time at public transportation terminals (what was previously a staple of OOH real estate). In our work with SumUp, we had to consider how tactics that would normally be super high-impact like stadium takeovers and activating on Broadway might not have the same effect, as those spaces were not operating at full capacity at the height of the pandemic. Things change, and it’s important to adapt your strategy in tandem with that. 

United Sodas is an example of a brand who adapted their OOH strategy to account for these changing patterns, pivoting from subway ads to a story that followed consumers on their walking commutes. In our work with SumUp, we executed across both digital and static billboards. These changing patterns are something to consider for digital billboards or any time-based activation where you may want your ad to run at a specific time for max exposure (rush hour traffic looked a little different in 2020 than it did in 2019).

4. Time is money—make it count!

If people are viewing your OOH placements from behind the wheel (which many of them are), remember that you’ve only got a few seconds to make a lasting impression. Getting the most out of those seconds is crucial to getting that audience further down the funnel and ready for the next touchpoint. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re doing just that:

  • Capture authenticity. We kept imagery of humans and the product as the focal point of SumUp’s OOH ads, capturing the grit and magic of being a small business owner empowered by a service that cares about your success.
  • Get crafty to convey tone and voice. We played with varying text weight on SumUp’s billboards, creating visuals that would still be read in the brand’s voice and setting a conversational tone (photo below).
  • Use your logo to the fullest. Your logo is a key component of the ad—it's the punctuation mark that ties it all together. Design your ad so that the logo is clearly visible...kinda like a final mic drop.

The bottom line? City takeovers look a little different today than it did in years past, but that doesn't mean new doors aren't opening. OOH activations and targeted social and display ads can be leveraged more than ever to pull off a hard-hitting takeover...but they'll require the right strategy of robust tactics. Thinking of planning a city takeover to generate targeted awareness for your brand? Hit our line—we'd love to chat.

Check out the full SumUp work here.

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