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The entire country has been in a Netflix stupor for the past three months. You’ve probably binged more shows since March than you had the previous three years, and the numbers bear that out — TV usage rose during quarantine, a rarity in the digital age. Briefly, TV advertising seemed to be back in vogue, too.

But now it’s summer, and that’s about to change.

People are heading outside. In fact, they are eager to escape their homes after months of forced cocooning. Many of them plan to vacation, and the vast majority are taking road trips.

What does this mean for advertisers? Billboards and other outdoor opportunities will be in high demand as Americans continue to socially distance but still enjoy beaches, parks and swimming pools.

beaches and parks

People Hit the Road for Vacations

Summer is traditionally a great time for outdoor advertising because so many people are outdoors on vacation. Who hasn’t ooh-ed and aah-ed at the beach when they see that plane with a trailing banner advertising a restaurant with a seafood buffet?

This year, of course, it seemed dicey whether people would go on vacation, due to concerns about COVID-19 and the economic toll the virus has taken. But over the past month, it’s become clear people want to go back to normal. They still plan to take trips, though some coronavirus cautions have been put in place.

A big one: People don’t seem to want to fly. According to a survey by the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, a much higher percentage of vacationers plan to drive to their destination this year than last. Seventy-eight percent of vacationers will take road trips, with the number who plan to use their own cars as their primary mode of transportation up an incredible 70 percent over last year.

Planes, of course, represent risk in the COVID-19 era. People don’t want to be in an enclosed space with strangers. Better to drive, and get there slower, than potentially expose yourself to the virus. More than half of those surveyed said they will travel more than 400 miles on their vacation.

That’s a lot of car time. That’s a lot of time to see billboards on the trip.

COVID-19 Impact on Travel Destinations

The Midwest was, for a few months, at least, seeing fewer cases than the rest of the country. In much of the Midwest and West, where people are more spread out, infection rates remained low.

States such as Utah, which had a rate of infection of under 5 cases per 100,000 residents, opened up faster than many in the mid-Atlantic, where the largest concentration of COVID outbreaks occurred.

So it’s perhaps not surprising to see that those in the Midwest are most interested in traveling, according to OAAA. They haven’t seen as much grief from the virus, and they’re feeling more optimistic about travel plans.

Nearly two-thirds of Midwesterners are planning national trips, which is much higher than in other parts of the country. You can reach these people with billboards they will see as they drive out of town.

Looking to connect with a large number of people using outdoor advertising in another region? The South also looks promising, with more people in the survey saying they plan to head south than any other part of the country. The West will also be a popular destination. (Really, California’s great no matter when you travel here — 10 percent say they’re heading to CA, behind only Florida.)

You will have a lot of time to reach these people. More than 70 percent plan to take more than a week off. People have earned the break. Three months of masks and sanitizer and social distancing have put tension levels sky high.

Americans want a break, and they want to do things they haven’t been able to do for weeks. Thirty-six percent said their top priority for this vacation is spending time with family and friends, about the same as last year. But 45 percent said they plan to shop on this vacation, way up from 30 percent last year. With people forced out of stores for months, that makes sense — and it presents a good opportunity for advertisers to target people ready to spend.

The Best Type of Advertising for Summer Vacationers

Tailoring your message to what people want to hear will help you connect with travelers. What messages will resonate this summer? Perhaps more than ever, vacationers want to hear reassurance from advertisers, according to OAAA. It found that:

  • 32 percent want information about cleanliness (and this is especially important for those over age 45)
  • 31 percent are looking for guidance and reminders about social distancing rules
  • 28 percent desire information about availability of activities
  • 27 percent hope to see special pricing and discounts highlighted

What People Want to Know From Your Ads

Understanding consumers’ mindset right now is critical to offering them messages that will resonate. They don’t just want to know that you have beds available at your hotel, for instance. They want to know what your cleaning procedures are, how they have changed since last year, and whether you are offering lower prices to fill up your rooms.

The higher the individual’s income, the greater their interest in messages about cleanliness, social distancing and, interestingly, special pricing.

The interest in cleanliness and local regulations should come as no surprise. Almost half of vacationers said they changed their vacation plans due to COVID-19. Reaching these people with messages emphasizing the changes that have been made to account for the virus tells them they made the right call.

Messaging may change as the summer progresses. You won’t see the same billboards for summer blockbuster movies that have been up in the past, but other things, like albums, will still see the same big promotions.


This Will Be a Summer Unlike Any Other

Summer vacation will offer excellent opportunities for advertisers who have held off on buying billboards while people sheltered in place. If you need a billboard, contact us, and we can help you decide the right time and place for it.

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