There’s no doubt that out-of-home (OOH) ad spending is continuing to increase at an exponential rate post Covid-19, while it’s projected to grow by a further 19.2% through 2022.

With this in mind, we should expect to see both local and national business utilising billboards as part of integrated campaigns during the next 18 months and beyond, particularly as the economy continues to open up and social distancing restrictions are removed.

However, execution is key when utilising OOH media channels. In this post, we’ll explain how you can advertise successfully on a billboard, while considering the best methods and metrics for tracking performance.

#1 – Planning Your Campaign

Every successful billboard and OOH campaign starts with detailed planning, but getting the ball rolling on this process can be incredibly challenging. 

There are also a number of key elements that should feature as part of your preparation, including the following

The Why – What’s the Motivation for Advertising Your Product or Service?

Let’s start with the basics; while the main objective of every commercial marketing campaign is to ultimately generate income and profit for your business, there are many different ways to achieve this aim.

For example, you may have a new product or range that you’d like to market directly through the use of billboards, advertising this to your target audience and hoping to turn impressions and leads into bottom line conversions.

Conversely, you may simply want to build brand awareness amongst local or regional customer bases, while optimising your marketing spend and eventual return on your investment.

There’s a good reason for this too; as OOH has become increasingly effective at driving mobile engagement amongst customers, particularly through social channels such as Instagram and Twitter.

billboard with hashtag

In fact, OOH media like billboards generates more online activations through these platforms than any other offline marketing channel, despite accounting for just 7% of the total offline media spend.

In this respect, new and smaller ventures may also look to leverage billboards in order to advertise regional, limited-time promotions. More specifically, this type of channel can be used to target key audiences in specific locations, in addition to capturing the attention of potential customers along connecting (and ideally busy) commuter routes.

With each of these examples, the ultimate goal is to boost either short or long-term revenue, while also increasing profitability as a result. 

As we can see, however, the nature of each campaign and the way in which billboards are used will vary significantly, so it’s crucial that you develop a clearly-defined objective in mind as part of the planning process.

As we’ll touch on later, your objective will also impact everything from your choice of advertising location to the core messaging used to engage your audience, so this represents the ideal starting point for any billboard campaign.

The Where – In Which Locations do You Intend to Advertise?

When it comes to determining the location of your billboards, this is arguably the single most important element of your campaign.

It should therefore be a critical component of your planning, especially when you consider the sheer range of regional locations available to advertisers through agencies like 75 Media. 

OK, we hear you ask, but how do you go about identifying the best possible locations for billboards within your campaign? Well, your first step should always be to research specific target markets and demographics, in a bid to understand the locations in which they congregate and the times at which they’re most likely to engage with branded messaging.

For example, let’s say that you own a local fast-food service and want to target young professionals who tend to prioritise convenience as a result of their busy lifestyles.

In this instance, you may want to focus on erecting smaller billboards or posters and city-centre bus and train stations, while also placing larger-format ads alongside busy commuter routes. 

This way, you can effectively target potential customers using both public transport and cars, especially when they’re on their way home from work and keen to be most likely to be making decisions about what they intend to eat for their evening meal.

Digital billboards can also be used to achieve this objective, as you can optimise your spend and your overall conversion rate by only advertising during the evening rush hour.

Interestingly, retail brands that want to target fashion lovers would benefit from placing OOH ads in city centre locations, albeit those that are in close proximity to shopping malls and fashion outlets.

This works in two clear instances. Firstly, brick-and-mortar stores can leverage local ads to direct customers to their store and capture their imagination while they’re shopping, once again engaging them at a time when they’re most likely to make a purchase.

Secondly, online brands can leverage the traffic at busy shopping centres to engage a motivated demographic of customers, while providing them with an alternative to the nearby offline stores and a potentially favourable value proposition. 

Of course, these are relatively broad and generic examples, so your initial planning should attempt to gain a more detailed insight into the behaviour of your audience and their movements on a daily basis.

This will enable you to target different consumer segments with far greater efficacy, while potentially allowing you to refine the smaller details of specific campaigns.

The Who – Identifying Your Target Market

Of course, while you may have a broad idea of your target market (such as young professionals and fashion enthusiasts), it’s important that you drill down data into such demographics if you’re to create successful billboard campaigns.

As a general rule, for example, it’s estimated that $37 billion is wasted in ad spend every year, largely thanks to adverts that fail to engage the target audience.

But what do we mean by target audience? This refers to the specific group of consumers who are most likely to want your product or service, and in this instance, the demographic that should be exposed to your billboard campaign.

There are many ways to define your audience too, from generic and immutable characteristics such as age and gender to each customer’s location, interests and cumulative spending power.

Certainly, your ability to accurately define your target audience is greatly enhanced by the level of data that you have access to, particularly pertaining to your existing customers.

When you are able to access accurate customer datasets, you can effectively create ‘personas’ which drill down into the specific segments that make up your audience and their unique, identifying behaviours.

Engage customers

You can also utilise surveys and digital engagement to flesh out these consumer profiles, in order to create a more complete view of potential buyers and the way in which they identify viable products and services.

This can be particularly helpful if you’re marketing a single product through your billboard and this is likely to appeal to a broad demographic, so it’s important to keep this in mind as part of your campaign preparation.

We’d also recognise analysing your closest competitors as part of the planning process. This will enable you to see precisely who they’re selling to and how they target their consumers, while also identifying the role that OOH plays in their own marketing efforts and wider campaigns.

Just remember, it’s crucial that you’re able to identify your target audience as clearly as possible, as the messaging and methodology used to engage Millennials may not be as effective when looking to reach the members of Generation Z.

#2 – The Initial Design

With clear objectives, a core audience and a set of target locations in mind, the next step is to begin executing your campaign and establishing viable metrics by which they can be tracked. 

The first step should require you to lay out a visual plan for billboard design and copy, and we’d argue that you should consider the so-called ‘rule of thirds’ as part of this artistic process. 

Essentially a ‘rule of thumb’ for composing visual images and designs across a range of applications (primarily merchandising and graphic design), this stipulates that you should divide your billboard into three equally-sized horizontal sections and similar apportioned vertical sections

This creates a purposeful grid and visual roadmap for your billboard, which enables you to choose precisely where you place individual design elements.

In theory, this can also help to simplify your design, as you focus on promoting no more than three clear visual elements and making the most of the real estate at your disposal. With this in mind, here’s some further advice on how to leverage imagery and typography as part of your billboard.

Getting Your Billboard Typography Right

Let’s start with the typography used on your billboard, as there are several rules that you need to follow if you’re to achieve the best possible visual impression.

According to research carried out by Rise Vision, it’s the Sans-Serifs fonts that tend to work best for OOH and billboard content. This is because it’s easier to read both at a glance and at a distance, with studies suggesting that Helvetica, Arial, Verdana and Open Sans offer the best value to marketers.

So, although fonts like Baskerville are widely considered to be the most agreeable and trustworthy among readers, this may not be a practical choice when looking to bridge the considerable distance that may exist between content and customers.

Further investigation has found that 28-point Arial is the most widely used font for billboard headlines, used by approximately 28% of respondents. Helvetica (20%) and Verdana (8%) are also widely used fonts, while you should avoid using any more than two different typefaces and styles per advert.

Of course, there is some balance to be struck when determining the precise size of your font. After all, while this needs to be legible, you should note that larger fonts will consume more space on your ad and potentially prevent you from realising a core artistic vision.

Rather than compromising on visibility, however, we’d recommend utilising concise and punchy text that’s written in an active tense, in order to minimise your total word count and create a sense of urgency and excitement amongst readers.

You should also bear in mind that billboards or digital signage that features less than 250 characters is thought to boost engagement by as much as 60%, so keeping your messaging concise can translate into far more effective ads.

Colour and Imagery – Making Your Billboard Pop

The use of colour is also crucial to a successful billboard, particularly in terms of helping certain design elements and crucial contact information to stand out.

In general terms, the background colour will determine the best font hue for your billboard, as the two shades must work in unison and often provide a striking contrast to create the optimal visual effect.

But how does this work in practical terms? Well, in the case of dark backdrops, white provides the ideal font colour if you want your messaging to really pop.

Conversely, lighter backgrounds demand a warm and yet darker typography tone, creating a similar contrast and ensuring that your messaging is clear and easy to read at all times.

A similar rule applies to photography, where simple and clean backgrounds must be leveraged to ensure that customers can focus on the focal point of an image and the core visual element of your billboard.

Restaurant outdoor advertising

In terms of capturing the perfect image, lighting is perhaps the single most important technical element. After all, a direct ash tends to wash out skin tones and perpetuate heavy shadows, while the use of overhead fluorescent lights also have the potential to make skin tones appear blue or yellow in hue.

So, there’s clearly a balance to strike when creating the ideal lighting for your billboard imagery, with this best achieved through the use of natural light that’s set against a single colour, solid background wherever possible.

On a final note, take care to ensure that the image is adequately cropped before it’s included as part of the billboard design. 

This helps to create a sense of professionalism, while presenting an image that’s both in-focus and proportionate to the remainder of the billboard’s unique layout.

#3 – The Production

The process of laying out your billboard and creating its core visual elements is essentially part of the planning stage, although it is focused on the smaller details that have a significant impact in the minds of consumers.

Now we come to the production, however, which marks the start of your OOH campaign and hopefully the delivery of leads and traffic to your brand both on and offline.

In some instances, of course, you may have undertaken a great deal of work from the perspective of your ad’s key visual elements, but there’s considerable value to having an experienced agency such as 75 Media produce your billboard as part of the overall placement service that they provide.

This not only creates a one-stop service that includes the development and placement of your ads, but it’s also relatively affordable and guarantees the optimal quality of design.

For example, 75 Media will provide access to a 48-sheet billboard over the course of a two-week booking for just £320, while the associated production costs in this instance is £175. 

This creates a total price of £495, which is highly competitive and considerably cheaper than many of the agency’s rivals.

What’s more, this cost can be reduced further over the course of longer bookings, enabling you to create high quality billboards without necessarily having to spend outside of your means.

Of course, another element that impacts on the production cost is the sheer size of your billboard. Here’s a brief breakdown of the sizes available, and an insight into the differences that exist between them:

  • 6-Sheet Billboard: 1800mm x 1200mm
  • 16-Sheet Billboard: 3048mm x 2032mm
  • 32-Sheet Billboard: 3048mm x 4064mm
  • 48-Sheet Billboard: 3048mm x 6096mm
  • 96-Sheet Billboard: 3000mm x 12,000mm

The most popular ads are undoubtedly the large-format 48 and 96-sheet billboards, which obviously require a higher level of production but afford you more advertising real estate in which to work.

So, you’ll need to determine which size of ad works best for your chosen location and core design elements, while also factoring in your underlying budget before making a final decision!

#4 – Tracking Performance and the Impact of Your Campaigns

We spoke earlier in the piece about being able to create measurable campaigns, while identifying and creating key metrics that allow you to gauge the impact and cost-effectiveness of individual ads.

Let’s start by considering some of the most popular measurement tools for calculating impressions (the number of people who see your ad within a designated period of time). These include:

Travel Survey Data

Travel survey data provides the industry standard for calculating OOH impressions, with this information garnered using digital, ‘MobiTest’ devices to track user’s movements in granular detail.

Such details include the real-time location and direction of travel of participants, alongside their speed of movement, altitude and the temperature of the surrounding environment.

What’s more, these datasets can be overlaid with a comprehensive map of outdoor advert locations, enabling you to identify high traffic areas and real-time traffic flows at a glance.

3D Maps and Visibility Adjustment Indices

Increasingly, some companies are also using three-dimensional digital maps of outdoor space and locations.

These maps may also feature interior locations like train and tube stations, which are widely used to position smaller ads, posters and similar OOH materials.

As these maps are able to replicate the type of 3D interiors found in shopping centres throughout the UK, they’re capable of measuring the flow of traffic and views in target locations. Such entities have proved historically hard to measure accurately, so this is a development that brands have been keen to leverage.

Such maps may also be combined with ‘Visibility Adjustment Indices’ (VAIs), which factor in the corporeal characteristics of outdoor structures and deliver more accurate impression data.

OK, we hear you ask, but what steps can you take to build on these datasets to create truly measurable campaigns?

Well, one option is to create a single, measurable campaign goal, in line with your wider marketing objectives outlined at the beginning of the planning process.

For example, you may want to create a specific landing page that’s related to a particular promotion or product launch. You can subsequently create a billboard campaign that advertises and promotes this page exclusively, with a view to driving engagement online and across mobile devices and encouraging customers to sign up.

As a result, you’ll be able to identify precisely how many people have visited the new URL or taken an associated action after seeing your ad, providing an accurate metric and determining the cost-effectiveness of your campaign.

When combined with an estimated number of impressions generated by your ad, this creates an insight into your conversion rate and the overall efficacy of the campaign.

Regardless of which metrics you use, 75Media can provide insight into the best and most relevant ways of tracking your OOH and billboard campaigns, ensuring that you access the most detailed datasets that can inform your decisions both in the present and the future.

Local Government Data

Local government data is also useful from the perspective of outdoor advertisers, as this details traffic levels in target areas and can be cross-references and mapped against OOH post sites.

The source for this data is highly trusted too, in the form of the Department of Transport in the UK. This is home to maps and detailed traffic flow information nationwide, particularly through A-road and motorway routes.

This is ideal when using 96-sheet roadside billboards, which can be placed alongside the busiest routes and junctions.

The Last Word

So there you have it; our comprehensive guide on how to advertise through a billboard while creating an informed and ultimately trackable campaign.

Of course, the key to any successful billboard campaign lies in its execution, so it’s important to have clearly defined marketing objectives and ensure that these are carried through every stage of the planning and production processes.

This way, you can also create consistent and holistic campaigns that really resonate in the minds of customers.