February 4th, 2021
Rethinking Ocean Outdoor: Introducing Peak DOOH

The Primers identifies 280 digital frames – the best of the best of DOOH

Ocean Outdoor is reframing the DOOH (digital out of home) proposition to equate the power of DOOH with peak TV.

The Primers is based on a rigorously tested strategy developed over the past six months. It is evidenced by the latest release of Route (Version 36 2020) and four Neuroscience studies, together with in-depth analysis of the UK’s entire DOOH footprint.

Using data and common denominators, Ocean has identified 280 DOOH Primers (frames) which share the same properties as “must-have” peak TV spots.

The methodology used has been developed in conjunction with Ocean’s Insight team, two major out of home Specialists and Ocean Outdoor joint managing director Phil Hall, who spent 18 years buy-side at MediaCom before joining Ocean in 2019.

The introduction of The Primers reflects significant change in the DOOH market over the past five years and marks the evolution of DOOH as a well-established, high impact broadcast digital channel.

DOOH now accounts for more than 50% of total OOH revenue and can deliver 82% coverage of the UK population within a month. With a growing audience, unique amongst the major broadcast channels, all the indications are that DOOH will be the lead branding channel post-Covid-19.

Phil Hall said: “For the purposes of planning it’s apparent that DOOH is more akin to primetime TV, however the two are often planned very differently. An effective TV campaign usually relies on primetime peak spots, delivering large audiences in a quality environment. Securing a strong peak allocation with these key spots is second nature to a good TV buyer.

“The same logic doesn’t always apply in OOH. That same quality threshold isn’t automatically applied at the start of the planning process and that hasn’t changed since the age of classic paper and paste static posters. The majority of plans still start from the basis of building broadcast coverage with traditional standard 6 or 48 sheets first, with large format DOOH inventory often at the end, as a ‘nice to have’. This approach is the exact opposite of the TV planning model.

“DOOH Primers have the same star qualities as prime, must have TV ad spots and do exactly the same job. For every Champions League or Bake Off centre-break, there is a DOOH equivalent. Ocean’s development strategy has always been to focus on these key sites and we are the market leader in this area.

“What we can now prove is that an OOH plan without the Ocean Primers is like a TV plan without Peak. Prime DOOH IS the quality threshold and should be the starting point for any OOH plan. It’s time to overhaul the process by making the buying of big DOOH Primers the starting point for any OOH campaign.”

Ian Stevens, chief investment officer at Wavemaker UK, said: “The progress the DOOH market has made in the last few years has been rapid and the coverage achievable shows it is a major broadcast channel in its own right. I see this is a positive step as we are constantly searching for the most efficient way to drive mass, quality reach for our clients. The increased footprint, flexibility and data and tech capabilities of DOOH make it a key medium for many of our clients.”


In 2013, Ocean first set out to establish the existence and attributes of DOOH Primers through four Neuroscience studies.

These independent studies confirmed the hypothesis that premium DOOH locations deliver higher levels of emotional intensity and memory encoding compared to classic formats and that if iconic locations are used earlier in a campaign, the subsequent impact on secondary OOH increases. This priming effect extends into the wider screen market with DOOH-primed mobile delivering 48% better results than television. It was also established that full motion DOOH advertising delivers 2.5 times more memory encoding and emotional intensity than static advertising.

In 2020 there was another breakthrough when OOH industry measurement Route introduced improvements to demonstrate the efficient cover of large format digital locations, something that had been missing previously.

Together, this evidence demonstrates that prime TV and large format DOOH share the same properties with one significant difference  – DOOH reaches younger audiences as well.


  • There are currently 11,509 DOOH frames in the UK.
  • Using a defined set of six common measures, 280 of these frames, across all OOH media owners, have been identified as The Primers which are the best in the country for scale, impact, audience delivery and the wow factor.
  • That’s just 2% of all of all the digital OOH frames on Route, but together they pack a punch, delivering 37% cover.
  • The Cromination, Holland Park Roundabout and Old Street Roundabout all feature, but the grand dame of them all is Landsec’s Piccadilly Lights.
  • Ocean operates 108 Primers (39%) across the UK, making it No 1 in the UK for total number of Primers.

In addition to the numbers, six components define a DOOH Primer which match that of peak TV:

  • Investment – Peak doesn’t come cheap. It costs £750,000 to produce one hour of primetime TV drama. In 2020, Ocean rolled out £7million worth of new and upgraded assets and continues to enhance its national portfolio.
  • Location – Like top ratings TV shows, DOOH Primers are scarce and limited in number. Locations are chosen to deliver new unique audience cover. Virgin locations enhance the value of the medium, in line with the quality threshold.
  • Priming Effect – Large format DOOH Primers make all elements of the media plan work harder.
  • Full Motion – Delivers 2.5 more branding impacts than standard OOH.
  • Broadcast Content – The screening of dynamic, live and pre-scheduled highlights content, alongside bespoke ads (a format not dissimilar to TV advertising) triggers a significant behavioural change in OOH audiences, establishing DOOH’s credentials as a broadcast channel (source: COG Research study with Ocean and Westfield).
  • Talkability – much like hit TV shows, original content carried by prime DOOH creates media headlines and social media comment, creating those online water-cooler moments. People are talking about OOH. HM The Queen’s messages on the Piccadilly Lights and the release of the James Bond movie trailer across DOOH are two recent examples which caught the world’s attention.

Three Ways to Buy

Ocean has created three simple packages to buy The Primers:

  • Ask For It By Name – handpicked DOOH locations whose location, impact and talkability match that of ITV Peak.
  • Ask For It By Network – buy multiple DOOH screens to prime media campaigns from the top down and not the bottom up.
  • Ask For It By Impact – Automated delivery against audience.

Background Information

  • All TV provides 92% weekly cover versus all OOH which delivers 98% UK cover.
  • DOOH provided 82% of OOH cover, just short of the all TV market.
  • ITV is the biggest commercial channel by reach with 62% cover.
  • Large format DOOH (anything from a 48-sheet) delivers 69% cover.
  • Peak ITV delivers 55% of TV ratings.
  • DOOH Primers deliver 44% cover based on 280 Frames.
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