The Evolution of OOH Advertising: From Billboards to Digital Screens and Beyond

The Evolution of OOH Advertising: From Billboards to Digital Screens and Beyond

The world of advertising moves significantly quickly and it is within highly competitive markets, which means creative professionals need to think outside the box.  

Literally – outside of the four walls of consumers’ residences to capture their attention with out-of-home (OOH) marketing.  

 At the beginning of 2024, the global ad spend on the OOH advertising market is projected to reach nearly $30 billion 

What is OOH advertising? 

An OOH campaign stands out as a vibrant, eye-catching format to reach consumers where they live, work, and play. From towering billboards to interactive bus stop displays, OOH ads break through the digital clutter – capturing attention, building awareness, and influencing purchase decisions. 

 The advertising revenue for OOH campaigns has increased 25.7% year to date. 

 These leading global giants were in the top 10 advertisers, helping drive that revenue: 

  • Apple 
  • McDonald’s
  • Samsung
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Paramount+
  • American Express
  • T-Mobile
  • Panera
  • Dunkin 

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Why are Out-of-Home Marketing Campaigns Valuable? 

Brands leveraging this powerful strategy effectively can reach new personas, improve brand awareness, drive sales, and foster deeper connections with their target audience.  

The average consumer spends 70% of their time awake outside of their home. It is also reported that 9 out of 10 adults notice an OOH advert and out of those viewers, 80% are inspired to take action and make a purchase. 

Studies have shown OOH delivers 4x more online activity per ad dollar spent. In a digital world full of ads, consumers are used to scrolling past, skipping, or even blocking online advertising. This is why OOH complements digital channels, as consumers cannot avoid in-person marketing campaigns as easily and in tandem drives online activity.  

Some of the best out-of-home advertising can be transformed into a social media frenzy as 1 in 7 viewers are likely to take a picture of an OOH advert and share it online. Here are a few out-of-home advertising examples that went viral: 

Netflix’s New Show, Resident Evil, was presented on a Times Square animated 3D billboard with a frog that breaks through a glass box. Several social media accounts that shared the lively billboard had nearly 950,000 views. 

Pepsi Max’s Unbelievable Bus Shelter received 3 million views in 5 days and more than 8 million views total from the virtual reality bus stop that surprised many of its occupants with realistic effects.   

The History of Out-of-Home Marketing Campaigns 

 Out-of-home campaigns are not a new concept though – OOH was around long before social media and digital advertising even existed.   

 So, let’s throw it back – to the early 1800s when the first series of billboards were created by paint or by gluing a poster to a wall, and the primary industry using this form of advertising was entertainment, specifically the “greatest show on earth” – the Ringling Brothers circus.  

 Fast forward to the 1900s, when many iconic billboards emerged dotting landscapes across the nation and capturing imaginations with campaigns from industry giants like Coca-Cola. 

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Transition to Digital 

 From brick to click, as the years went on there was a seismic shift – the rise of digital screens. 

 Traditional billboards were transformed into vibrant canvases capable of dynamic content, real-time updates, and targeted messaging. 

Key milestones in OOH's digital transformation include: 

1910s: Times Square lights up with its first electric billboard, ushering in an era of dynamic displays. 

1940s: Neon signs become a fixture, adding a vibrant glow to cityscapes. 

1970s: Mobile billboards and transit advertising expanded their reach beyond static structures. 

 In today’s digital age of AI, advertising is continuing to evolve with innovative ways for brands to create and deliver campaigns.  

Digitization is revolutionizing OOH advert strategies: 

Hyper-targeting: Digital OOH allows advertisers to pinpoint specific demographics and interests, delivering relevant messages based on location, weather, and even current events. 

Enhanced engagement: Interactive screens foster two-way communication, inviting consumers to scan QR codes, play games, or participate in polls. 

Data-driven optimization: Real-time tracking and analytics provide valuable insights into campaign performance, enabling continuous optimization and adjustments. 

 AI creates personalized and engaging advertising experiences to make lasting impressions with consumers, improving the effectiveness of the OOH campaign. Whether it is an AI campaign that uses a digital billboard to advertise a thirst-quenching beverage on a scorching day or AI video editing of world-recognized soccer player, David Beckham, and translating it flawlessly into 9 different languages – AI is enhancing the way OOH is capturing and maintaining the audience’s attention. 

What is OOH TV Advertising? 

OOH TV advertising takes digital screens to the next level, transforming public spaces into mini theaters. CPG brands can leverage captivating video content to tell their stories, showcase products, and attract viewers in immersive experiences. 

 For example, Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign transformed bus stops into miniature cinemas, featuring personalized greetings and stories displayed on digital screens. This interactive approach builds brand loyalty and emotional connections with consumers. 

Best Practices in OOH Advertising for CPG Brands 

 To create effective OOH campaigns for brands to stand out, there is a lot more to consider than just having a great creative and well-thought-out copy. Here are some key strategies:  

  • Location is key: Choose high-traffic areas frequented by your target audience, think grocery stores, bus stops, and commute routes. Billboards in areas with a lot of road traffic where people can be stuck for a while or bus stops that are heavily frequented are strategic placements for OOH campaigns.

  • Simplicity reigns: Keep messaging concise and impactful. Remember, you have fleeting moments to grab viewers’ attention and allow them to absorb information. 

  • Cohesive brand: Vibrant visuals and brand colors instantly grab attention to create memorability, building brand awareness and recognition.

  • Strong Call to Action: Make sure your call to action is clear and easy to read. Prompt viewers to interact, whether it's visiting a website, scanning a code, or entering a contest.

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Successful Out-of-Home Marketing Campaigns 

One brand that does a particularly good job of strategizing and executing OOH campaigns is Coca-Cola. As mentioned earlier, Coca-Cola was one of the first major adopters of billboards and created many out-of-home marketing campaigns.  

 The popular beverage brand’s OOH footprint goes far beyond billboards now with plenty of successful out-of-home advertising examples including: 

Surprise Pop-Ups: Coca-Cola surprised college students at a Singapore college with a vending machine that would give a free beverage in exchange for a hug.  

Interactive Digital Displays: Coca-Cola created an advertisement that was so good you could almost drink it. The digital advertisement encouraged by-passers to use the app to fill the display bottle and in return, get a drink discount code. 

The power of speech: Using voice recognition, Coca-Cola installed a progressive display where people had to shout “yes”, and a complimentary drink would be dispensed. 

  

Coca-Cola isn’t the only CPG company that does best out-of-home advertising campaigns – here are some of the top brands that nailed their OOH campaign: 

Doritos’ "Raining Doritos" campaign: Digital screens on bus stops simulated falling chips, triggering playful interactions. The simulation caused a lot of social media buzz which increased brand awareness and reached new audiences, while also improving engagement through the interactive element.  

Snickers’ "You're Not You When You're Hungry" campaign: Interactive digital billboards displayed hilarious personalized messages based on facial expressions, sparking laughter and brand recall. As a play on their iconic slogan, Snickers incorporated personalization to help grab the audience’s attention while the interactive portion kept them engaged.  

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The Future of CPG OOH Advertising 

OOH advertising is no longer just about grabbing attention; it's about creating connections, sparking interactions, and delivering customized experiences. The level of personalization technology has made possible through advancements in facial recognition and anonymous mobile data tracking, allows advertisers to target the right people with the right message at the right moment. 

The future of CPG OOH advertising has endless possibilities. From augmented reality (AR) overlays that transform walls into interactive games or a digital billboard using your current mood through facial recognition detection to display a personalized ice cream flavor recommendation. 

 OOH advertising trends using AI to create custom campaigns and experiential marketing will continue to shape future marketing strategies as the technology evolves and enhances.  

Even though technology is constantly advancing, the core elements of a strong CPG remain – a cohesive brand, a concise targeted message, engaging content, and strategic placement.  

How to Leverage OOH Advertising for Maximum Impact 

 96% of advertisers said they were satisfied with the return on their OOH campaign investment, but now you’re probably wondering, “How did they maximize the value of their OOH marketing?” 

 68% of advertisers report that they invested in OOH marketing to increase brand recognition while 32% said it was to introduce their brand to new audiences.  

 The process of creating an OOH campaign is much like the planning foe any other marketing medium, you still must strategize, budget, target, and track performance to measure ROI.  

 To start you need to set clear goals and define what you want to achieve with your campaign: 

  • Improve brand recognition 
  • Broaden your audience reach 
  • Drive action, conversions, and sales 

 Once you define your goal, the next step will be to plan the OOH advert, length of campaign, and placement.  

 If your goal is to improve brand recognition, you will want to either strategically place your ad in numerous places or find a high-traffic area to place one big ad.  

 If your goal is to expand your brand awareness to new audiences, then you should define your target persona and research where to place ads that will reach them.  

 If your goal is to increase sales, you should consider placing an ad near a location where they can make a purchase or by adding your link or QR code to make a purchase very visibly.  

 Your OOH campaign spend will range based on campaign duration, location, and screen format, so allocate resources strategically. Be sure to set key performance indicators to track success, continuously measure, and adapt accordingly.  

Increase Reach with Innovative OOH Strategies 

CPG marketing leaders are encouraged to innovate their OOH advertising strategies by incorporating best practices. These include strategic location selection, crafting a solid message, maintaining cohesive branding, and incorporating strong calls to action. Successful campaigns by brands like Coca-Cola, Doritos, and Snickers serve as inspiration – showcasing the diverse and creative possibilities within the OOH space.  

 To leverage OOH advertising for maximum impact, you must be strategic and put yourself in the shoes of your audience to think, what would catch my attention? What would keep me engaged? What would make me act? For OOH advertising the world is your oyster, you can essentially place an OOH advert anywhere to reach your audience, foster a community, and drive action. As technology evolves, the opportunities to stand out multiple with augmented reality, AI-powered personalization, and voice and facial detection. 

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