How Effective is Outdoor Advertising?

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If you’re anything like most brands in the UK, you probably reserve the majority of your marketing spend for digital channels and advertising.

This is definitely borne out by the numbers, with a CMO survey suggesting that the digital marketing spend in the UK will increase from 44% of total advertising budgets to an impressive 54% by the year 2024.

This also reflects a growing obsession with digital marketing channels, but this can arguably be counter-intuitive given the impact of integrated campaigns in the modern age and the strategic role played by out-of-home (OOH) media.

In this post, we’ll explore the growing popularity and efficacy of outdoor advertising, while asking just how effective it is from the perspective of marketers.

Busting the Myths Surrounding Outdoor Advertising

If you’re not completely sold on the concept of outdoor advertising, it may well be because you’ve bought into some of the longstanding myths that surround OOH in the UK (rather than observing this market’s growth and trends over the course of the last few years).

But what are these myths and how have they impacted on the perception of outdoor advertising over time? Here are some that have proved to be the most compelling:

1. Nobody Pays Attention to Billboards

We’ll start with one of the most ridiculous OOH media myths, which suggests that nobody pays attention to billboards and their core messaging.

Not only is this claim not backed up by data – but the figures actively highlight the impact of billboards, their ability to capture the attention of customers, and engage them on a meaningful level.

More specifically, a staggering 98% of Brits encounter at least one or more billboards (or similar OOH advert) every single week, showcasing the potency of such channels in the UK.

Beyond this, 71% of consumers have suggested that they regularly look at and digest the messaging featured on roadside billboards, while up to 68% of drivers in the UK confess to frequently making purchasing decisions when interacting with billboards while in the car.

The latter statistic is key, as it completely counters the idea that billboards and OOH media lack the ability to engage customers and influence the purchasing decisions that they make in real-time.

Similarly, alternative studies have shown that nearly 26% of customers have visited a branded website in response to an OOH advert, with this perfectly showcasing the efficacy of the medium and its growing level of influence.

2. You Can’t Measure Success

As you can probably tell by now, OOH media is a unique advertising channel, and one that truly stands apart in a climate that’s increasingly dominated by digital means.

Historically, however, one of the reasons why people avoid outdoor advertising is because of the mistaken belief that you can’t measure success, due to the typical reliance on impressions rather than the number of people who actually interact with a brand or product.

This perception is completely false in the modern age, however, with various metrics and datasets now available to brands who want to accurately measure the effectiveness of their outdoor advertising campaigns.

For example, survey data and contemporary mobility modelling are capable of providing increasingly accurate measurements by drawing detailed information from a number of diverse sources.

Mobility modelling is particularly useful in the current climate, as this utilises global travel surveys that are based on a representative population that helps to identify and monitor specific target audiences.

While these surveys used to rely on memory, they now leverage GPS and advanced Wi-Fi technology to capture real-time consumer mobility data. They may even incorporate accelerometers, barometers and compasses to identify the different modes of transport used by customers, while tracking the outlets that they visit over time.

Of course, this is also made possible by the fact that mobile penetration rates are now in excess of 90% for Brits aged between 18 and 44, creating a scenario where it’s easier than ever to monitor consumer movements and develop a genuine insight into the success (or otherwise) of specific ads or campaigns.

3. Outdoor Ads are Too Expensive for Small Businesses

This is another common misconception aimed at outdoor advertising, albeit one that’s at least based on the relatively inflated cost of digital billboards and DOOH media.

Sure, digital billboard placements can cost upwards of £1,200 per week in the UK, with only minimal discounts available for long-term bookings. However, the cost of traditional classic billboards is far lower, even when you factor in the additional price of production in addition to rent.

More specifically, renting a 48-sheet billboard can cost as little as £320 over the course of a two-week period, while an additional production fee of £175 (if required) would push the total price to just £495.

This is far more competitive, while it also enables businesses to seek out longer-term placements as a way of maximising their brand’s exposure.

On the subject of exposure, you should also note that classic billboards enable firms to publish a single advertising message for the duration of the booking.

Conversely, digital billboards often rotate up to six branded messages over the course of each 60-second period, creating a scenario where your exposure is restricted and you’ll be required to compete with alternative ads on a continual basis.

With these points in mind, outdoor ads and classic billboards are genuinely affordable for small businesses, while they also offer significant value in terms of impact and achieving a return on their marketing spend.

Why Outdoor Advertising is Particularly Effective for Small Businesses

Once you bust the numerous myths that are synonymous with outdoor advertising, you begin to see that this medium is deceptively effective and capable of providing tangible and measurable success.

We can also surmise that outdoor advertising is particularly effective for small businesses, with this backed up by the cost of classic billboards and the potential return that they’re able to deliver over time.

The reach and visibility of OOH media may be especially appealing to small businesses, particularly when you consider precisely how many potential customers interact with outdoor ads on a daily basis.

We’ve already touched on this, of course, but the potential reach of OOH within the local area is also evident across a number of diverse demographics and different modes of transportation.

For example, it’s estimated that 92% of the UK population see bus shelter and train station advertisements every single week, enabling local firms to leverage a relatively non-intrusive marketing channel that engages customers at a time when they’re most likely to interact with brands.

The same principle also applies to large-format roadside placements, particularly the 48 and 96-sheet ads that are often strategically positioned along busy commuter routes.

Make no mistake; these adverts enable small and medium-sized businesses to target potential customers during their daily commute to and from work, while also reaching them at a time when they’re increasingly likely to make purchasing decisions. This can capture a deceptively large number of consumers too, with an estimated 36% of the UK population continuing to commute by car every single day.

Clearly, outdoor advertising provides an accessible way through which small businesses can target local customers as they go about their daily business, without appearing overly intrusive or being overly overt in their approach.

Even on a fundamental level, people are more likely to see your ad more than once in a location that they frequent on a regular basis. In this respect, OOH media leverages fixed and strategic locations to excellent effect, and this is something that SMEs can cash in on.

Driving Sales Both In-Store and Online

The effectiveness of OOH can also be observed through a variety of metrics, particularly in terms of both on and offline sales.

We’ve already discussed the innate ability of channels such as billboards to engage customers and elicit a direct and specific response from them, which automatically means that the media is capable of optimising sales conversions across the board.

In terms of in-store sales, we know that ads can be strategically placed at roadsides, bus shelters and shopping complexities to drive higher levels of traffic, while the Cuebiq Footfall Attribution Benchmarks study puts the efficacy of OOH media in this regard into far greater context.

More specifically, this shows that outdoor advertising and billboards drive a considerable uplift in store visits, to the tune of between 80% and 120%. This is higher than mobile and desktop channels combined, identifying OOH as a truly seminal advertising medium for smaller firms and entrepreneurs with corporeal retail stores.

OK, we hear you ask, but is OOH as effective when driving traffic to websites or through mobile channels? Well, the short answer is yes, which at least partially explains the rise of integrated marketing campaigns over the course of recent years.

Various studies of consumer behaviour have highlighted an increasingly strong correlation between smartphone activity and OOH engagement, for example, with customers inclined to interact with brands through their mobile immediately after viewing an outdoor ad.

More specifically, the figures suggest that people who have seen an OOH advert are up to 17% more likely to interact with specific brands and campaigns that those who haven’t, and this is a considerable difference that underlines the core efficacy of outside advertising in the modern age.

This is particularly true when you consider the aforementioned rise in mobile penetration in the UK, in addition to the fact that mobile accounts and sales now account for more than 67.2% of all ecommerce transactions.

In this respect, it’s clear that OOH is a key driver of mcommerce growth and activity, and one that’s capable of assisting conversions and bringing even complex, omni-channel campaigns to life!

Supporting Short and Long-term Strategies – Why OOH Can Prove Effective Over Time

Throughout the evolution of outdoor advertising, this medium has largely justified its existence as a way of achieving long-term metrics such as building brand awareness and driving recognition and loyalty amongst consumers.

During this time, OOH has actually replaced TV as a more efficient and cost-effective advertising medium for brands who are looking to develop their presence, enabling companies to cap their marketing spends without compromising on the reach and success of their campaigns.

According to a detailed study from Nielsen, OOH now generates in excess of 26% of the gross search activations initiated by all offline media (including television), despite accounting for just 7% of the overall marketing spend.

This shows just how effective billboards and similar channels are when looking to drive and build brand awareness, particularly amongst smaller firms and SMEs that want to scale quickly but are required to operate with a restricted budget.

However, this doesn’t mean that OOH cannot be used to achieve short-term objectives too, with this arguably borne out by the way in which the medium drives increased brand interactions online and through mobile channels.

For example, small and regional firms can use various billboard formats to engage customers within the local community, with a view to promoting a limited-time sale (either in-store or online).

Such billboards are often defined by dramatic imagery and concise messaging that’s written in an active tense (in order to create a sense of urgency amongst consumers), while they should also feature unique promo codes that provide individuals with a clear incentive and call-to-action.

Given the capacity of OOH to drive in-store traffic and boost online (or mobile) activations, this medium provides the ideal opportunity to achieve a raft of short and long-term goals.

As we can see, outdoor advertising also works superbly with digital advertising channels to create effective integrated campaigns, which increases the potential for assisted conversions and contributes to a successful customer journey.

The Last Word

Ultimately, it’s easy to understand why some may have eschewed OOH media in the past, especially when you consider its various misconceptions and the myths that surrounded the industry.

Many of these myths have now been stripped away, however, while the numerous benefits and increased efficacy of OOH has become increasingly apparent to brands throughout the UK.

This is why OOH is now being embraced as part of effective integrated campaigns, which look to optimise the reach of brands and achieve the optimal level of conversions.

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