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The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Advertising

While going digital may be all the rage in marketing and advertising right now, more traditional types of advertising still have a lot to offer. There’s a reason these tried and tested methods have stood the test of time. They have a proven track record of success and are especially popular with businesses looking to make an impact in their local market. Have you ever thought about outdoor advertising for yourself? Not sure where to begin, what format to choose or where to place it? At Empire, we’ve compiled this informative guide to outdoor advertising to help you with just that.

Outdoor Advertising billboard

What is Outdoor Advertising?

Outdoor, or out of home advertising, is one of the most popular methods of offline advertising. As the name suggests, outdoor advertising refers to any type of advertising that reaches your target market when they are away from their homes. Businesses can publicise their products and/or services via billboards, transit ads, benches, posters and signage.

Outdoor Billboard in city centre

What are the Different Types of Outdoor Advertising?

Outdoor advertising comes in many different forms, all with the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people who on their day to day commuting, either by bus,car, metro or foot. Below we have listed the different types of Outdoor Advertising.

Billboard Advertising

Billboards are essentially large-format posters displayed in locations with a large amount of consumer traffic. Most notably, they’re seen on the side of busy highways, at popular tourist attractions and in city centers. Billboards usually have a wide appeal, with most people looking at them without even realising it. This shows that billboards are increasingly beneficial for increasing brand awareness, and ultimately, resulting in increased sales.

Types of billboards

  • Static Billboards
    These billboards are generally placed on the side of busy roads, targeting consumers who are in their vehicles. This form of advertising is subtle, serving as a welcome invitation to consumers.
  • Digital Billboards
    The digital billboards display hundreds of different advertisements within a specified timeframe. Due to the creative boost given to the medium through digital, you can make a highly effective statement with your advertising. As the popularity of digital billboards increases, brands bid for a spot in popular locations. As such, digital billboards are one of the most sought after forms of outdoor advertising.

Transit Advertising

People living and traveling within cities frequently use public transportation. During their daily commute on buses, trains or taxis, people are aware of the content display on those vehicles. It’s also worth noting that people on public transport usually make a few stops on their way home. If your business’s advert appears on a bus, chances are a few of those commuters will make a stop at your store. Adverts that appear on public transport are also a great way to attract tourists to your business as these consumers are always on the lookout for exciting stores, restaurants, and hot spots within the area.


Smaller than a billboard, posters are often seen on lamp posts and are noticeable by people going about their day on foot. These posters also appear near crosswalks, rest areas (like parks), on benches and occasionally in store windows. This makes this type of outdoor advertising hard to avoid.

Bench Ads

Businesses can have the advert of their choice printed on benches in public areas. These ads are seen by people on their lunch breaks and shoppers who are resting and planning their next move.

Mall Advertising

If you want people to visit your store there’s no better place to advertise than inside a mall or shopping center. Consumers are already outdoors and in the right head-space to shop, so why not take advantage of the situation? Shopping centers are filled with advertising opportunities for everything type of product from food to clothes to tech gadgets. Retail advertising can be seen in the form of mall displays, posters, storefront displays, colorful signage and more. 

Outdoor Advertising billboards in Japan

Why You Should Use Outdoor Advertising

It’s a known fact that people spend a lot of time away from home. Whether it’s the daily commute to work, taking the kids to school and soccer practice, or running errands – spending hours per week away from their homes is unavoidable.
During this time they aren’t being exposed to advertising via their smart devices, on television or in magazines and newspapers. But they are being exposed to outdoor influences, making advertising outdoors the best way to get your brand’s message across.

How Outdoor Advertising Works For Your Brand

With outdoor advertising, you can create and deliver a powerful message to a wide audience with ease and efficiency. It also offers consistency and stability when it comes to creating brand awareness and recognition.
While outdoor advertising is usually very subtle, it’s still extremely effective. People are exposed to your brand every day, be it consciously or subconsciously, so they will remember your business message well into the future.
The prevalence of outdoor advertising is a testament to its ability to attract consumers and compel them to make a purchasing decision over time. This makes it a popular advertising choice for any brand.

coca cola outdoor advertising billboard

Is Outdoor Advertising Still Effective?

Outdoor advertising has been around for decades. Each method of OOH advertising taps into its own unique blend of custom-cool that can attract even the most casual passerby, making it an effective way to market any brand.

How effective is Outdoor Advertising?

While transit ads, posters and bench ads are still extremely popular and effective for small businesses, big brands usually opt for static and digital billboards. Which begs the question, is anyone really paying attention?

The Arbitron National In-Car Study, cited by Forbes online states the following:

The study indicates that 71% of people often look at the messages on roadside billboards (traditional and digital combined) and more than 37% report looking at an outdoor advert when they pass one.

However, according to the study, the information people retain from a billboard varies as more than half of billboard viewers aged 18 or older have:

  • Learned about an event they were interested in attending (58%)
  • Learned about a restaurant they later visited (58%)
  • Talked about something funny they saw (56%) on a roadside billboard
  • Been reminded to tune into a TV program (33%) or a radio station (44%)
  • Noted a phone number (26%) or Web site address (28%) written on an outdoor billboard

Does OOH Advertising influence purchase decisions?

According to the study, people who take notice of billboards make shopping decisions while in the car.

  • 72% of billboard viewers frequently or sometimes shop on their way home from work
  • 68% frequently or sometimes make their shopping decisions while in the car
  • 38% decide to stop at the store while on their way home
  • 24% say they were motivated to visit a particular store that day because of an outdoor ad message
  • 32% visited the retailer they saw on a billboard later that week
  • 50% reported receiving directional information from a billboard
  • 24% said they have immediately visited a business because of an outdoor ad message

These findings indicate that outdoor advertising does work. People notice the ads and are influenced by them too.

bmw outdoor advertising billboard

How Do I Advertise Outdoors?

When developing any type of advertising strategy the key to success often lies in simplicity. First, you need to have a clear idea of what the goals and objectives of your campaign are going to be. Ensure that they’re measurable, even if that means crossing them off a physical list when you’ve achieved them.

Set SMART Outdoor Advertising Goals

Starting with a single idea that you can expand on as your campaign grows. It’s a good idea to turn your goals into S.M.A.R.T targets…

  • Specific
    Ensure that your goal is specific (do you want to increase the uptake of a special offer, make people aware of a new clothing store, etc).
  • Measurable
    Set clear targets so that you know when your goal has been achieved.
  • Achievable
    Your campaign objectives need to be achievable. Make sure your business has the budget and resources to implement the campaign you’re planning.
  • Relevancy
    Your outdoor ad and the goals of the outcome should be relevant.Visualize what your advert will look like in an outdoor environment. Make sure your location is relevant to your target audience. Are you trying to get people to visit your website? Is your URL on the creative and tracking placed? Is the goal of the billboard aligning to what you’re trying to achieve?
  • Time
    Set a timeframe in which to assess the effectiveness of your campaign. It can be the length of a particular promotion of a two-week trial of the entire campaign.

Be Creative

Once you have decided on your campaign goals, it’s time to get creative. Creativity is arguably the most important part of creating any type of advertising campaign. Brainstorm ideas that you think your audience will find valuable, engaging and fun. Visualize what your advert will look like in an outdoor environment. Also, keep in mind that outdoor advertising campaigns need to be concise, because in most cases your audience is often on the move and a little preoccupied. As such your message and artwork should be easily digestible with a clear message. Avoid using too many words and only add essential contact information.

Choose An OOH Advertising Medium

The advertising medium you choose will align with the creative vision of your campaign. The medium you select will have different implications for your design, artwork poster sizes, etc. For instance, your image and artwork needs for a road-side billboard will differ from what you require for store-front posters.

Decide On A Location

Once you have a campaign in hand, you need to decide on a location and placement. Choosing the right place to showcase your adverts is an art. You need to consider where your target audience spends most of their time. Will they be on the road, in a mall or on public transport? If you’re promoting a clothing store, purchasing ad space in the vicinity (like a shopping mall) will give your audience a push towards your store. At Empire, we are well placed to advise you which locations are best suited for your specific campaign.

Consider Your Timing

Timing is everything in advertising. So you need to decide on how long your campaign is going to run for. Is it a promotional stunt built around an event or special offer? Or is your campaign part of a long-term brand building strategy? These are very different campaigns, each with their own requirements in terms of budget, staff and other resources.

Get Help From An Agency

Business owners are the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to their brand. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they know what works best with regard to advertising. As such it’s a good idea to seek out the help and advice of an agency. An agency will know just what to do to get the most out of your OOH (or any other) campaign. Contact Empire today.

Building outdoor advertising posters

What Are The Costs Of Outdoor Advertising?

There are a variety of factors that have an impact on outdoor advertising costs. But before you consider the practical things like maintenance of billboards and signage, you need to decide how much value outdoor advertising will add to your business.

A practical example of value:

If you own a business like a coffee shop that relies on people visiting your store in person to make a purchase, a billboard might be just what you need. A static billboard will direct people to your store and create a lot of interest in your products. In this instance, a billboard is a valuable investment and displays an effective use of OOH advertising to generate a profit.

What Affects The Cost Of A Billboard?

How much you pay for billboard advertising is largely dependent on the following factors:

  • Circulation – the volume of traffic that passes the billboard. This statistic is derived from transportation authorities.
  • Demographics – the age, gender, and income level of people who pass by a billboard will affect the cost. You’ll have to pay more to advertise to folks with higher incomes.
  • Impressions – this refers to the number of people who actually see the billboard and is based on its size, visibility and the speed at which people move past it. This data is derived from the circulation and location of the billboard.

Additional Costs For All Types Of Outdoor Advertising

The amount of foot traffic around potential advertising locations will always influence the cost. Therefore, it’s important to have a clear strategy in mind when embarking on an OOH advertising campaign. You also need to consider the demographics and specific target audience your ads will appeal to.
Production costs for billboards, posters or flyers can add up if you are producing them frequently without a clear strategy or direction to ensure the return on your investment.
If you have a specific idea on what outdoor advertising you want, and where you’d like it to be placed, Empire can assist you with a quote.

Outdoor advertising fashion billboard

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Outdoor Advertising

As with any advertising medium, one can expect advantages and disadvantages. We have listed some of the important ones to consider when it comes to Outdoor advertising.

What are the advantages of Outdoor Advertising?

High Impact

Unlike other platforms, outdoor advertising doesn’t need to be sought out. OOH advertising becomes part of the environment. You can’t turn it off like a television, or close a magazine before a reader reaches an advert. The audience has no control over whether they see it or not. This gives your campaign more impact for an extended time.

Demands Attention

Outdoor adverts are hard to ignore. Visible up close and from a distance, the ads are often big, attractive, colorful showcases of a particular brand or business. The creative nature and expressive messages displayed on outdoor ads tend to get more attention from potential customers too.


Outdoor advertising is comparatively one of the most affordable forms of advertising available today. Advertising by way of a billboard, on the side of a bus, can create audience impressions at a very low cost. Even in high traffic areas, outdoor advertising is still cheaper than the cost of digital marketing. This is especially true for small businesses that are mostly focused on advertising to their local community.

Immediate impact

Outdoor ads will have an immediate impact on someone who is currently on the lookout for what your business is offering. A prospective customer who sees some form of outdoor advertisement (a billboard, transit bus, or poster) may decide to make a stop at your store based on the information and/or promotion on your advert.

Encourages Impulse Buying

The primary goal of outdoor advertising is to encourage people to buy what your business is offering because it’s something they need. As such, outdoor ads are strategically placed in a way that will trigger the correct emotional response from potential customers.

For example, hotels and fast-food restaurants advertise on billboards along the highway. This is because people are tired and hungry after a long journey and probably looking for a place to recharge. This form of advertising reinforces the positive aspects of brand messaging while creating value by promising that people’s needs will be met.

What are the disadvantages of Outdoor Advertising?

As effective as outdoor advertising can be, like any advertising medium, there can be a few limitations to consider:

Limited room for content

Outdoor ads are designed to be seen and make a lasting impression on people within a few seconds. This makes it difficult for people to remember the contact information on the ad. If contact information (like a phone number or physical address) isn’t readily available, people may forget about your ad and be enticed by a competitor.

Limited Measurability

Certain locations do not have a data-driven form of measurability. You are able to gain a sense of gross impressions through data provided by traffic authorities.

Limited Message Capabilities

Outdoor adverts have limited messaging capabilities for two reasons – shortage of space and minimal exposure time. Due to the speed at which most people pass by outdoor adverts, their exposure to the ad is short-lived. As a result, the messages are limited to a few words and/or an illustration. These mediums have limited space on which to display your advert. This leaves you with no option other than a very concise message that needs to appeal to as many people as possible.

Outdoor Advertising billboard

Your Partner in Global Outdoor Advertising

Outdoor advertising can give your brand or business the edge it needs to get ahead of the competition, increase brand recognition and expand its customer base. It’s a great option for both large corporations and smaller businesses; by helping them to target a more localized audience in their community.

While the basic concepts of goal setting and brainstorming can be done in-house, it is a mammoth task to take on if you don’t have the experience to back you up. So if you find yourself plagued with uncertainty, don’t be afraid to consult the experts. Our advertising team at Empire will guide you through the process of OOH advertising, from creation to implementation. Reach out today to make all your advertising goals a reality.