Ooh, this is why your OOH campaign needs better creative

Great out-of-home advertising isn’t all location, location, location – it has a lot to do with killer creative too. Mark Johnstone, Senior Business Director at Vast Billboards, discusses why your OOH campaign needs more than just good placement to stand out.

I want you to think back on some of the greatest examples of advertising – chances are many will be from out of home campaigns.

My favourites are Timex’s famous jab at Apple, “Know the time without seeing you have 1,249 unanswered emails,” or McDonald’s “On Your Right” campaign – both excellent examples of OOH creative that are clear, strong and easy to remember. Colenso BBDO (New Zealand) was also recently recognised on the international stage at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, winning the Grand Prix in Outdoor for its recent OOH campaign with Pedigree. If that’s not proof of what this country has to offer in terms of OOH creativity, I’m not sure what is.

Campaigns like this make it clear great OOH creative is much more than just a catchy slogan and a well-placed logo. You may think the process is straightforward – you can use a still from your TVC, or a photo from the campaign photoshoot – but is that the best use of the potential impact an OOH placement offers?

Nailing the creative fundamentals for OOH advertising is essential. If you treat it as just some ‘matching luggage’ channel, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

When you allocate budget to a billboard, the investment must deliver substantial impact. Thought provoking, inspiring and clever creative should be top of mind to maximise your ROI and campaign objectives.

The last broadcast medium

There’s a reason OOH is one of the few growth mediums for advertising at the moment. As other channels move more towards personalisation, OOH is a place where you can reach the masses at scale and really build a brand.

Research shows it’s effective – a recent study by Kantar Millward Brown showed 73% of New Zealanders find billboard advertising to be most useful for driving them to websites, and 57% see billboards either every day or several times a week.

But, too often, the fundamentals of great OOH creative are being missed.

One common mistake is an over-emphasis on perfecting audience targeting, leading to rookie mistakes like the billboard I saw on the side of a highway with a huge QR code. It demonstrated a remarkable lack of foresight – drivers can’t use their phones and at 100km/h it’s tough for passengers to take out their device and snap it as they hurtle by) and veered into the realm of dangerous.

Another benefit of OOH is that it is a non-invasive advertising format. It’s not a pop-up while you’re scrolling through an article, or the four ads you sit through while trying to watch the latest episode of your favourite show. Billboards are uncluttered and often standalone, making them more eye-catching.

Something for everyone

One example is the 2022 billboard campaign advertising season three of Prime Video’s The Boys. It featured actor Karl Urban shooting lasers from his eyes and seemingly wrecking a car in the process. This campaign, via Billie Media (since acquired by Billups because of their fantastic creative executions), expertly played with its location and broke out of its traditional two-dimensional borders.

It’s also an incredibly versatile medium – if you don’t have the budget to buy reach, clever creative will get people talking, taking photos and sharing those images across social, making campaigns go viral even if it’s not in a high-impact location.

A place to build brand

At its core, OOH advertising is about making a lasting impression, and that requires a keen eye for design and a deep understanding of your brand. It needs to reinforce your brand codes – those colours, logos, and taglines that make your brand instantly recognisable.

That’s why, even when you’re a kilometre away from that rapidly approaching billboard your kid in the backseat is already asking for McDonald’s, because they’ve recognised the iconic red and the yellow arches even if they haven’t read the wording yet. Not every brand is going to be in that same position as the global fast-food juggernaut – but even McDonald’s had to start somewhere and has been single-minded in building its brand.

Think about the times you’ve driven by a billboard that just gets it right – bold visuals, a snappy message – everything screams the brand. It’s impactful and sticks with you long after that fleeting moment of exposure. That’s the magic of OOH. It’s a chance to be bold and imaginative, using the vast canvas to your advantage. A billboard isn’t just space to fill; it’s a prime spot to showcase your brand’s personality in a way that’s memorable and impactful.

Most of the time, bad OOH is simply forgettable rather than being annoying or frustrating. Great OOH will become a highlight of someone’s trip outside their house, and complementary to their experience as they go about their day. When was the last time a banner ad made you smile?

It’s about sparking curiosity and engagement in a natural way by crafting a visual experience that resonates and sticks with people.

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