Outdoor Advertising – old school is new school
(And how to make it work for your business)

Traditionally, outdoor advertising – and billboards are the most obvious example – have played second fiddle to higher profile advertising such as TV, radio and even print.  But as communication and advertising is becoming more fragmented, online and outdoor are becoming a more influential part of the buyer’s journey.

Outdoor advertising, also called out of home, is just that, it is a way of targeting people with messages when they are out of their home.  It could be while they are in transit – by foot, train or car – or when they are at a particular destination such as a shopping centre, sporting event or even within a particular retail store.

Digital media – LCD screens, LED displays, holographic displays or kiosks – are transforming traditional out of home advertising into a powerful and engaging communication medium.  The old school billboard or poster is being replaced by ‘digital’ because with digital displays can display video content, can be changed or updated instantly and look vibrant both day and night.  And touch screens can add interactivity and engagement.

But how can you get the best value from out of home digital media?

Firstly, your ad needs stopping power, you need to get people’s attention. Consider an intriguing headline, a powerful image, video or even an attractive price can work.  The scale of your screen or billboard can also add to the stopping power. LED’s in particular, are perfect for outdoor, can built to a large scale and have lots of flexibility in terms of shape and surface.  A curved surface can be really effective.

Like all advertising, your digital outdoor advertising should tell a story.  People love stories and are always drawn in. Stories can have different elements, but consider creating a character or characters;  can you frame your messaging as problem-solution? Can you show a moment of realisation, or a turning point? Can there be a hero or villain?

The Pixar story structure starts with a ‘once upon a time’ section which provides the background for the story and sets the scene, but the interest for the audience is created in the ‘then one day’ section.  This is where something unplanned happens that creates a whole new sequence of events, or problems that need to be solved.   Consider what your ‘then one day’ moment could be?  This will obviously vary depending on the product category, and can be positive or negative, but could be a wedding proposal, a car accident, having guests unexpectedly drop over, a financial windfall, a child breaking something, etc.

Ultimately, you want your target customers to see themselves in the story.

Newer technologies can enhance out of home digital even further.  Augmented reality (AR) can bring a display to life and increasingly holograms are being used to provide an AR overlay to a physical object, such as a car. For example a hologram can be used to show an ‘X-Ray’ view of a car – showing the engine,  braking system or suspension or can enhance the physical car by showing ‘virtual features’ such as roof racks, different wheel options or even show the car in different colours.

Touch screens can be used for interactivity, and work particularly well on kiosks.  QR codes or NFC can be used to continue the buyer’s journey online, after your potential customer has left the area showing your out of home advertising.

So my advice is to not only analyse your customers ‘buyer’s journey’ but also their physical movements and the places they go.  When you know this, you can include outdoor or out of home digital media into your communications mix and it will add a whole new level of influence to your marketing program.  As they say: everything old is new again.