After numerous lockdowns and limited mobility due to COVID-19, revitalising the nation’s Central Business Districts (CBDs) has been front of mind. From amendments to Planning Laws to allow 24-hour trading, to the injection of funds for live music and the arts, there is no shortage of ideas for increasing foot traffic in these key districts – but not so much conversation around the suburbs that surround the city, and the role localism has played in the pandemic.

Despite the focus on enticing locals back to Australia’s CBDs, largely missing from recent conversations are the opportunities available to local governments to build on the communities built in the suburbs during the pandemic, and how Out of Home advertising can contribute to this recovery and growth.

Shifting how we move and work

According to research firm Kantar, COVID-19 has driven a surge in localism around the country. More than simply a ‘Buy Australian’ catch-cry, this sharp shift in both consumer behaviour and mobility has seen an increased focus on local neighbourhoods, cafes and shopping centres, as residents found themselves with both the time and income to visit businesses close to home.

Many organisations based in the CBD have now settled on a hybrid working policy. The most recent statistics from The Property Congress show that 15 per cent of office-based workers are based permanently at home, while 30 per cent spend between one and three days in the office each week.

Interestingly for local governments, 26 per cent of those working from home want a local co-working space and 24 per cent want to work in a local café. A large shift when two years ago, less than five per cent of the workforce was based at home.

These statistics offer a vital insight into the resilience building that local governments can undertake when planning new developments and assessing the viability of Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) – to ensure that they are catering to resident’s needs.

Getting to know the neighbours

There is more to this story than economics; millions of Australians struggled with loneliness and social isolation during the pandemic and while the lifting of restrictions has seen some reinvigorate social networks, there is a multitude of evidence to show that the strength of connection to local amenities keeps people happy and engaged.

Improved community connectedness during COVID-19 was realised in a variety of ways; from meeting neighbours, to supporting those who were elderly or vulnerable, to ensuring local shopping centres were supported.

All were of benefit to not only each local government area, but also to the community members who experienced increased confidence to maintain their own wellbeing while supporting others.

As the post-pandemic recovery continues in 2022, the next big question for local governments and the private sector alike is: How do we build on this momentum and cement suburbs in the psyche of Australia?

Using Out of Home (OOH) to boost localism

With a company purpose of making public spaces better, oOh!media is deeply invested in over hundred local councils around Australia. From building and maintaining bus shelters that reflect an area’s unique local heritage, to building data platforms to help retail centres inspire and inform – our focus and presence in local communities is stronger than ever post-pandemic.

We know that helping small businesses utilise the power of our advertising assets is a valuable investment for us and an effective way to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to local government.

In June 2022 we will be launching the oOh!media Small Business Boost program – the first of its kind in outdoor advertising – to help local businesses access media packages that would traditionally be out of their reach.

The program will see us provide $100,000 worth of media space to each small business in the program, to allow them to create hyper-local targeted campaigns across our Retail and Street Furniture network over a 12-month period.

The program highlights the confidence we have in localism continuing to be a key focus for all Australians in the coming years.

Finding the right balance

CBDs will continue to hold a place of great importance in Australian culture; they are frequently the first stop for all visitors to our shores and – regardless of the challenges of post-pandemic life – and will always be a vibrant hub of creativity.

In the desire to push a return to the past, it is important to remember the vital role that the suburbs have played over the last two years and to commit to ongoing investment and growth in partnership with local governments, small businesses and the locals at the heart of these great communities.

This sponsored article was brought to you by oOh!media, for more information go to oohmedia.com.au

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