Does out-of-home advertising work for Millennials?

Often referred to as Generation Y, the millennial age group are generally regarded as tech-savvy and obsessed with everything online. Smartphones, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook; all of these words are intrinsically linked to a generation raised in an increasingly technological age. Are they immune to out-of-home advertising? 

The millennial demographic is currently made up of around 13.8 million people in the UK alone, making them one of the biggest and most discussed target audiences for businesses across the globe.

However, when it comes to engaging with millennials, you would be wrong to assume that their love of technology and social media has led out-of-home advertising to become redundant.

In fact, in today’s fast-paced digital world, creating a strong out-of-home advertising campaign to capture the attention of younger audiences is as important a component as ever in any well-rounded marketing strategy.

Online only?

Considering Generation Y’s tech-savvy reputation, it’s really no surprise that marketeers generally agree that the most effective way to advertise to this demographic is online.

From striking deals with social media influencers to promoting products through paid Facebook advertising and Instagram ads, brands have been relentlessly advertising to millennials through digital means for years.

image showing three people standing on a railway platform looking at smartphones

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this approach, which has certainly been proven to drive sales among younger generations.

However, online advertising does not make up the whole picture when it comes to converting leads from millennials. In fact, as is suggested by the estimated 63% of millennials using an ad-blocker on at least one of their devices, it may be that this type of ‘salesy’ and intrusive online advertising is more off-putting than engaging for most.

Additionally, out-of-home advertising is generally more trusted by Generation Y than paid media online. One global study by Nielsen found that millennials’ trust in outdoor advertising was 56% – a considerably higher percentage than their trust in online video ads (46%) and paid online ads (48%).

When done right, out-of-home advertising can create major opportunities for businesses looking to reach out to and communicate with young people outside of an increasingly ad-saturated digital space. The trick, as always, is simply to ensure that your message resonates with the right audience.

How to connect with a millennial audience using out-of-home advertising:

Begin by defining a more specific target audience.



The word ‘millennial’ is a bit of an umbrella term, which could describe someone born as early as 1980 or as late as 1996. Because of the sheer size of the millennial population, you’ll need to think carefully about whether there is a particular gender or age you are looking to sell your products to and focus your efforts on attracting them specifically.

The benefit of outdoor advertising is that it allows you to pick the precise location where you want your billboard to be seen. Make use of this opportunity by considering where your target audience would be most likely to be found. Perhaps around colleges and Universities (if you’re looking to reach out to students). Perhaps trains where many working millennials begin their commute (and spend an average of over 2 hours travelling each day), or in shopping malls where 60% of millennials say they shop on at least a monthly basis.

Do your research to make sure you have the most accurate data to get your message seen by your potential buyers. The moment you become visible to your target audience, you have a chance to engage with them directly.

Think creatively when designing your outdoor campaign.



Millennials are bombarded by advertisements all around them on a daily basis. This means that when you’re looking to appeal to them through outdoor billboards and posters, you need to ensure your message stands out from the rest. Approaching this more traditional form of advertising in a fresh and innovative way is certainly the way forward.

It’s worth remembering that, for millennials, products themselves are less important than the lifestyles that they embody. In fact, while 74% of the demographic welcome a subtle, inspiring or creative approach to advertising, 39% automatically dislike adverts which they feel are obviously trying to sell them something.

Some examples of out-of-home advertising campaigns that have catered to Generation Y’s love of bold imagery and self-expression include BMW’s Become Electric billboards. They used neon lighting to highlight key features of the car they were selling. Or Reebok’s outdoor installation that gave passers-by the opportunity to win a pair of running shoes if they could run past quickly enough.

out-of-home advertising by BMW

Offer your audience deals and discounts.



It’s no secret that shoppers from every demographic love a bargain. But Millennials in particular are likely to be on a student budget or be earning less at early stages in their careers. When designing an out-of-home advertising campaign that will appeal to a millennial audience, offering your customers a solid discount is always a safe bet.

Again, be strategic with where you choose to advertise these deals. The location of your billboards can affect the effectiveness of your campaign. For example, footwear brand Keds demonstrated the important of both a good deal and a well-chosen location.  They found that when they advertised a 20% in-store discount voucher on a billboard at London’s Westfield Shopping Centre, they experienced a 28% increase in sales at a nearby Keds store.

Use millennials’ love of social media to your advantage.



Social media advertising may be a different approach to traditional billboard advertising, but this doesn’t mean that the two can’t go hand in hand!

KFC recently partnered with Snapchat – the third most popular social platform with millennials – to offer customers the opportunity to take a selfie with their iconic Colonel Sanders. They posted a scannable Snapchat image on bus stops around the country to facilitate this.

KFC interactive out-of-home advertising on a bus stop

In this way, they made the most of their core audience’s love of Snapchat filters and spread the word about their brand online through their effective outdoor advertising campaign. This is a prime example of how traditional and modern forms of advertising can work together to create the most far-reaching, well-rounded campaigns possible for businesses.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, going for a truly integrated approach by investing in out-of-home advertising when targeting a millennial audience can be a surprisingly successful – and hugely profitable – endeavour.

Far from being a thing of the past, effective outdoor advertising can be one of the best ways to increase your millennial customers’ trust in your company, interest in your products and willingness to buy from your brand.

Focussing your efforts on tailoring your outdoor advertising to your millennial audience – in terms of using design and the location of your advertisements – will leave you not falling behind technology but evolving and adapting alongside it. Leveraging millennials’ creative drive and love of social platforms to help your business scale and thrive.

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