Outdoor Advertisement: Advantages and Disadvantages of a Marketing Original
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Outdoor Advertisement: Advantages and Disadvantages of a Marketing Original

Outdoor Advertisement: Advantages and Disadvantages of a Marketing Original

Amelie Baasner

Outdoor advertisement. You immediately think of huge billboards lining American highways, Tokyo at night illuminated by artificial lights. Outdoor advertisement is the Coca-Cola truck, but also the printing shop around the corner, and the rather odd advertisement at the local supermarket. All the posters we happily plaster our rooms with as teenagers. In this broad variety, you can already see that there are advantages and disadvantages of outdoor advertisement, highs and lows, successes and failures. 

Outdoor advertisement has been part of human activity for thousands of years now. During the stone age, people used to scribble on the walls – for religious reasons, storytelling, or simply to communicate. Nowadays, outdoor advertisement is one of the most important pillars of general marketing. Outdoor advertisement spending is predicted to reach a yearly amount of 40 billion dollars by 2023. And that’s despite a global pandemic. What are the reasons that make outdoor advertisements so popular? What are the outdoor advertisement advantages and disadvantages? Let’s look at a few examples to find out!

In 2019, the Coca-Cola truck was relaunched and toured across the UK. Source: Wonders of London.


Outdoor advertisement is born

The origins of outdoor advertisement lie in the Early Renaissance with the invention of typography by Johannes zu Guttenberg. From there, the step to the serial production of billboards was rather small. The first American to design large-format posters advertising a circus was Jared Bell in 1835, and just a few decades later the first leasing of billboards was recorded. As more and more motor cars were manufactured, billboard advertisements became the number one marketing tool in the US. In Europe, they quickly became an artform in their own right, with famous painters such as Toulouse Lautrec expressing their style through designing large posters. 

Making an impact

Regarding outdoor advertisement advantages and disadvantages, one thing is clear: outdoor advertisement and its connection to daily life, as well as its artistic impact, means it is unforgettable for the viewer. Combined with the advantage of wide coverage, that makes it an ideal way to market! Any passer-by could potentially become a client.

Jared Bell was the first to design billboards in the US. Source: (Roughly) Daily.


Options to suit every size of business

Of course, there are not only outdoor advertisement advantages – the method also has its disadvantages. One downside is that outdoor advertising is expensive. Let’s revisit the Coca-Cola truck that was relaunched two years ago. The brand took their truck to 19 destinations in the UK, transforming outdoor advertising into a full-body experience with charity, social media and cinnamon coke. You can only guess how much that stunt might have cost, but luckily outdoor advertising does not always have to involve a truck! 

Outdoor advertising offers plenty of choices for small businesses as well. So taking the outdoor advertisement advantages and disadvantages into consideration, you can see there are always options. Instead of a truck, what about a catchy and personalized ad on the building next door? That’ll make all the neighbors discuss it while they run their errands. This is how an outdoor advertising campaign can be effective, cheap and customized at the same time. 

Raising awareness with interactive campaigns

The Women’s Aid campaign Look at Me (2015) is a powerful example of local outdoor advertisement. For 16 days, using interactive billboards at British shopping malls, Women’s Aid raised awareness about domestic violence. The screen featured women’s faces, marked by injuries. A camera measured people turning towards the ad, and, slowly, the women’s bruises began to fade accordingly. The women in the campaign healed by people looking at them, acknowledging their pain. Seeing women who have been attacked could shock passers-by, but the ad’s impact and message is positive.

Finding an audience

However, the outdoor advertisement advantage of a broad audience can be countered with one disadvantage: outdoor advertisements have no guarantees. A slogan might be super catchy, but the results of the campaign depend on the amount of people passing by, and whether these people are part of the target audience. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, for example, few people were out on the streets. People stayed home for safety reasons, so any kind of outdoor advertisement was extremely limited in its reach. 

A fading future?

While looking at the outdoor advertisement advantages and disadvantages, an overall drop in popularity could be named as another downside. The more we’re attached to our phones, the less important billboard campaigns become. 

And then there is the environment. The printing, mounting, gluing and removing of massive billboards produces waste, most of which is difficult to recycle. And digital billboards aren’t much better: One medium-sized luminous sign (14 by 48 LED) consumes twice as much energy as a regular household. That might not be the end of the world, but it definitely counts when considering the battle against global warming. 

Digital Outdoors Advertising in Shinjuku, Tokyo. By Basile Morin.

So, is it true that that outdoor advertisement is obsolete? The more our social media accounts are flooded with advertisements, the more a walk around the block turns into a lovely change of scenery. The same applies for an original billboard that just pops up in our visual field while we’re out on the streets, making us giggle or wonder. 

When considering outdoor advertisement advantages and disadvantages, physical interaction is another aspect that’s important to mention. Compared to online advertisement that pops up on our screens, there are several outdoor advertisement campaigns that engage our entire body – not just our thumb – as well as our brain. As early as 2005, The Economist surprised passers-by with a huge bulb on a red background that lit up every time a person stepped under it.

Outdoor advertisement campaign by the Economist, 2005. Source: Ads of the World.


Graffiti advertisement makes its mark

To link back to the beginning, let’s focus on a particular kind of out of home advertisement: graffiti advertisement. To break it down, street art advertisement is nothing but the most original form of outdoor advertisement. The word graffiti literally means “writing on the wall”. So what would be the advantages and disadvantages of graffiti advertisement? For one, it’s cool and it’s art. Artists such as Banksy are celebrated all over the globe, just like Toulouse Lautrec was in his time. What’s more, graffiti advertisement can be individualized and adapted to the clients' needs. It’s a high-impact way to gain attention – if you’re ambitious and looking for inspiration, check out these 4 of the best street art advertising campaigns.

For those with a smaller budget, eye-level graffiti can be created easily and quickly, and conveys a message in a catchy, cool and personalized way – more relevant than a regular billboard. Another advantage of this form of advertisement is that the entire process of making it becomes a live performance. Passers-by are immediately drawn to what is happening, with the product itself becoming part of the discussion. This is why mural advertisement helps you to get your brand out there, loud and clear.

Banksy’s graffiti is popular all over the world. Dominic Robinson from Bristol, UK.

This said, the environmental aspect needs to be looked at here too, especially with regard to aerosols and spray cans. A big concern when weighing up the graffiti and outdoor advertisement advantages and disadvantages? Something to consider for sure, but don’t worry: many artists work with water-based paint, which contains almost no harmful substances. IKEA for example decided to promote one of their new stores in Vienna with a huge sustainable mural made by artist Frau Isa, which even reduces urban air pollution through carbon-absorbing paint.

Read also how Reverse Graffiti aka clean graffiti could be the cleanest type of OOH advertising out there.

In Vienna, this mural commissioned by IKEA literally clears the air. Copyright: IKEA. Campaign by Warda Network.

As we’ve seen, outdoor advertisement, with all its advantages and disadvantages, is not only part of our history but also part of our future. Virtual and augmented reality have started taking up space in our daily lives and making an appearance in outdoor advertisements. It doesn’t matter whether it’s moving murals, sneakers made of clouds, or train stations featuring the Walking Dead: the possibilities are endless and mural advertising will always be at the forefront of innovation. 

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