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Have you heard of the productivity tracker Notion? If not, maybe it’s because you haven’t been spending enough time online—which, until recently, is where you would have seen most of the company’s ads. But with the realization that online was not the only option, Notion recently decided to try teaching new audiences in new places—specifically, with billboards, murals, LED screens, bus depot ads, and more in San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Dublin, Paris, Tokyo, and Seoul.

The company’s For Your Life’s Work international campaign tells three stories, inspired by some of the company’s 20 million real-life users, who rely on Notion to stay on top of various pieces of their busy and complicated lives. One is a business owner trying to hire high-level staff while also exercising a lot; another is a student who helps at his grandparents’ bakery; the third is a laid-off dad taking care of his young child while learning new skills.

The campaign is aimed at amplifying the company’s brand awareness through this out-of-home (OOH) advertising, which is defined as advertising experienced by consumers outside of their homes. Yet the campaign has a robust in-home component too, featured in blogs, social media, and YouTube videos. According to the data analytics and brand consulting group Kantar, since its founding in 2017, Notion nearly doubled its spending on marketing, such that in 2022 it was devoting $7 million to getting its messages to consumers.

Yet Notion is far from alone in its growing investments in OOH advertising. The baby care brand Coterie, Sunday Scaires CBD, and BellieWelli snacks also launched major outdoor campaigns in 2022. A report from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OOHAAAOA) indicated that OOH revenue had increased 11 percent relative to the previous year. Another—perhaps slightly biased or self-interested—OOHAAAOA report showed that OOH money is well-spent, with significantly higher consumer recall for OOH ads than for live or streaming television, radio, podcasts, print, or online advertising.

But will this shift toward outdoor advertising last? Who knows? One expert noted his strong expectation that brands would keep investing more in OOH ads, but Kira Klaas, Notion’s global head of campaigns demurred. “We might be spending a little bit more on the direct response side so that we can pay off that awareness investment that we made,” she explained.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why would Notion and other companies invest in out-of-home advertising?
  2. What do you think is the right balance of OOH and other ads for a company like Notion?
  3. If you were advising Notion, how would you recommend that it try to build more brand awareness?

Sources: “How Notion Won Big for Its First International Brand Campaign,” The Drum, December 6, 2022; Kira Klaas, “For Your Life’s Work: Notion’s First Brand Campaign,” http://www.notion.so, August 2, 2022; Kimeko McCoy, “Productivity App Notion Goes Global with OOH Efforts,” Digiday, October 4, 2022; “Out of Home Advertising Produces Highest Levels of Consumer Recall Versus Other Media Channels, According to Solomon Partners 2023 Benchmark Report Estimates for the U.S.,” oaaa.org, January 4, 2023; “Out of Home Advertising up 11% in Q3 2022, According to OAAA OOH Revenue Report,” oaaa.org, December 5, 2022