Advertising outdoors: advice from the experts

Advertising outdoors advice

It can be hard to know where to start when planning to advertise outdoors. But advertising on billboards, bus shelters and other out-of-home platforms is a highly effective and affordable form of advertising when used in the right way.

There’s plenty of advice available, but when it comes to getting it right, the best people to ask are those who really know how the industry works. So we asked the top experts in the OOH industry and trawled the Internet for some of the most helpful advice when it comes to beginning an out-of-home campaign.

The answers we received fell into three categories:

  • Establish a solid strategy
  • Communicate your message effectively
  • Get on board with digital

Here’s what the experts had to say…

1. Establish a strategy

Advertising outdoors advice

As with any advertising campaign, establishing a solid strategy right at the very beginning is essential. What message do you need to communicate? To who? And where? For how long? Your strategy will be unique to your product, brand and target market. Here’s what some of the industry experts have to say about establishing an OOH advertising strategy:

“Make the most of the power of data”

That was the advice of Nancy Fletcher (President of the OAAA) at a recent OOOA conference. Highlighting the importance of data-led strategies she explained how “New capabilities in how we collect, process and analyse data will allow us to understand, segment, and target OOH audiences with a lot more precision”[1].

In recent months OOH planning systems have been starting to integrate with other data sources including shopper purchase records, online behaviour and mobile data. And, as Fletcher explained, the power of this data is in enabling advertisers to “engage consumers with more relevant messages and measure OOH’s return on investment like never before”

Choose locations according to your strategy

Gretchen Reisner of Quotient Technology tells would-be advertisers to “be sure to understand if your OOH strategy is to target specific geography or if it is a TRP-based plan”[2].

Are you choosing location based advertising, or going for mass-brand awareness by advertising on sites that gain the highest amount of impressions? There are benefits to both strategies, and a lot will depend on your budget and target market.

Reisner then suggests using an outdoor advertising mapping tool find the locations that are best suited to your campaign and budget.

But don’t forget the power of mass reach

Naren Patel (CEO of Primesight) warns against getting too caught-up in the nitty-gritty of hyper-targeting outdoor advertising. “Billboards are a coverage medium”, he explains, “and its core strength is that billboards make brands famous.”

Patel claims that the power of billboard advertising lies in its ability to advertise to a huge audience and, in doing so, make brands famous. He suggests that advertisers that over-target their campaigns risk losing-out on potential audiences. On the other hand, the most successful brands should appeal to everyone:

“Successful growth brands have universal appeal, and mass marketing with a single reach-optimised, simple message is the most effective way to drive sales”[3].

2. Communicate your message effectively

Advertising outdoors advice

Out-of-home, by its very nature, requires a very particular style and format of advertising in order to communicate messages effectively. Simplicity, frequency and the use of striking visuals are the key to successful outdoor adverts according to these industry experts.

Keep it brief

“Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in’ explains Paul Suggett (Creative Director of Starz Entertainment), “Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard. So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across”.

6-8 words is widely acknowledged as the maximum number of words to use on a billboard for it to be effective. Make it snappy, and memorable. Consider using a call-to-action, and make sure your message is clear.

The more billboards the better

In Suggett’s article, “Six steps to making a great billboard ad”, he also suggests that displaying your ad on just one billboard isn’t enough: “One billboard is not cheap But it’s also not very effective either. Billboards are a mass-market medium, but they need support. So, you want more than one, and you want as many eyes on them as possible.”

Bubble’s co-founder, Sebastiaan Heijne highlights the importance of advertising frequency when it comes to out-of-home in his article, “The 20 steps to advertising success”. He explains how the first couple of sightings of an OOH advert will not register with a consumer, and it is only on the third exposure that they register awareness. Even so, it is not until the fifth sighting of an ad that a consumer will actually read it.

As such, Heijne suggests that “this should make any advertising campaign manager stop in their tracks and really assess whether their strategies allow sufficient duration on campaigns or repeated campaigns over time to ensure that their target customers will get sufficient viewings of the adverts to ever stop and read them.”

Make a lasting impression

“Show, don’t tell” advises Alexis McCrimmon (Multimedia Marketing Manager, Matrix Media). Use large, bold, easy-to read text, contrasting colours and eye-catching visuals. “An effective outdoor ad grabs the viewer’s attention and makes a lasting impression that will stay with them long after they’ve passed your ad”[4].

3. Digital is the future of OOH

Advertising outdoors advice

2016 has been a year of exciting developments for the OOH industry, and specifically for Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH). With new advances in technology, the ability to integrate digital and out-of-home advertising makes for some really creative and effective opportunities to engage with consumers. These industry experts highlight the importance of investing in digital.

Get connected

Investing in digital was one of Nancy Fletcher’s primary concerns at the 2016 OOOA/TAB National Convention & Expo. Not only did she highlight the importance of building more digital OOH displays but she also explained how we “have to connect static OOH displays to digital – with calls to action driving consumers to engage or transact with specific websites, or social media channels.” [5]

That’s the top advice from Gordon Borrell (Media Analyst & CEO Borrell Associates) too. He emphasises the importance of ensuring that your “OOH message is integrated with what commuters will see when they look you up on a smartphone or website”.

These days, OOH goes beyond displaying an advert to consumers when they’re out and about. Advertisers need to connect and engage with consumers on a deeper level. People who have seen an OOH campaign are 17% more likely to engage with that brand on their smartphone, so it’s vital to integrate your outdoor ad with an online campaign.

Consider the benefits of Digital screens

“DOOH screens are one of the most impactful ad channels in the UK” advises Andrew Newman, co-founder of, “It’s been proven that attention and recall increases by over 40% when a campaign is targeted through data or live content changes.” Newman speaks from experience after using weather and traffic speed data in a geo-targeted area to run a successful OOH campaign for Jaguar.

In a recent article, Clive Punter (EVP Outfront Media) explained how OOH is more relevant than ever as it enters the digital era;

“The new digital OOH will have the predictive ability to understand where the right audience is, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Fuse this new level of data with digital geolocation capabilities and social interactions, and you have the ultimate intent fulfilment medium.”

Time to get started…

With all these exciting developments and innovations, it seems we really are at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what advertising outdoors can achieve.

Our job is to help you run a really successful outdoor advertising campaign. If you’d like to talk through your ideas or get some more advice about what would work best for your business, give us a ring. Or use our online mapping tool to search for and book the advertising spots best suited to your campaign.







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  1. […] of Outdoor advertising, and we are always on hand to answer your queries. Check out some of this outdoor advertising advice from the experts. Or get in touch with us today so we can be your guide through the unpredictable, fast moving, and […]

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