There’s no doubt that the demand for out-of-home (OOH) media and billboards has increased exponentially in the UK of late, and it was confirmed in January that this market remains on course to eclipse newspapers as the dominant offline advertising channel.

Of course, this is one of the market industry’s worst-kept secrets, with a detailed report by data measurement firm Neilsen revealing that OOH media was beginning to supersede print, radio and television back in 2017.

In fact, the group found that OOH media accounted for 26% of all search activations online and through social channels at this time, despite being responsible for just 7% of the total combined ad spend.

The success of OOH campaigns and channels such as billboards depends on your execution, however, and it’s crucial that you consider the importance of creativity and design when creating your ads. Here are some tips to help you leverage this to your advantage:

Recognising the Value of Simplicity

We all know just how engaging OOH media and billboards can be, and not only because they blend seamlessly into the natural environment and are considered to be relatively non-intrusive by customers.

This is borne out by the fact that 56% of people trust the messages that they see on billboards, compared with just 42% of those exposed to online banner ads.

While billboards are also estimated to capture the attention of approximately 70% of the customers that pass them, however, most individuals only glance at them and don’t spend more than a few seconds absorbing the published message.

This is particularly true of large-format billboards at roadside and inner city locations, where specific messages have only a limited window of time to capture drivers and pedestrians respectively.

With this in mind, it’s imperative that you’re able to keep your billboard simple and concise, both in terms of the core messaging that you use and the colour scheme that defines the advert in question.

When it comes to the former, you’ll need to tailor your messaging to suit the size and location of the billboard, whilst ideally using concise text written in an active tense to grab the attention of potential customers.

In most instances, this will mean utilising a single primary message that can be expressed in as few words as possible, while ensuring that this is relevant to the purpose of the ad and capable of resonating in the minds of passers-by. 

In terms of your colour palate, you should use strong shades and tones that are complementary and optimise the visibility of your billboard at distance. Your use of colour should also not distract from the core written message of the advert, so it’s important to strike the often delicate balance between creativity and functionality.

However, you should leverage colours that are synonymous with your brand and it’s core visual identity wherever possible, as this helps with driving recognition and also coordinating integrated campaigns that include multiple channels (we’ll have a little more on this later in the piece).

ALWAYS Use a Call to Action

The concept of integrated campaigns is an important one, as while marketers are increasing their digital ad spend exponentially year-on-year, they’re also looking to drive a higher rate of assisted conversions through a number of offline channels.

Billboards are central to this endeavour, and there are a couple of key reasons for this. 

We’ve already touched on how OOH can drive increased interactions through social channels such as Twitter and Instagram, for example, while studies have shown that people who see an OOH campaign are 17% more likely to engage with a brand through their smartphone.

Not only this, billboards are also incredibly effective when looking to target a local customer audience and drive them in-store, making them key weapons when looking to drive offline sales.

In order to drive further brand interactions and assisted conversions successfully, however, you’ll need to incorporate a concise call to action. The good news is that creativity can also play a pivotal role here, as there are numerous ways in which you can develop calls to action and present these to customers.

One intriguing example is provided by Ikea, who developed bus stop ads that served as interactive maps which encouraged customers to take the most sustainable route to its Greenwich store (namely by walking or taking the bus).

This used an incredibly stark design and listed the number of steps to the local store as the primary message, immediately capturing the attention of passers-by and creating a compelling call to action to draw them in-store.

McDonalds’ superb ‘sun-dial’ ad also captured the eye, be eschewing words in favour of images of the brand’s key menu items displayed at relevant times of the day.

This certainly leveraged the brand’s iconic colours and visual identity superbly, while it provided a succinct and incredibly creative call to action that encouraged customers to schedule a visit to their local outlet!

Clearly, creativity can help you to develop diverse and incredibly effective calls to action, whether you want to cultivate a sense of curiosity amongst potential customers or direct them to a specific store or online channel.

The key is to have an understanding of the precise channels through which you want to drive brand interactions and assisted conversions, with a clear overview of the typical (or desired) customer journey in mind.

With these parameters, you can then look to be as creative as possible and take the time to develop a striking call to action.

Make Consistency a Key Watchword

When creating billboards as part of an integrated campaign, you’ll be publishing content across a diverse array of on and offline channels.

While this can help you to optimise the reach of your brand and its recognition, it also creates challenges in terms of maintaining your consistency of messaging and visual identity.

More specifically, it’s easy to unnecessary utilise subtly different fonts and colours across alternative applications, and this can create significant issues for relatively new brands that are looking to leverage OOH as a way of building awareness amongst target audiences.

Of course, you can’t always use precisely the same fonts or colours across all channels (depending on the space available), which is why you need to create a brand identity that includes primary, secondary and arguably tertiary colours for various applications.

The same principle should apply to your written messaging, as you’ll need to retain consistent themes in this respect while developing different methods of phrasing this on alternative channels (especially those with character restrictions such as Twitter).

By combining these rules and making them fundamental to your integrated marketing campaign, you can create genuine continuity in your work and develop eye-catching billboards that are also indicative of the wider brand identity.

Make the Layout Work to Your Advantage

On a final note, you should leverage a billboard’s layout to your advantage, depending on the nature of your ad content and the size of the space in question.

Of course, billboards come in a diverse array of sizes, from small bus stop posters to 48 or 96-sheet ads that can be erected at busy roadside locations.

Once you’ve selected a size to suit your core message and the strategic location in which you choose to advertise, you can then begin to experiment with the billboard’s layout to achieve specific goals.

On a fundamental level, people tend to take in information from left to right, and this creates a broad template in which you can ensure a billboard design that flows naturally.

If we extend this logic further, we can also identify studies which suggest that people spend up to 80% of their time viewing the left-hand side of a web page or advert. 

You can leverage this as part of your creative process by ensuring that your most important information is positioned on the left side of the ad, and this may prove crucial given the limited window that you have to capture potential customers.

On a similar note, you can look to create billboards that are designed to leverage white space to its advantage. This is also referred to as negative space, and it describes any portion of a page of ad that is left unmarked.

This can offer numerous benefits to marketers, as this makes it easier to highlight calls to action and key messaging and create simplistic campaigns that quickly engage viewers and drive higher levels of engagement.

By understanding these rules from the outset, you can utilise the layout of your billboard effectively and ensure that this medium is used to its full potential in any given scenario.

The Last Word

There’s no doubt that OOH media is becoming central to advertising in the UK, particularly as part of integrated campaigns that look to optimise assisted conversions and brand interactions.

However, execution is still key when creating your billboard or OOH ad, and there are various ways in which creativity can help you to optimise your messaging and achieve the optimal ROI for your campaign.

Hopefully, these tips will help you to leverage creativity to develop the best possible billboard, while understanding the key perameters in which you’ll need to operate as a brand.