Out-of-home advertising, or OOH, can seem intimidating. And expensive. And confusing. Because how in the world do you figure out how to reserve a park bench or bus stop to advertise your business? And how much does it cost? What do you even design to place there? And, more importantly, does OOH even work?

Whew, let’s take a breath.

OOH may seem old school, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date—or out of reach. This form of advertising is tried and true, and, if you get it right, it can provide a great boost to your business.

out of home advertising example outfront media

Image courtesy of outfrontmedia.com.

In this post we’re breaking down everything small businesses need to know about OOH:

  • What out-of-home advertising covers
  • Why you need to try OOH campaigns
  • How to implement those

Plus, we’ll share some of our favorite campaigns so that you can get inspired.

Let’s get started.

What is out-of-home advertising?

It’s just what it sounds like: advertisements that reach an audience when they are outside of their homes.

The most common forms of OOH ads include:

  • Billboards (digital or traditional).
  • Street “furniture,” like park benches, bus stops, and kiosks.
  • Public transit placements, like bus and taxi wraps or subway and train ads.
  • Point-of-sale, or POS, displays like those you see in the back of taxi cabs.

And there are far more less common examples, like sponsored cups at sporting events and ads on gas pumps or trash cans. The term is purposefully broad.

out of home advertising goodyear

Out-of-home advertising, technically.

Why should SMBs use out-of-home advertising?

First, OOH ads aren’t skippable. You can’t flip the channel to avoid a commercial or put an ad blocker up in real life. They’re big, bold, and in your face, which means that they get noticed. Moreover, OOH gets rid of any skepticism that your product or service may not be available in a certain geographic area. If they’re seeing the ad there, you can serve them.

But let’s talk numbers. Neilsen and the OAAA found that 46% of surveyed adults searched online for a brand or product they first saw in an OOH ad. Ocean NeuroScience found that consumers are 48% more likely to click on a mobile ad after seeing the same ad OOH first. OOH is the only traditional media category growing, with more brands dedicating portions of their marketing budgets to it. And, most importantly, consumers trust it.

out of home advertising trusted ad channels

Finally, OOH advertising is a great way to show your brand’s creative side. Because OOH is generally less actionable than, say, a paid search ad, you can showcase parts of your brand that are not conversion-driven.

How to implement out-of-home advertising campaigns

Like any marketing channel, start with choosing a goal for your OOH ad. It can be as broad or specific as you’d like, from branding to announcing an event, new product, or expansion of services. Once you’ve decided what message you want to advertise, it’s time to choose the right OOH location for your ads.

To be clear, OOH advertising doesn’t come cheap. A bit like display advertising, the cost is calculated based on impressions. The system is called gross ratings points (GRP), which is the number of impressions delivered by a media schedule for that particular location—also known as a “showing.” Placements are ranked by rating points, and 1 rating point = 1% of the market population; a lot of factors go into that calculation, including traffic, visibility, size, and more.

If you’re interested in running a month-long OOH ad with 50 rating points (reaching 50% of the population), you’re going to spend a pretty penny. Which is why choosing the right placement and messaging is key. You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have a successful OOH campaign.

When it comes to actually buying placements and designing your ads, there are plenty of agencies out there to help; it may be a good idea to learn from the experts at least the first time around. Keep in mind that not all OOH is print, as digital OOH (DOOH) is booming! Think of DOOH as the same as OOH, just … the digital version of a billboard, bus stop ad, or taxi cab display. And those placements are able to be bought programmatically and involve less physical labor (you’d be surprised how long it takes city subway operators to switch out old ads with new ones).

How to create successful out-of-home advertising campaigns

Once you’re ready with a strategy and you know how you’ll be buying OOH ads, you need to make sure you’re making the most of this spend. Here are four strategies for creating crazy-successful out-of-home advertising campaigns.

1. Make it shareable

First things first, come up with an idea to reach your goal. The best OOH ads are those that people want to snap a picture of and text to their friends or anything that makes someone do a double-take. The more time eyeballs are glued to your ad, the more likely the audience is to remember your brand and seek it out in the future.

This 2017 campaign from Spotify highlighted some of the best playlists and users on their platform. It was definitely a crowd-pleaser—I can attest to snapping pictures of these in subway stations!

out of home advertising spotify

out of home advertising spotify2

This Mike’s Hard Lemonade mural is just begging Instagrammers to pose in front of it. Mostly because who doesn’t love the B.I.G. in Brooklyn?!

out of home advertising mikes hard

Which brings us to the next strategy for creating successful out-of-home advertising campaigns.

2. Choose the location wisely

This is a big one. First, you want to choose a location based on budget, geography, and audience demo. Second, ad placement will determine the physical size of the ad, and therefore the design and copy—think of a bus stop ad versus a billboard. And finally, consider proximity when you’re choosing a placement.

Think about it like this: The easiest way to find a good happy hour deal is to read the sidewalk signs when walking down the street. That type of advertising has a pretty high conversion rate (two tacos and a Tecate for $7?!) and could be perfect for your business if you’re located in a busy area.

McDonald’s leveraged proximity pretty well with these highway billboards. The company knows that those golden arches are universally recognizable:

out of home advertising mcdonalds

Disney wisely used the allocated space for this Mary Poppins campaign, making it eye-catching and engaging—and very accurate for Mary Poppins’ brand!

out of home advertising mary poppins returns

3. Investigate the competition

Before committing to a location or message, look around for OOH ads from your competitors. What’re their goals and designs? What do you like about it and what are they missing? Leverage this competitive research in your own creative process and when choosing placements. It’s up to you if you want to place an ad directly next to your competition, advertising lower prices or better quality. Just keep in mind that it could quickly get petty—don’t pick a public fight that you can’t win.

Once upon a time, Audi and BMW engaged in a billboard war. It all started with an Audi ad and spiraled into a social media sensation with fans of each brand photoshopping clever responses onto the billboard. Below is a taste, and you can read more about it here:

out of home advertising BMW

4. Don’t overdo it

For OOH ads, less is more. Keep the copy short and direct; you don’t want more than about ~14 words on your ad. That may not seem like much, but you can do a lot more than you think with it! The most important thing is to let your design do the talking.

This Knox campaign is a great example of concise copywriting that matches perfectly with the design (although I do feel a bit nauseated looking at pictures of creepy-crawlies up close).

out of home advertising knox

And this 2016 #WhatsHappening campaign from Twitter emphasizes the world news flying around the platform in a simple photo with a hashtag.

out of home advertising smokestack

Start brainstorming your new OOH advertising campaigns

We’ve just gone through everything small businesses need to know about out-of-home advertising campaigns, so it’s your move, now. Get your team together, start brainstorming, and figure out how you’ll reach your customers OOH!