There’s no doubt that the out-of-home (OOH) marketplace took a significant hit throughout the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, despite generating an estimated £699 million in revenue overall.

To put this into context, OOH revenues in 2019 reached approximately £1.3 billion, with this value plunging by nearly 50% as consumers were forced to stay at home.

However, the market is forecast to pick up considerably as growth returns in 2021, with OOH ad spending expected to recover and grow by close to 37% during this time.

So, now is the ideal time to invest in OOH and develop some genuinely creative ideas for your next campaign. In this article, we’ll offer you some advice on how to create a truly great outdoor ad, while appraising some of the best campaigns to help provide some inspiration!

OK – What Makes a Great Creative Outdoor Ad?

Let’s start with the basics; as the most important thing is that you begin to understand what separates truly creative outdoor ads from those that are a little more staid and uninspired?

So, here are some ideas to keep in mind, as you look to generate ideas and build campaigns that help you to genuinely stand apart from your competitors.

Think Outside of the Box

While this may sound like something of a business cliche, thinking outside of the box (or at least having the ability to do this) is imperative if you’re to develop creative ads as part of a cohesive campaign.

The latter point is also crucial from the perspective of balance, as the need for creativity shouldn’t distract from your core sales message or the underlying reasons for investing in OOH advertising in the first place.

To this end, every idea generation process should be founded on a solid understanding of your fundamental sales message and purpose, which creates a sturdy framework in which you can think freely and really set the creative elements of your campaign apart.

The most important aspect of this is identifying creative and relevant ways of engaging your target audience, with a clear focus on thinking conceptually and identifying stronger brand messaging without compromising on the core objectives of each campaign.

Pond's skincare billboard

It’s also important to remember that you can use both text and imagery to enhance the creativity of your ads. 

For example, you may want to tweak your primary messaging to create more concise or memorable ads, which can have a greater impact in the minds of customers and allow you to articulate your purpose in fewer words.

Conversely, clean and stunning imagery can create a unique focal point for your advert, which taps into the proven fact that 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual

In today’s age, you can also use digital and three-dimensional ads to focus your creative efforts. A particularly effective and early example of this came in the form of Pond’s Facial Wash OOH campaign, which sought to engage customers through a striking, 3D design that was augmented by concise and punchy messaging.

Keep Your Messaging Simple

As we’ve already touched on, the desire to optimise the creativity of your campaigns should not compromise their simplicity, as the last thing you want to do is develop confusing ads that cloud your messaging or overwhelm the senses.

So, it’s imperative that you maintain simple and ideally concise messaging when creating even the most creative ads, enabling you to keep the main selling point of your brand or product range at the core of your campaign.

This is also where relevant and high-quality visuals come into play, as they allow you to actively engage consumers while simultaneously minimising your word count and the risk of confusing your core message.

Not only can reducing your word count make it easier to present a focused and single-minded message, but it also has the potential to optimise engagement and bottom line sales conversions.

More specifically, studies have shown that condensing your ad messaging to fewer than seven words and 250 characters can boost engagement by as much as 60%, particularly if the underlying message is easy to understand and augmented by relevant imagery.

Make no mistake; the deployment of concise and simplistic messaging can really optimise the impact of a strong and creative visual, while contributing to an ad that’s capable of delivering on your brand’s core objectives.

So, try to stick to one or two impactful phrases that are written in an active tense where possible, while resisting the urge to utilise complex word-play as a way of producing creative ads.

Keep it Colourful and Use Bold Imagery

When it comes to optimising the visual impact of your OOH ads, there are two key things to bear in mind.

Firstly, the use of bold colours can really contribute to an eye-catching creative, particularly one that has the potential to hold the attention of passers-by. 

This also needs to be conceived in line with the precise location of each ad and your brand’s primary colour palette, so that your ad can adapt to its surrounding environment while simultaneously driving brand awareness and recognition over time.

For example, if you buy OOH ad space in a slightly rural area with plenty of plants and trees, you can consider utilising bolc colours such as red, yellow and orange to capture the attention of target consumers.

Conversely, rich greens and deep blues can be used to create ads that contrast sharply with built-up environments characterised by materials such as brick and metal, so long as you make allowances for your brand’s unique colours and tones.

The imagery that you utilise should also be bold and striking, both in terms of the colour contrast that it creates and the quality of the graphics used.

Not only this, but the bold imagery that you use should also be relevant to your core messaging, as this can help to comprise an holistic and seamless ad that communicates what you’re saying visually rather than simply stating it.

Don’t forget about your typography either, as the size and style of the font that you deploy also has a huge bearing on the impact and visibility of your ad.

Ultimately, your ads should be easily readable at a minimum distance of 1,000 feet, so your chosen font should be no smaller than 18 inches in height. You can double this in the case of the larger, 96-sheet billboards typically used at roadsides, creating clear and bold lettering that really stands out.

Remember, people of working age are thought to spend 70% of their time out of the home, exposing them to a plethora of OOH ads on a daily basis.

So, the use of striking colours and imagery as part of a well-thought out and holistic campaign can really set your creative ads apart.

Make Humour a Key Watchword for Your Campaign

There are some genuinely incredible OOH media and billboard statistics out there for public consumption, including the fact that 83% of people confess to remembering outdoor ads that they saw up to 30 minutes after a shopping excursion.

This taps into one of the core advantages of OOH advertising, particularly as the use of creative messaging and emotive hooks such as humour enables you to engage and wider audience and develop even more memorable campaigns over time.

Humour is a particularly effective element of successful and creative OOH ads, primarily because this is inherently more engaging that typical sales messaging.

But why exactly is this the case? Well, the creative utilisation of human elements and emotions within your ads helps to establish an instant and enduring connection with your audience, especially if you’ve successfully profiled specific customer demographics and understand precisely what makes them tick.

You can use various types of humour too, from visually funny content and a delightful play on words to playful ads that engage the viewer’s innate sense of fun and mischief.

This will depend on the nature of your product and brand, of course, as well as the core audience that you’re targeting and key characteristics such as their age, professional status and relevant behaviours. 

Even on a fundamental level, there’s an inherent link between fun and creativity, while humour remains an entry point into long standing and meaningful relationships between both people and brands in the modern age.

Just don’t veer too far from your brand’s tone of voice and identity when creating humorous ad campaigns, otherwise you’ll run the risk of alienating customers or contradicting your company’s values.

Now for the Fun Part – OOH Ads to Help Inspire You

Even with these tips in mind, it can be hard to develop genuinely creative and eye-catching outdoor ads that are also commercially viable and capable of melding with their natural environments.

So, to help you further, here are some great examples of creative outdoor ads to provide a little inspiration for the future!

Oasis – The #nomoreoasisads Campaign

We love playful tongue-in-cheek ads, particularly those that confound established marketing norms. 

Step forward the Oasis brand’s superb #nomoreoasisads campaign, which utilised various billboards that essentially promised to curb its advertising efforts if the company reached their sales targets.

#nomoreoasis advertising campaign

One particular ad read ‘It’s Summer. You’re Thirsty. We’ve Got Sales Targets’, outlining a direct commercial proposition to customers that was both concise and playful in equal measure. Another read ‘Please don’t stand in front of this poster – it cost a lot of money’, utilising various fonts and bright colouring to capture the reader’s initial attention and reinforce the brand’s tongue-in-cheek messaging.

This, coupled with the intuitive deployment of the #nomoreoasisads hashtag throughout the campaign, helped to create huge traction on social media and build awareness through sites such as Twitter and Instagram.

Most importantly, this creative campaign got people talking about the brand both on and offline, laying the foundation to advertise further products going forward.

KitKat – Half a Billboard, Anyone?

We’ve heard of cutting costs, but erecting half a billboard that omits keywords is probably extending this principle a little too far.

Of course, this wasn’t the intention when KitKat built it’s half-finished billboard as part of a 2014 campaign, which built playfully on the iconic nature of the product and its ability to be snapped and shared by consumers.

This definitely represents a bold advertising technique, as it casually utilises brand recall and relies on the relative fame of the classic KitKat chocolate bar as well as its historic ad campaigns.

Half KitKat Billboard

The visual element of the design also cleverly captures the unique two or four-fingered KitKat design, which enables bits to be easily broken off when consuming the product.

Overall, this was an example of an holistic and genuinely engaging ad, which leveraged the visual identity of the brand and intuitive visual imagery to drive product recognition.

Once again, it also got tongues wagging both on and offline, successfully capitalising on the unique and mutually-beneficial relationship that exists between OOH channels and social media sites (especially Instagram and Twitter).

BBC Dracula – A Terrifyingly Good Billboard

As we touched on earlier, contemporary billboards can use various materials and techniques to boost creativity, so long as they don’t become too ‘gimmicky’ or distracting.

One particularly brilliant example of this was showcased by the BBC in 2020, when the state broadcaster began advertising its upcoming Dracula series.

More specifically, the BBC created a relatively simplistic design that featured numerous LED lights, which were shaped to help create the outline of Dracula’s terrifying profile and fanged mouth when illuminated.

During the day, the ad just resembled a random selection of stakes that offset descriptive messaging on the right-hand side of the display. Come nighttime, however, the light was deployed to reveal the horrific silhouette of Dracula’s face, creating a sudden and eye-catching impact that held viewers’ attention for longer.

This represents a superb utilisation of lighting and creative design, while it also betrays the advertiser’s confidence in their visuals and the core messaging that they’re looking to convey.

The layout of the ad is also worthy of praise, not least because the lighting and silhouette is featured on the left-hand side of the ad. This subsequently engages viewers and draws their attention to the program details on the right of the billboard, which taps into the human trait of reading from left to right.

The Last Word

Hopefully, these examples of creative ads introduce a little context to our tips and suggestions, helping you to draw some inspiration and begin building your OOH campaigns.

It’s also important to anchor your ads and campaigns with a sense of balance, where creativity is used to enhance your messaging rather than overwhelming it and simply bemusing individual customers.

So, you’ll need to do the groundwork when conceiving your creative ad campaigns, as this will optimise your prospects of achieving the core commercial goals that underpin them!