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Even in our rapidly advancing world, outdoor advertising is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to get thousands of impressions from a single ad. Billboards, banners, portable signs, and other displays allow you to make contact with your target market day after day as they repeatedly travel the same routes. Through strategic placement, design, and messaging, outdoor advertising can subtly impact consumers without even requiring their full engagement. The best outdoor campaigns reinforce simple brand images and messaging through repeated viewings.


Think of the way you drive to work every day. If you live in a metropolitan area you may see 10-20 outdoor ads such as billboards or portable signs on your way into the office every day. Whether or not you notice every single advertisement as you pass by, the ads are still making an impression in your brain. Drive by the same banner enough times and the brand becomes familiar and recognizable. You will naturally begin to associate the brand with certain messaging and imagery, and this very often will make you more likely to choose that product in the future.


Now think of a billboard, banner or portable sign that DID stick out to you. What made it different? Was it an outlandish design in your skyline? A short, clever message that gave you a chuckle in traffic? When trying to stand out in this larger-than life format, outdoor advertising is more likely to be noticed by consumers than any other medium. It can’t be fast-forwarded, skipped, and most likely you can’t leave the room when it appears. Not only that, some billboards have impression rates closer to that of television commercials. A billboard on the side of California’s 405-Freeway in traffic flooded Los Angeles has the opportunity to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, multiple times, every single day. An advertisement in New York City’s subway stations can impact locals and tourists from all over the world. This is how placement can greatly increase the effectiveness of your media buy.


Outdoor Advertising Best Practices

  1. Most portable signs, banners, and billboards have an average of 3 seconds to make an impression. This makes copy a challenge for all outdoor advertising. 5-8 words is best and if you choose to do more, it must be engaging, exciting, and effective in the blink of an eye.
  2. Beginners to the world of outdoor advertising tend to go for the strategy of bigger, bolder, and brighter when it comes to designing their ads. While there may be some validity to that idea, your ad need only be eye catching to be effective. Sometimes a plain white square is more noticeable than neon lights.
  3. The most important part of your outdoor ad is where it lives. A billboard or banner for a Vegas hotel will not do well in Atlantic City, the same way a piece for real-estate loans should not be placed on a college campus. Think of the audience you want to attract, where they go, and what appeals to them before making your media buy.


A strong visual can tell an entire story in just a glance, sometimes even removing the need for words, while a well laid out and interesting use of type can make sure your message is looked at, read, and digested in a short time. The goal is not to explain the ins and outs of what is being sold, but to reinforce and imprint on the audience the brand image. With careful planning and skilled execution, outdoor advertising remains one of the most cost effective strategies to affect a market.