The marketing science behind Outdoor advertising

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Outdoor ads have often provided some of the most creative pieces in advertising history. The ability to tell a story in a minimalist manner has spell bound audiences since ages. But is it just that? Is it just creative genius that’s needed to develop a great outdoor creative? Or is there some marketing science to it? When should one use an outdoor ad?

To leverage any advertising medium one must understand how the medium works and what purpose does it serve. Historically the OOH (Out of Home) medium was developed to communicate with the consumers across relevant touch points. Here is an example: Nycil, a brand owned by Zydus Wellness Ltd wanted to bring alive the problem of prickly heat and what better way to do that, than at the bus-stop, in the middle of summer. Have a look at the creative. The pack hanging, by the way, is an air-cooler, reminding commuters of the core benefits of Nycil prickly heat powder.



That brings me to the first key usage of an OOH advert:

1)OOH ads are used as reminder medium to the main awareness communication. Typically the outdoor hoarding is supposed to remind commuters of the key proposition that is built through other awareness generating mediums such as Print, TV or Digital ads.

Outdoor ads typically have a very low dwell time. The regular side-of-the-road hoardings have a dwell time of about 4 secs. Think for yourself, how much time you have to spend on a hoarding while driving by one. Hence, as a rule of thumb, an OOH creative shouldn’t have a copy of more than 4 words. It’s therefore difficult to build complete awareness about a product and the brand through an OOH creative. (There are exceptions though. You’ll find it at the end of this article). So with that in mind, let see how to go about developing an OOH creative.

Let’s take any brand. For the sake of convenience let’s take Colgate max fresh. Now think of the Colgate Max fresh ad. What do you remember? A celebrity blowing red crystals at you? And that’s exactly what the OOH creative is supposed to be. Don’t trust me? Scroll down. Since the job of the OOH creative is to remind consumers of the main advertisement, it should ideally be the most memorable frame from the mainline communication.



2) A second use of the OOH medium is to build awareness in categories with catchment based business, example: Retail. Let’s take Big Bazaar. How far would you travel to buy from Big Bazaar? 1Km, 2KM? Typically retailers have a catchment area of 2 KMs. As a result, often offers run in retail are communicated through hoarding in the catchment area. The same applies to categories such a Real estate, restaurants, hospitality, hospitals, education, etc. Here are a couple of examples


3) Here are the exceptions. When can OOH creatives be used to build awareness in non-catchment based businesses?

a. Travel stops: Commuters typically spend time waiting at bus-stop, railway-stations and airports. Also most of the people driving to or from the airport aren’t actually driving. Hence these locations are where the OOH creatives have a higher dwell time than typical hoardings. Also it helps target specific consumer segments. For example you must have seen the high end accessories or consumer durable (iPhone) ads at airports. If not, here are a few examples.



b) Sequential outdoor ads can be used to build deep awareness about a brand or a product by communicating a complete message and not just a reminder.These are a series of locations very close to each other often found on the highway. The examples below would probably make it clear. Remember, one has to put different parts of a complete message on each of the properties and not put the complete message on each of the units. This way the consumer spends may be 4 secs on each of the units but cumulatively has an opportunity to understand a 12 to 20 sec creative.


Hope you enjoyed reading that. The next thing you need to know is how to evaluate a particular site for your outdoor ad. Subscribe to this blog to get a notification when that post is up and follow me on LinkedIN for bite sized marketing updates.

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