hotel outdoor advertising

Outdoor advertising: A guide to the art of public engagement

Reading time: 3 minutes

From the iconic days of Mad Men and their broadsheet masterpieces, to jingle-filled TV ads, all the way up to influencers and viral TikToks, the evolution of advertising has taken quite the varied journey. 

But throughout all of the chopping and changing, one constant has never failed to attract and entice and has always stayed—quite literally—in the public eye. 

From posters to billboards, using outdoor advertising remain popular and effective to grab people’s attention. 

We’ve put together the ultimate guide on how you can harness the power of outdoor advertising to grow your brand, boost your product sales and supercharge your business.

Table of contents

Understanding outdoor advertising

As the name suggests, outdoor advertising or out-of-home advertising (OOH) as it’s otherwise known, refers to any type of advertising that reaches audiences when they are in the outside world. 

This type of advertising has been around for centuries, evolving from simple slap-up posters to the complex digital installations we see today. 

Its effectiveness comes from the fact that outdoor adverts have huge reach, are often encountered multiple times a day and are essentially unavoidable. For example, it’s estimated that 92% of the population of London are exposed to bus stop adverts.

You can mute the TV, turn off the radio, skip the internet ads—but outdoor ads are part of the physical world, making them so much harder to simply ignore. 
And not only is it effective, it’s also much cheaper, with OOH marketing costing 80% less than television advertising.

A large yellow free-standing poster saying ‘advertising’

Sourced via PageTraffic

A large blue billboard with a car on the back of a pickup truck

Sourced via AdQuick

You can also get digital billboards, which are dynamic, modern billboards that utilize LED tech to display moving digital images, animations and videos. You’ll regularly see these types of billboards in busy city centers such as Piccadilly Circus, Times Square or Beijing Road. 

A busy street with tall buildings and colorful digital billboards

Sourced via Expedia


The baby brother of billboards, posters serve a similar purpose. They’re often seen on walls, lamp posts, bus stops, shop windows and any other structures that appear near sidewalks, parks or places with heavy foot traffic. 

Posters can contain a bit more information than billboards, as people are more able to stop and read them. 

A lady walking past a brick wall with three posters in a row

Sourced via BuildHollywood

Transit advertising

Transit advertising is placing ads on the exterior and interior of public transportation stations and vehicles such as buses, trains and taxis amongst others. 

This is a popular choice to go for as commuters are a great audience to advertise to. You’re almost guaranteed to have a large, regular audience to target and there’s plenty of time for them to engage with and read your content. 

Three adverts on a London tube train

Sourced via the Metro

Mobile advertising

These are adverts that are placed on a mobile vehicle such as a car, truck, plane, bus or even on a person. They then travel through different areas, allowing them to reach a wide range of audiences. 

A large blimp with ‘’ advertised on the side

Sourced via the Van Wagner Aerial

Wallscapes and murals

A more artistic approach to outdoor advertising, wallscapes and murals are often found in urban centers and—if done right—are extremely eye-catching. 

This method of advertising is often seen plastered onto the side of buildings, onto large walls or even sometimes on the street. 

A large advert for traveling to Alabama on the side of a white building

Sourced via the BM Outdoor Media

Why is outdoor advertising so useful?

It’s no secret that people in general don’t enjoy being advertised to. Because of this, people tend to avoid advertising wherever they can, whether that’s using the ad break as a chance to grab a snack or skipping YouTube ads after the first 6 seconds.

But people tend to spend a lot of time away from their homes, meaning there’s ample opportunity to grab their attention via outdoor influences in a less avoidable way. 

By placing adverts on things like billboards, buildings and transport vehicles, you can create and deliver a powerful message to a wide variety of audiences without having to worry about ad blockers. 

In fact, reports show that 71% of people will regularly look at the messages on billboards (both digital and print) and 26% have acted on the ads. 

But it’s not just about the ‘what’, it’s also about the where’. You can utilize a strategic approach to where you place your adverts, making them an ideal tool for local marketing strategies. This gives you fantastic reach and allows you to make bold and memorable adverts that can target specific audiences. 

A digital bus stop advert with a pink background and a ripped effect featuring a QR code

Sourced via arfected

Crafting effective outdoor advertising

Creating effective outdoor advertising is a blend of art and strategy. Here are some key elements you should consider when creating your own OOH adverts: 

1. Simple but effective

When you overcomplicate an advert, you lose its potency. Your outdoor advert should be short and sweet, with a clear message paired with striking visuals that are eye-catching, but not overly complex.

People will only have a few seconds to react to and absorb your message, so simplicity is definitely the way to go. 

2. Context is key

For your advert to be as effective as possible, you need to understand the context. How big does it need to be? What’s the backdrop? Is the area well-lit? Will it be close to people or far away from them? All of these questions will dictate the context of your advert. 

When you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to decide on things such as what font you’ll choose, the contrast of your colors, what size your images and text will be—all things that will allow you to convey your message quickly and effectively. 

3. Know your audience 

To make the most of your advert, you have to understand who it is you’re advertising to. You need to know things like what they care about, what troubles them, what appeals to them. 

This allows you to tweak the design and message of your advert to fully resonate with your target audience. 

4. Location, location, location

Think of the placement of your ad as real estate. It’s all about the location. 

Make sure you choose a location that maximizes visibility to your target audience and is relevant to the message you’re putting across. For example, if you were selling high-quality steaks, you wouldn’t put your billboard outside a vegan restaurant. 

5. Be consistent with your brand

To boost your brand visibility and increase recognition, your outdoor ads should always align with your overall brand identity. So make sure you’re consistent with your brand colors, logos and overall style. 

This will help you in the long run by reinforcing your brand recognition and helping to build trust with your audience. 

6. Utilise tech 

With the evolution of technology, adverts can be so much more than words and images on a piece of paper. 

Try incorporating interactive elements into your outdoor adverts. This could be done by adding QR codes, integrating with social media or adding dynamic content that changes based on real-life factors such as the weather or the time of day. 

A McDonalds billboard with a digital clock on it

Sourced via 55 Knots

3 quality outdoor business sign ideas

1. Leica poster

Camera manufacturer Leica highlighted the quality of their camera’s zoom feature with this wonderfully clever poster. 

A McDonalds billboard with a digital clock on it

Sourced via 55 Knots

2. Ant-Man movie billboard

Marvel’s viral advertising of their 2015 film ‘Ant-Man’ made a splash by using ant-sized billboards. 

A small billboard advertising the Ant-Man movie next to a bench
Sourced via MightyMega

3. The Economist billboard

This billboard from the Economist goes to show that simplicity truly is a fantastic tool for catching people’s attention. 

A small billboard advertising the Ant-Man movie next to a bench

Sourced via Dash Two

Embrace the power of outdoor advertising

Even as advertising continues its colorful evolution, outdoor advertising remains a veritable superpower and a fantastic tool for any business looking to reach a wider audience. 

From posters to digital billboards, outdoor advertising gives marketers and businesses the opportunity to get creative and design something that can truly catch the eye of audiences across the globe. 

For your outdoor advertising design needs, give VistaPrint a try. 

What are the most common types of outdoor advertising?

Outdoor advertising has developed and evolved through the years, with new and innovative business sign ideas popping up all the time. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of outdoor advertising: 

Billboard advertising

When you think of outdoor advertising, the chances are you’ll instantly think of billboards. 

These are essentially large-scale posters often found along busy streets and highways. They’re designed for high visibility and instant clarity and often incorporate colorful, eye-catching designs. 

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