Outdoor Media Advertising | Characteristics | Types | Merits & Demerits

Outdoor advertising has been carried on for ages. It is perhaps, the oldest medium of advertising that continues to be very popular. It is the medium that reaches the people when they are out of doors or traveling rather than when they are at home or office.

In an outdoor advertising, the advertisement message is not delivered to the audience like print or broadcast or telecast media; the advertisement message is placed at a strategic location to attract the attention of people on the move. It is a ‘reminder’ media, that catches the sight of people, perhaps just for a few seconds without incurring any expenditure.

The advertising tariff for outdoor media depends on the strategic location and the media vehicle. The rates are not uniform. For example, In India, in metropolitan cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras, a hoarding rent may cost more, especially if a location is strategic, it will cost even more. In cities like Madurai or Mysore, it will cost less.

Characteristics of Outdoor Media

Geographically, the outdoor media are highly selective. A specific message may be suitable only for a specific location. It is basically a mass medium. It is exposed uniformly to all economic and social groups, to people on their way to work, to shop, and to spend leisure time.

Outdoor media advertising must communicate quickly, memorably, and repeatedly. It only has time to register a single point. It can be used to trigger an impulse because it delivers a message at the time a prospect is in a position to recognize a need for the advertised product or service.

Tobacco, liquor, hotels and resorts, restaurants, airlines, soft drinks, and car dealers rely heavily on outdoor advertising. Being unable to advertise their products on television, the tobacco and liquor companies rely heavily on outdoor advertising to build and reinforce their brand’s image.

Types of Outdoor Media Advertising

We shall now study about the various outdoor advertising media vehicles like posters, painted displays, electric signs, traveling displays, sky-writing, etc., briefly.

1. Posters Advertisements

A poster is a sheet of paper pasted on a wooden or card or metal board featuring the advertisement message. Poster is the single largest form of outdoor media vehicle accounting for 75% of this medium. The most commonly accepted size will be of 12 feet and 3 inches by 24 feet 6 inches.

Standard Poster Sizes
Standard Poster Sizes

The success of poster advertising depends on two factors, namely

  1. Poster designing and
  2. Selection of site

Selection of Site for Poster Adverts

Attractive poster design is being imaginative, a good knowledge of the consumer psychology, visualization and command over the language. A poster must be brief, simple, alluring, clear and convincing, Attractive letters and colour combinations, matching illustrations all go a long way in making it an ideal poster. The slogans used must be snappy and catchy.

Selection of Place for Poster Advertisements

Selection of a strategic place for positioning it is equally important because, even the most attractive poster fails if it is not placed in strategic point. Best results can be had if such boards are erected near main intersections in a city, pedestrian crossings, over bridges, fly over, parks, hotels, cinema house, bus terminals, railway stations, airports, public libraries, and market places that provide chance to the people to halt for a while and then proceed.

2. Painted Display Advertisements

Painted displays are the painted bulletins and wall paintings. A painted bulletin is nothing but a metal sheet of a rectangular shape of standard size, erected at heights to command visibility from a distance. These structures have a pre-fabricated steel facings with standardized border trim; The most common size of a bulletin board is 14 feet by 48 feet, though the actual size varies depending on the availability of space.

Painted bulletins are illuminated for the night traffic. These bulletin boards have enlarged cut-outs such as package or trade-mark displayed in brilliant lights, extending beyond the board itself.

The strength of painted displays lies in the attractive display of sales message, durability and flexibility. However, they involve huge investment. Rentals are yearly.

First outdoor painted-wall advertisement for Coca-Cola
First outdoor painted-wall advertisement for Coca-Cola. Source: http://visitcartersvillega.org/worlds-first-coca-cola-outdoor-wall-advertisement/

3. Electric Neon Signs (Spectaculars) Advertisements

Electric neon signs are more popularly known as spectaculars. Spectaculars are non-standardized large and permanent signs that make use of elaborate lighting.

Electric Neon Signs - example
Electric Neon Signs – example

Spectaculars are the most conspicuous vehicles of the outdoor media designed and placed to attract the attention of largest number of passers by, particularly during night time. They are built on steel beams, metal sheet, plastic and fibre material using bright lights. These electric signs are computerized lighting systems that are eye catching and effective.

4. Traveling Display Advertising (Transit Advertising)

Transit Advertising or traveling displays refer to the transportation advertising. It stands for all types of advertising signs or displays used in trains, trams, buses, cars, autos, and such other vehicles and the terminal station displays from which these vehicles operate.

Transit Advertising
Transit Advertising – Example

This medium is seen by the traveling public who have the time while waiting at terminals or stations or while traveling on public transport. In fact, reading advertisements may help pass the time while traveling. Consequently, transportation advertisements, unless perhaps where they are on the exteriors of vehicles (e.g. buses, trams, delivery vans or taxi-cabs), can be much more detailed.

For example, in Kolkatta, a very important part of transportation advertising is the extensive Kolkatta Underground railway system which carries lakhs of passengers daily.

Fact: 86% of consumers can spontaneously talk in detail about a specific bus advert and over half of those consumers talked about an advert seen in the last three days (Source: Road to Enlightenment: QMedia)

Characteristics of Transportation Advertising

1. Variety of sites and sizes

Throughout the road and rail transportation system, there is a great variety of sites and sizes so that the transit advertising medium lends itself to the campaigns of many advertisers, local, metropolitan, national and in some cases — such as airlines, international.

2. Selectivity

As the transit advertising medium has so many sites at different locations or routes, it is possible to select the ones most suitable for a campaign. Like the special ‘positions’ in the newspaper, or prime time advertising on TV, here the costs of sites will relate to the volume of traffic.

3. Short-term campaigns

Short-term advertising campaign is possible with transportation than with outdoor advertising, when exhibitions are advertised for only a week or two. Transit advertising is useful for local traders, auctioneers, cinemas and theatres who may change their posters every week.

4. A mobile medium

A special feature of buses, trams, taxis and trains is that as passengers change there is a cumulative group who see the interior advertising, while exterior advertising is seen by yet another cumulative group as the vehicle travels along its route. This is very different from the regular readership of various publications. Outdoor media are likely to reach a large number of people as the advertisements are repeatedly seen, almost everyday.

5. Aerial Advertising

Aerial Advertising
Aerial Advertising

Aerial Advertising is a medium which exploits elements of drama and surprise, involving curiosity. The following form part of Aerial advertising: Sky-writing

Advertising industry has not spared even the sky from its sway. Air advertising has caught the fancy of advertisers and audience too. Sky-writing is a kind of publicity where message is spread in the sky in one form or the other.

The forms of sky writing are floating of huge balloons, flying of giant kites. These are of novel types.

Here is a short video on how digital skywriting works.

6. Sandwich men Advertising

Sandwich man Advertising - Example
Sandwich man Advertising – Example

Sandwichmen advertising has been the oldest and funniest medium of outdoor advertising. Sandwich men are the men hired by the advertisers to spread their message in busy streets. They are called sandwich men because they are sandwiched between the posters both in front and back. This kind of advertising is also known as tall man advertising.

Normally, a band of tall men (propped by wooden legs) and dwarf men, dressed in a funny way shout and sing about products or services, thus attracting the huge crowd, particularly children.

Merits of Outdoor Advertising

1. It has wider and deeper appeal

The effectiveness of outdoor advertising lies in its reminder value. It maintains a continued appeal for a longer period of time open to all the classes of the society without any expenditure on their part.

It is a mass medium because, practically almost all adult population moves out of doors. It achieves penetration through frequency and repetition. The outdoor advertising appeals appear dramatic because of attractive colours, size, etc.

2. It is economical

The outdoor advertising media make the sales message durable for months and even years. This duration gives the advertiser the advantage of multiple exposure and repetition. It has readership, repeat exposure and reach. Because of durability and multiple exposure to a wider number, the cost per individual works out much lesser than the daily newspapers.

3. It is accommodative

Outdoor advertising has a variety of media vehicles to carry the message. Buying space is not really a difficult issue because, there is continuous growth of cities, highways, increase in vehicles, traffic, etc.

Demerits of Outdoor Advertising

1. It is more a reminder publicity

Outdoor advertising does the best reminder publicity. It reminds the viewers the value of the goods and services so advertised. The message to be conveyed cannot be lengthy because of moving public. The brevity of message makes this medium not suitable for introduction of new products or services thus, limiting its use as a supplementary medium.

2. It is blamed for uglification

Outdoor advertising suffers from public opposition for its strong capacity to uglify a city. It is generally argued that roadside signs destroy natural surroundings and beauty of the country side. Countless signs, bill-boards, painted bulletins in and around town do not add beauty to the area of a city or town.

3. It involves heavy investment

The outdoor media such as sky writing, balloons, kites, are quite expensive in terms of investment though, they are novel.

4. Its impact cannot be measured

Though advertisers have been widely using outdoor media, it is impossible to measure the results of this type of advertising. In case of other media like press, telecast, one can speak of readership, and viewership in exact terms that help in assessing the impact of advertising on the audience.

The basic reason is mostly the audience pay for them. Contrary to this, in case of outdoor media, no advertiser can say with certainty that his poster has been seen or read by so many people so many times.