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What Is Outdoor Advertising and Why Is It Important?

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Outdoor, or out of home, advertising includes any type of marketing done outdoors to grab people’s attention. The most popular format is billboard advertising, but there are a range of other options, many of which now boast digital components.

Of course, the nuances of outdoor advertising expand the definition of this format to include a whole bunch of things you may never have even considered:

  • Experiential advertising, such as the famous “Carrie” in the coffee shop prank
  • Cars branded with advertiser logos and imagery
  • Ads in bus shelters or on park benches
  • Promotions in movie theaters before you watch your film

The list goes on and on. These days, you can find an exhaustive number of examples of outdoor ads, which brings us to part two of our opening question.


Why is Outdoor Advertising Important?

There are so many answers to that question, each of which we’ll explore in depth. But the key takeaway is this. We spend a great deal of our lives outside our homes. Advertisers increasingly fighting to stand out amidst the clog of ads on analog and digital devices need a less-cluttered environment to deliver their message. Enter outdoor advertising.

Build Relationships with Customers Using Outdoor Advertising


What Constitutes an Outdoor Ad?


The umbrella of outdoor advertising covers just about everything you find outside the home.

Some may quibble over whether mobile advertising is also outdoor — after all, most people use their phones outside their house — but the accepted definition of outdoor advertising puts more focus on the medium than the device used to deliver it.

So, stickers advertising “Despicable Me” on bananas would be considered outdoor advertising. But an ad that pops up on your mobile device while you surf ESPN.com in line at the grocery store would not.

Outdoor ads often rely on their surroundings to help make a point. Ads are tailored to the format to make a bigger impact. For instance, a billboard for a movie that you see on the side of the road will be different than an advertisement for the same film on the side of a bus.

Outdoor is arguably the most creative canvas for advertising because the most successful ads reflect the imagination. Outdoor advertising is about seeing things in a new way and helping your audience to see that, too. It means a banana is no longer just a piece of fruit but suddenly the perfect vehicle to promote banana-colored minions from a kids’ cartoon.


The Top Forms of Outdoor Advertising

You could spend an hour trying to list all the forms of outdoor advertising and still leave a few out, since just about anything can become a channel for outdoor ads. But, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, these are the top categories:

  • Billboards: Including traditional, bulletin billboards, digital billboards, mobile billboards and more.
  • Wallscapes: Largest form of outdoor advertising available, attached to large building walls.
  • Transit: Bus, train, subway, cab and other forms of vehicle-focused advertising.
  • Street furniture: Ads on bus shelters, kiosks, benches, parking garages, street poles, bathrooms and more.
  • Beach Advertising: Ads on trash cans, floating billboards, beach balls and airplane banner tows.
  • Rail Advertising: Ads on trains, train platforms, interiors of trains.
  • Shopping Mall Advertising: Mall advertising includes any kind of ad shown inside a mall.
  • Taxi Advertising: Taxi advertising is an ad placed on top of, inside of, or wrapped around a taxicab.
  • Cinema Advertising: Commercials before films begin and other ads around the movie theater.
  • Aerial Advertising: Airplane banners, skywriting, skytyping, flogos, drones and more.
  • Mural Advertising: Hand-painted ads that appears on a wall. Sometimes called hand-painted billboards.
  • Airport Advertising: Backlit Dioramas, Spectaculars, Mini Spectaculars, Banners, and Digital Video Screens.
  • Other: Anything that doesn’t fit into the other categories, such as ambient or guerilla campaigns



Digital and Outdoor Advertising

The rise of digital media has added a new dimension to outdoor advertising. Incorporating social media elements into a campaign gives it new life online and extends its reach well beyond the initial audience, such as with a recent Coachella-Lady Gaga promotion by DASH TWO. Digital outdoor advertising might also:

  • Ping people through Bluetooth devices
  • Offer QR codes for instant connections to clients’ websites
  • Allow passersby to play interactive games with your billboard

Digital is growing faster than any other part of out of home advertising. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates it’s rising at a compound annual rate of 9.4 percent, and by 2020 it will account for almost half, or 46 percent, of all outdoor ads.