An experiment conducted by consumer insight company COG Research and Dr Amanda Ellison, a doctor of psychology at Durham University, involved assessing 140 continuous hours of monitored skin conductance readings from 20 subjects who also wore eye tracking glasses throughout their day.
Matching the skin conductance highs and lows to actions and places in their daily lives, COG and Dr Ellison were able to demonstrate that people out of home showed a 33% heightened alertness compared to those in home.
Observing that heightened alertness can lead to higher absorption and recall of advertising images, Mike Baker, CEO of the Outdoor Media Centre, a trade body, said advertisers could profit from the research which had put a figure to what one might intuitively have expected.
"Contextual planning is a real benefit of the outdoor medium, and now we know that our audience is one third more attentive," he stated, adding that advertisers could target consumers at different points in their day.
Outdoor advertising company JCDecaux has already gone down this road, combining its digital billboards with social media to reach rail commuters and enabling brands to run consumer-generated content nationally and in real time on station screens.
This sort of approach illustrates another aspect of the sector, as a rush of novel formats and creative thinking has "turned outdoor media on its head", according to Marketing Week.
It noted that the OOH industry was, for example, making increasing use of experiential activity, from Innocent smoothies' samplings under outdoor posters to Land Rover's "sound showers" where pressing an accelerator pedal under an airport billboard resulted in a giant roar.
A separate study from COG Research and OnDevice Research, surveyed 3,563 people via their mobiles at different times of day to measure their mood. This found that a consistently higher percentage of those out of home claimed to be feeling energetic and active, and indeed took action at a higher rate for outdoor ads compared to other media.
Some 23% searched for more information on a mobile device after seeing a recent outdoor ad, compared to 16% for other media.
Data sourced from Outdoor Media Centre, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff