Does Outdoor Advertising still work?

Outdoor advertising – sometimes called Out of Home or OOH – is one of the most tantalising mediums out there. There’s something inscrutable about it. Unlike ‘print advertising’, it’s a more nebulous concept to describe and can mean different things to different people.

image showing an ooh advertising billboard

Because outdoor advertising is harder to quantify, it tends to be subject to ceaseless speculation as to its relevance today. So, does outdoor advertising still work, and if so, why?

Is outdoor advertising still relevant?

There are many factors that, at face value, appear to threaten the out-of-home sphere.

Digital online advertising has reached a degree of targeting and customisation that makes outdoor advertising campaigns look like a shot in the dark. So much of internet browsing and ecommerce takes place via mobile devices these days. People spend so much time glued to their phones and tablets when out and about that it’s tempting to see this format as potentially replacing the need for outdoor advertising.

The dichotomy that the above points make between outdoor advertising and digital/mobile is in many ways false, as we shall soon see. But even taking them at face value, the OOH market is going from strength to strength.

Big brands are increasingly setting their sites on dominating in the out-of-home environment. Smaller brands, however, are also seizing on the potential of outdoor advertising to boost their brand profile in a major way.

So, why does outdoor advertising still work?

For a start, outdoor advertising covers such a broad sweep of advertising opportunities. From bus stop and train station ads that reach audiences as they commute via public transport, to roadside billboards, Post Office and petrol station forecourt screens… as well as screens and posters that greet us in cinemas, supermarkets and shopping malls up and down the country.

Commuting and OOH reach

Digital screen advertising Cancer Research Race for Life

The average commute in the UK takes 54 minutes and 3.7 million workers spend over 2 hours travelling each day. That’s a lot of time when people are travelling. And waiting and queueing. And in need of distractions.

OOH at point-of-purchase

OOH’s capacity for sales activation is one of its most powerful features. The ads consumers see before entering shops have a “last seen” influence on shoppers, and OOH doesn’t stop at the shop front. Brands like Tesco understand the importance of in-store displays to influence sales.

image showing Tesco Love Food outdoor ad campaign

Retail and the impulse economy

If we look at the time people spend in shopping centres, we find the example of intu, the UK’s largest shopping mall owner. They claim around half of the UK population visit their shopping centres and that the average dwell time is 100 minutes per customer. That’s a lot of time for brands to reach out to audiences when they are primed to spend. Add to that the fact that half of shoppers make spontaneous purchases, leading to a £21 billion “impulse economy” every year.


If, in addition to time spent shopping, we consider dwell time in restaurants, at sporting events, music concerts and visiting attractions like zoos and museums, it’s clear that there is a massive opportunity to reach huge audiences in all walks of life.

OOH and attention

Whilst you can’t guarantee audiences will actually pay attention to OOH ads, they are certainly harder to ignore than, say, Facebook ads. They certainly provide greater value to consumers who use OOH ads to inform their shopping priorities.

The old vs the new

There’s a fundamental dichotomy in advertising between the old and the new. Old, or traditional, forms of advertising are sometimes viewed as outmoded, clunky, lacking relevance. Whereas new forms of advertising like mobile and online are often heralded as the future of marketing.

Like many dichotomies in life, the old and the new aren’t actually opposed to each other. They are basically two forms of advertising that can often be stronger when combined together; more duck and orange than chocolate and cheese.

This is no truer than with out-of-home advertising. OOH can draw on the benefits of digital tech such as the potential for automation that we address in , or the use of analytics to inform outdoor advertising strategy. In fact, research has suggested that combining OOH ads with mobile data can triple the effectiveness of outdoor campaigns.


To see evidence of the effectiveness of OOH look no further than how successful brands use the medium. Tesco have gone on the offensive with OOH in recent years, a strategy which played a key role in clawing their way from negative to positive growth.

And it’s becoming increasingly common for startups to use OOH to bootstrap their success, as we discuss in further detail in this post.

Digital and OOH

Another reason why OOH still works is the rise of digital out-of-home (DOOH). Although only 5% of worldwide OOH inventory is digital, it accounts for 14% of all advertising revenue. The UK has seen huge growth in the number of digital screens available to advertisers. Digital screens now account for over half of all outdoor advertising spaces available.

So it seems that OOH has not just weathered the storm of new ad mediums, it’s actually emerged the other side of the digital revolution stronger and more attractive than ever. OOH has become more quantifiable, easier to measure, and, given the battle to be heard above the chatter of a crowded ad landscape, more essential than ever.






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