Monday, May 20, 2024


I’m certain you never asked yourself this question. So I’ll ask it for you.

Where should billboard advertising fit into your media mix?

Why ask? Because executed creatively, they can be an energy boost for your print and other advertising you do.  Think of them as a Red Bull for your ad campaign.

Yes, compared to print media spending in 2022 – about $49 billion, billboards are a weak sister in media expenditure – about $1.8 billion.

No comparison – unless you realize that they shouldn’t be compared. They serve different purposes.

Print and other major media are the platform; they set the stage for creating brand awareness and, more importantly, creating a brand relationship.

Billboards are designed to reinforce that awareness and relationship. If executed creatively, billboards can also attract new customers. If executed creatively, they punch their way through advertising clutter. They are designed to be obtrusive. Be seen. Be remembered. Be talked about.

So while there is a great disparity in industry spending between the two medias, there are other numbers that should have you pause and ponder.

But first let me clarify: In ad industry parlance, the category is known as OOH advertising – Out of Home advertising. It incorporates billboards, including digital billboards, transit advertising, street placement – advertising placed at street level such as bus stop ads, and guerilla advertising, as well as placed based advertising – billboards and street placement placed to reach a specific audience, such as specified local placement. OOH is ad media that cannot reach you in your home. So, from here on in I’ll refer to it as OOH, though billboard spending is the bulk of OOH by far.

And OOH spending has a leadership position – OOH spending is already up over 45% in 2022 compared to 2021. Nearly 90 percent (87) of the top 100 OOH advertisers increased their OOH spend from Q1 2021, and 47 of them more than doubled their spending. Included in that list are Apple, Capital One, McDonald’s, American Express, Amazon, AT&T, and Verizon.

Obviously, if the big advertisers with all the media options out there increase their OOH spending, there must be a good reason.

The answer, as I said, is because OOH is an energy boost to their other advertising, making it stronger and more effective.

Advertising is more effective when it comes at you at different times and through different formats. The typical media plan for a major advertiser will include broadcast, print, internet and OOH.

One reason is that the different formats require different creative executions. So, the execution has a freshness that grabs and holds attention. Also, spending in different media is a statement of financial strength that affirms the brand’s acceptance and stability.

OOH creativity is the number one reason to consider it your Red Bull. But OOH has other critical benefits. OOGH reaches the broadest number of consumers, i.e., passersby, whether in a car or on foot, and creates the greatest number of impressions on a per cost basis.

It can be designed for a specific city, or even a specific neighborhood. It can be designed to refer to the locals’ cultural, ethnic, insider’s perspective, knowledge and pride. It can tie in perfectly with localized print media, such as newspapers.

The Nielsen OOH Advertising Study reported specific actions taken after seeing an OOH ad:

21% visited a restaurant advertised

16% immediately visited the business advertised with a directional ad

26% talked about the ad or product with others

23% interacted with the ad via NFC sensor or QR code

35% used mobile search to look up more information about the advertiser

Lower CPM (Cost Per Thousand) compared to other media

OOH offers a wide variety of formats, sizes and locations. The flexibility is there for you to add to your media mix.

However, it isn’t a magic bullet. It has limitations.

Limitation number one – the 8-second rule. The passerby has to be able to get the message in whole within 8 seconds. Unlike print, it cannot deliver more than one idea, one feature or one benefit message. It cannot deliver your full message. A print reader can spend time with your message, re-read, ponder, absorb, integrate mentally – not so with OOH.

Also, OOH is a mass audience media. Unlike other media such as the internet or direct mail or niche magazines and newspapers, it cannot zone in on a specific niche audience. Even in a general magazine, an ad can be designed to speak to the specific niche audience within the magazine’s circulation. Not so OOH.

The key to the success of all advertising is strategy and execution. The key to OOH, first and foremost, is creative execution.

Creative executions that grab attention. Deliver your message. And stay in the consumer mind.

OOH creativity is limited only by the creative talent of those responsible for developing and implementing the creative strategy and execution.

As a demonstration of OOH creativity, I’ve included a number of billboards covering a broad spectrum of advertisers, as well as demonstrating national or local ads.

Have a Red Bull or two.


Chanina Katz has over two decades experience in major Madison Ave. ad agencies developing highly successful strategies and award-winning campaigns for such blue-chip clients as Colgate, RJ Reynolds, Hilton, Home Depot, General Mills, KFC and many others in a wide variety of package goods and services businesses. He provides marketing services for a range of businesses, from start-ups to major corporations. He lectures on marketing and creativity. He can be reached at



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