Out-of-home (OOH) advertising was hit hard by the pandemic; the channel fell by $1.3 billion in total ad revenues in 2020. Reduced travel and traffic caused significantly discounted OOH ad rates, though not for long. Today, OOH costs are back to pre-pandemic levels as it’s proven too important a marketing channel to neglect.

According to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), OOH may experience revenue growth of 10 to 12 percent by the end of 2021 and OOH now comprises roughly 20 to 30 percent of client media planning. 

As consumers seek a return to normal, several key OOH trends will fuel its growth in 2021. A survey by OAAA and The Harris Poll found that 68 percent of consumers suffer from digital device burnout, 65 percent of consumers want to leave home as often as possible and 45 percent of consumers notice OOH ads more than before the pandemic.

To maximize your OOH investment, OAAA has compiled a creative best practices guide covering campaign shaping, which formats to use, OOH design basics and other helpful strategies for creating head-turning ads.

Shaping The Campaign

Creative determines 75 percent of an ad’s effectiveness. When producing your campaign, remember that OOH is a medium that offers enormous flexibility and has a long history from which you can extract learnings. The OAAA suggests allowing your idea to guide the placement of media and adapt the scale of OOH applications—instead of first considering the shape and size of specific formats.

Sourcing ideas for creative can come from myriad places, one of which is conversation. Sharing a creative concept or brief with others might improve it. Media partners, in particular, take into consideration campaign objectives before recommending contextual applications in specific markets or regions or special opportunities with communities.

The OAAA cautions against focusing solely on OOH. Rather, execute a single campaign across a range of media. OOH, broadcast, digital and print campaign elements should share a single focus and, if designed correctly, can help you maximize your overall campaign cost per thousand (CPM). 

That said, OOH should be the core of the ad campaign. Amplify the momentum of the OOH campaign through such ideas as augmented reality (AR) experiences that tie into traditional parts of an OOH campaign through scalable and layered codes or social media activations linked to the messaging.

Last, explore the feasibility of real-world applications of big ideas before letting them die, and rely on media partners to find you solutions to achieve favorable results.

Using Different Canvases

Certain formats suit certain messages better than others. For example, large print formats like standardized roadside displays are intended for viewing from a far distance and therefore ideal for bold branding. They can be enhanced with elements like 2D extensions, 3D props, lighting effects and successive messaging along roadways.

Given street furniture and transit formats are positioned close to pedestrians and are viewed at eye level, typical enhancements include custom props and wrapped buses.

Place-based formats include a wide array of innovative display formats positioned in retail locations and commercial venues. Common enhancements include custom installations in malls, street teams and sponsored events.

The benefits of digital applications for OOH can’t be overlooked, notes the OAAA. All OOH segments include digital applications and formats with benefits such as nimble and flexible messaging; video content; no print production costs and customizable applications like location-specific messages, touchscreen and situational triggers (e.g., weather conditions, traffic flow).

OOH Designing Basics

People want to be entertained. According to research conducted by the Journal of Advertising Research, ads with two messages as opposed to five, are 21 percent more likely to be noticed. To get your OOH noticed, the OAAA recommends utilizing contrasting colors, typeface legible from a distance, figuratively bold imagery and copy lines, and photos with a strong focal point. 

For most OOH applications, it’s best to keep copy short and sweet. Seven words or less is a proven benchmark and messages that relate to physical surroundings are often more memorable. It would also benefit your OOH campaign to incorporate the appropriate tone necessary to elicit a specific response or trigger a reaction. 

As mentioned prior, you may want to develop a series of different OOH messages as part of an overall campaign. This would enable you to incorporate more elements without encumbering the clarity of individual messages. 

It’s also important to design for an array of canvas sizes and locations. Geofencing key zip codes or trading areas against core audience demographics can help messages target desired consumers.

Research shows that people react to OOH messages and will immediately start an online search when triggered by an OOH ad. Forty-six percent of people search for information after viewing an interesting billboard. 

With the understanding that 70 percent of decision-making is emotional, every OOH is now a call to action. Triggers and codes like memorable URLs, hashtags and phone numbers help get the consumer from witnessing to purchasing more efficiently.

OOH often campaigns spark social conversations, especially online. In fact, 48 percent of people are more likely to click a banner ad after viewing an OOH ad first while 25 percent of Americans have posted a photo of themselves with an OOH ad on their social media.

Context is a vital element of OOH’s success. To ensure your message lands with your audience, understand unique characteristics of locals and don’t deploy an OOH campaign for both coasts. Ensure your campaign mirrors the community in which it’s distributed so viewers resonate with it more.

OOH messaging builds substantial brand awareness over time as refreshing ad creative improves overall ad retention. To this aim, creative elements should be updated every two months, according to OAAA.

Final Thoughts

Be realistic about your timeline when creating OOH. The OAAA advises allowing at least seven working days for basic print production, six weeks of lead time for fabrication of props and several weeks for custom installations.

Lastly, be as flexible as OOH is. Maintain freshness and relevance in campaign messaging and don’t shy away from altering the direction of a campaign if necessary or recommended by experts.