Outdoor advertising has held its own in the face of digital-media onslaught. In fact, outdoor has integrated well with digital media, with many companies using outdoor to advertise hash-tags, encourage brand searches in Google and kick start online campaigns. The opposition by environmentalists and consumer groups has also failed to make a dent in out-of-home advertising revenues, because big-budget companies still find outdoor media extremely effective.

Why OOH Still Rocks the Advertising World?

According to TGI data, adults in the UK spend 70% of their time out-of-home, and 86% can talk about some form of outdoor advertising that they've seen in the last three days. Apart from high CPM, out-of-home can also deliver a better ROI. BrandScience found that the global out-of-home advertising delivered an average of $2.8 in sales for each $1 spent. This makes OOH (out of home) more effective than both print and TV media.

Is Outdoor Media Right for Your Business?

Travel, retail, media, and telecom businesses benefit the most from outdoor advertising, reaping the highest ROIs. Other B2C businesses can also expect better returns compared to other media. As for B2B companies, they don’t typically use outdoor media for direct sales producing activities, though sometimes they use it for brand building and brand recognition.

The economy and flexibility of outdoor media make it perfect for small businesses. Outdoor includes a broad variety of media vehicles, so small businesses can select the one they can afford. Fascia signs, pole signs, posters, etc usually have a small price denomination, starting at around £100 per week.

Out of Home Media in the UK

The Department of Communities and Local Government defines at least 12 types of outdoor advertising in the UK. These include posters and notices, placards and billboards, fascia signs and projecting signs, pole signs and canopy signs, models and devices, advance signs and directional signs, estate agents’ boards, captive balloons, flag advertisements, and more. Additionally, there's bus and bus-shelter advertising, advertising inside shopping malls, and certain other types of innovative outdoor branding.

How to Use Outdoor Media for Maximum Impact

Before you select the appropriate outdoor media mix for your upcoming campaign, there's something else that you must do. Get creative!

Outdoor media is seen by a large number of people. However, those same people are exposed to some 5000 advertising messages every day. This makes it very hard for them to remember your particular ad, unless it's something out of the ordinary. Here are some tips and recent examples to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Go creative with your shop-sign

The shop/office sign can either attract or repel your customers, so the more you work on its design, the better. With certain restrictions, the UK laws permit the display of shop fascia signs and advertisements on business premises. Hence, a shop fascia or any other sign on the business premises may be the cheapest and most cost-effective way to advertise your brand out-of-home. Here are a few tips:

  1. Bring out your brand: Emphasize your business name, logo, and what you do. Do not use your shop sign for advertising offers and sales, and it dilutes your brand. Use other types of signage, such as pull up banners or posters, for displaying products and special offers.
  2. Use LED, neon, or back lighting at night: Outdoor signage becomes strikingly noticeable at night, if it's illuminated. Even if your shop is closed, keeping the sign lit at night attracts the attention of motorists and passers-by (assuming that your shop is located on a street and not inside a shopping mall).
  3. Use 3D elements in your design: The simplest way to do this is by using cut-letters or channel-letters. The difference between the two is that channel lettering is open at the back and has space (channel) inside it for inserting lights. They look stunning when lit at night.

I'd also recommend reading this guide which discusses what makes a good shop sign.

2. Engage your audience

One of the best things about outdoor media is that with a little ingenuity, you can make it highly interactive and engaging. Technology has made it possible to personalize your outdoor advertising for the viewers.

Electronic or digital billboards allow you to control the Ad being displayed at any particular time, so you can serve different Ads on different days or times, depending upon the audience and the occasion. But there are ways to make your signage engaging without using technology.

Here are a couple of examples.

Example: A Dog #LookingforYou

The following video features a truly great out-of-home idea by Battersea Dogs Home. A volunteer handed out leaflets outside a shopping mall to people who seemed to care about dogs. The leaflets were marked with an RFID tag, using which the advertisers were able to track people as they went around the mall. People were surprised when they noticed a dog followed them on posters and billboards wherever they went.

Example: Interactive Workout Billboards

The above example involves LED signs and some latest technology, but there can be much simpler ways to build interactivity into your static signage. Here's Powerade's famous 'workout billboard,' which people can use for climbing, punching, and operating weights.

3. Emphasize Your Product

Out-of-home media is probably the strongest when it comes to featuring your product and its benefits. Big pictures of your products are hard to miss and stick to people's minds. But static 2D product shots are a not the only way to show your product outdoors. You can actually create a 'touch-and-feel,' outdoor campaign that allows your customers to experience your product up close.

Example: Uber's 'You Drink, We Drive' campaign

Uber installed a breathalyzer in Toronto, with the offer—you drink, we drive. The sign invited pedestrians to blow into the breathalyzer, and offered them a ride home if they were over legal limit.

Example: Heineken's 'Grab' Billboard

There can be simpler ways of emphasizing your product, like this Heineken billboard:

Example: Leica's 12X Zoom

Why tell the people about the benefit of your product when you can show them? A Swiss Ad agency designed these powerful billboards demonstrating Leica's zoom-in feature.

4. Look for cheaper ways to advertise

If you think billboards or other large-format signs are out of your league, there can be many inexpensive or even free ways to advertise outdoors. With a little improvisation, you can pull off catchy outdoor campaigns that people notice and talk about.

Example: Marvel's 'Antsigns'

People see large signs and posters all the time, but who would miss this tiny billboard popping up from the pavement beside bus stops across Australia? Marvel erected a large number of these micro-signs to announce their upcoming movie Antman. The 'Antsigns' were super-economical and super-effective. Size does matter, but creativity matters more than size.

Example: IKEA's 'People Signs'

Another simpler example of inexpensive outdoor branding is human branding. Though it sounds shamelessly commercial, human or people branding can be one of the cheapest, yet most effective kind of outdoor advertising. People branding can take many different forms. For instance, you can distribute branded apparel with your logo and message, so people will display your brand whenever they go around wearing your goods. A more striking way would be to do something like IKEA did.

Example: OBI's Renovated Billboards

Signage is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about out-of-home advertising. Many people think billboards and signs are ugly. Could there be a way to advertise without using signage? The German DIY firm OBI used what they called "renovated billboards." They effectively featured their products, made the streets look nicer, and saved considerably on advertising. Three birds with one stone.

5. Get moving billboards

Small businesses often use buses, trucks, vans, and other vehicles for branding. Bus advertising is the most seen advertising medium, and one of the most economical too. Other than buses, you can also wrap your own vehicles (such as delivery vans, trucks or even motorcycles) in your brand colors and ads. Your ad is printed on adhesive, waterproof vinyl and pasted on the vehicle.

Like other outdoor media, the impact of your moving publicity will also depend on how creatively you've designed your campaign. One of the most effective ways to create stunning moving publicity is to think in 3D, and exploit the shape of the media itself to create a visual illusion. The following examples will clarify what I'm saying.

Example: The giant reptile

Kids may be scared to ride it, who wouldn’t look at this bus twice? The designer simple photographed the bus, measured the size, and created a stunning 3D visual for Copenhagen Zoo. The rest was done by the pasting crew.

Example: What's inside the van?

There's no better idea for outdoor advertising than to brand your own (or rented) vehicles. The following ad uses the third dimension to create a visual illusion as if you're looking inside the van, where it showcases what the business is about.

How to go about outdoor advertising

The best way to advertise outdoors is to work through an outdoor media agency. They specialize in designing for outdoor media and have the required government permissions as well as knowledge about outdoor advertising regulations.

With the right media selection and some really out-of-the-box creativity, the effects of your outdoor advertising can spill over to other media, such as social media and blogs…just like this one!