It's All About the Wow Factor

Outdoor advertising is the oldest form of advertising, tracing its lineage back to the earliest civilizations. Egyptians chiseled stone to publicize laws, the lithograph printed illustrated posters to publicize local events, and by the 1900s America had standardized billboards. Still, despite its advanced age, the out of home industry remains just as popular and effective as ever.

Top of Its Game

Like most industries, outdoor was impacted by the recent “Great Recession.” Revenues dipped in 2009 by 15.6 percent. Fortunately, it jumped back into the black by 2010 and the positive trend has continued into this year, increasing revenue quarter after quarter, and posting annual revenues in excess of $6 billion.

Throughout hard economic times, advertisers and media planners continued to realize the benefits of outdoor. They understand the mass audience this medium reaches—drivers, public transit commuters, tourists, shoppers—the list goes on and on. Financial hardship does not prevent out of home advertising from being unavoidable day after day.

As economic uncertainty continues, advertisers will look to media that can offer high Return on Investment (ROI). A recent OAAA global study found that when a high proportion of a media plan is allocated to out of home, campaign effectiveness increases. Sales tripled when campaign spending on out of home advertising moved from a low amount to a medium amount. Sales more than doubled when a high amount was spent on out of home. The report found optimal ROI is reached in campaigns where overall ad spend is relatively low with a high proportion of out of home in the media mix.

Using out of home in combination with others also helps to improve the decay rate—the time it takes for a consumer to forget a campaign message. According to the study, when out of home advertising is included, particularly in relation to TV and online advertising, the retention rate increases by several days.

Ultimately, advertisers see their sales increase when out of home advertising is used because it keeps brands top of mind and reaches audiences near points of sale.

Commitment to Creative Excellence

Out of home advertising is a creative platform for ideas—succeeding with visual storytelling. Out of home expresses a concept with clarity and focus, and good out of home involves viewers and stimulates their imagination.

The confines of a bulletin or bus shelter panel do not limit creativity as out of home designers work with printers to transform structures into brand ambassadors and works of art. Embellishments and extensions draw audiences in, bringing attention to the advertiser’s messaging while illustrating the creative possibilities available with out of home.

Corporate Responsibility

Corporate responsibility has become a mandatory value proposition for many businesses and is an area in which the outdoor industry has excelled.

The industry’s public service efforts continue to thrive. Non-profit organizations and law enforcement agencies have expressed gratitude for helping to find missing children, searching for wanted criminals, or simply expressing a positive message. OAAA estimates the industry donates outdoor space in excess of $400 million annually.

In October, President Obama recognized “wanted billboard” pioneer Roger Kemp for his idea of using billboards to help find his daughter’s murderer. Once billboards were up with a sketch of the suspect, tips poured in, and one eventually led to an arrest. Kemp received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor presented by the United States.

The out of home industry has also taken a number of steps to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2009, major industry advancements were made when most poster-sized billboards in the nation were converted to a new single sheet format made from a light, flexible, and strong plastic substrate. Today, more than 90 percent of the poster inventory in the US has been converted to accommodate single sheet posters.

The industry also supports recycling programs that certify the complete chain of custody for recycled materials. Last year, the industry nearly quadrupled the amount of billboard substrate material it recycles to 3.7 million pounds. The industry continues to beat previous volumes of recycled substrate materials, having recycled approximately seven million pounds in total from 2011 through mid-2011.

Looking Ahead

Americans are out of their homes and on the go today more than ever. They travel longer distances, whether it’s in their personal cars or on public transit, exposing them to outdoor advertising. They cannot turn it off, they cannot skip it, and they cannot opt out.

A medium with such power must be responsible and respectful of its audience. The outdoor industry and its suppliers must continue to advance efforts in community support and public service. It must also demonstrate even more a commitment to environmental protection and preservation. And of course, a commitment to creativity and audience engagement is vital.

It’s all about the wow factor!