How is outdoor advertising measured?

how to measure outdoor advertising using various methods

Any reader of this blog will understand the powerful impact outdoor advertising has, and the many ways it can be leveraged by brands to great effect. But given the complexity of this medium, how is outdoor advertising measured? How do we know when our outdoor campaigns are returning a good ROI? Let’s take a look.

Measuring your audience

There are two main considerations with billboard and poster advertising: what is the size of the potential audience for your displays? How many of those people actually saw your ad?

There are then metrics that follow on logically from these: how many of those exposed to your messages were driven to engage with your brand? Has there been a measurable impact on sales?

Opportunity to contact

Market research company Esomar use the term Opportunity to Contact (OTC). This is a metric for measuring how many people will potentially walk past your advert and see it. This takes in to account survey data, and mobility modelling. But there’s a further element to this: Visibility adjusted contact (VAC). This refers to the amount of people who actually saw the advert during the campaign.

When measuring the effectiveness of Outdoor advertising, various different factors and data sets can be taken in to account.


This is a measure of any movement or journey on foot or by vehicle taken between various different points in the Outdoor environment. There are many ways to measure mobility: GPS tracking devices carried by survey participants, travel diaries, and recall surveys analysing the movements of participants over the previous days.

Traffic data

This is a measurement of pedestrian or vehicular traffic through a particular road section relative to the advertising sites. Transport planning data can be used to calculate ad exposure in a given area, although the quality of this data varies widely within different countries and cites. Typical data that can be drawn on includes commuting data, data on leisure activity participation, road traffic counts, and government surveys and census data.

Measuring effectiveness

Pre/post-campaign measurements

The simplest way to measure the effectiveness of outdoor advertising is to take a metric such as sales, and look at sales impact before and after running an outdoor campaign. Has there been a noticeable increase? The difficulty here is working out if there are other factors that may have created a spike (or, heaven forbid, drop) in sales. If your brand had two separate campaigns (say, Outdoor and Online) on the go at the same time it would be difficult to isolate the impact of Outdoor as brand engagement and sales may have been influenced by either campaign. What if your Outdoor campaign is extremely successful but your Online campaign is actually harming sales? It would be very hard to accurately measure outdoor advertising effectiveness in this scenario. A much better scenario would be to only run a single Outdoor campaign and keep all other brand activity stable. Then the results (or lack of) of your campaign would be plain to see.

Coupon codes, sales events, etc

There are other, more involved techniques for measuring effectiveness. Ad-specific coupon codes, discount vouchers, URLS, QR codes, etc., are a great way to measure the effectiveness of outdoor advertising. If they are limited to the outdoor ad itself, then any engagement can be measured with a large degree of certainty that the results reflect the effectiveness of the ad.

Use of slogans specific to the outdoor environment can be useful here; audiences are likely to google slogans that make an impact on them, gaining valuable insight into how memorable your messaging is, and the extent to which it is driving engagement.

Bubble can be your guide through each step on the way to running a successful Outdoor campaign. Get in touch with us today to understand more about how you can measure the effectiveness of your campaigns.

How to measure outdoor advertising in 5 simple steps

Understanding the impact your outdoor ads are having is particularly important for small businesses. You are unlikely to have the resources to launch a multi-channel campaign, so you need to make each element of your marketing strategy count.

1. URL/ landing page tracking

Let’s say you have a small business, let’s call it The Excellent Widget Company.

You’ve just launched a new line of widgets and you want to boost sales via outdoor advertising.

Let’s say your company URL is

Set up a microsite dedicated to your advert. Call it It should be a landing page for your new product and it should link to your main site and have an easy access sales portal. Here’s the important bit: only display the URL on your outdoor posters. Use Google analytics to measure how many people visited your site. You’ll know with a fairly high degree of certainty that those visits could only have been generated by your outdoor ads. You can also use Analytics to track purchases and email signups activated via your microsite; those are all important outdoor advertising metrics.

2. Track promo codes

This trick works in the same ways as the URL tracking point above.

Create a promo code that is specific to your outdoor adverts and is not displayed anywhere else.

Let’s say your ad is structured like this:

“Get 10% off our new widgets today. Use the promo code “WIDGETSNOW”.

Again, you can measure how many sales used the dedicated “WIDGETSNOW” promo code.

3. Keyword tracking

The limitations to URL and promo code tracking is that there are many ways for your audience to engage with your brand after exposure to an outdoor ad.

Perhaps they clocked your ad but didn’t make a note of your url or promo code. When they next get to a computer they may try and search for your brand. Perhaps they search for “new widget deal”, “widget offer”, or “widget ad”. If those key searches turn up in your Analytics it’s a good bet that they were a direct result of your ad. Again, if you are only advertising the widget offer on your outdoor ads, it can help you discover more accurate outdoor advertising metrics.

4. Social media tracking

A great tip for measuring billboard effectiveness is to create a hashtag that is unique to your outdoor ad. Let’s say it’s #widgetdeal.

You instantly have a great way to measure social media engagement with your brand. Just search for that hashtag on Twitter, Facebook etc., to discover not only how much brand activity your outdoor ad has generated, but also gain direct insight into who is searching for your brand.

5. Survey your site visitors

Most of the above points require you to make adjustments to the ads themselves in order to measure the effectiveness of outdoor advertising. That may not suit your advertising strategy, or it might be a bit too involved for your liking. A simple tip for how to measure outdoor advertising is to set up a brief survey that asks site visitors how they discovered your brand. Allow them to select “I saw your billboard” or whatever.

There are many ways to measure the success of your outdoor ads. The key thing is to find ways to track your audience’s journey from exposure to your outdoor ads to their further voyage through your sales funnel. Happy testing!


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