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How Effective is Outdoor Advertising?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: May 17, 2024

While many forms of electronic advertising exist today, there is no evidence that outdoor advertising is less effective at attracting consumers to a number of products and services. It has continued to be a profitable way to market to the public, allowing for sales that make the use of the advertisements worth both the time and the investment.

One of the first things people should understand about outdoor advertising is that the application goes beyond the simple posting of billboards on the highways around the nation. In fact, this type of advertising includes several methods that do not involve the billboard at all. One example is the use of sandwich boards that are often found outside restaurants and cafes. Positioned on sidewalks, this form of advertising catches the attention of people walking by, enticing them to come inside for a special being offered by the establishment. Park benches are another place where ads can be placed, as are the sides of buses and taxis. In metropolitan areas with subway and trains as means of public transportation, advertising space is often sold inside the cars.

The key to effective outdoor advertising is in the fact that these forms of marketing are constant visual reminders for the people who see them every day. In this sense, products are being marketed to a captive audience. No matter how often the advertisement is seen, each encounter helps to reinforce the awareness of the good or service that is being marketed. The end result is that an individual may see outdoor ads for an extended period of time, and one day determine that the item being advertised meets a need. There is no question about where the person can go in order to meet that need.

Outdoor advertising is often placed in locations that are in close proximity to the business. As with the sandwich boards in front of restaurants, the marketing tool helps to draw in business from people who see the ad and decide they want to purchase the product right now, rather than later. The quick turnaround in recognition and customer purchase helps to keep the method of advertising a profitable means of doing business.

This type of advertising can also help to reinforce other forms. As an example, billboards may help to build name recognition for a business, so that when a circular for that company arrives in the mail, consumers are more apt to actually read through the printed matter. Many companies choose to include outdoor advertising as an important part of their overall public relations campaign, simply because it helps to improve the measurable results from other forms of advertising.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Alen — On May 05, 2014

Great article! It has proven how powerful an outdoor advertisement is. Even though electronic advertisements are effective nowadays, outdoor advertisement has not lost its importance. As long as there are roads, public places and people, outdoor advertisement will stand out efficiently from all other kinds of advertisement. Creating sign boards is s great idea to promote a particular business or service or product. As we all know, the 'Welcome to Las Vegas Sign' has brought a lot of popularity to Las Vegas. The 'Valet Car wash' sign is one of my personal favorites. It was created by a company in Ontario. So I completely support outdoor advertisement.

By Oceana — On Aug 21, 2012

I wasn't aware until last year that there are actual outdoor advertising agencies that specialize only in this form of advertising. When one such agency opened up in my town, I took notice.

This agency was promoting their “window pane” ads. They would put four ads on a poster that would fit into a shop's window frame, and businesses would pay to have their ad featured in one of the four slots on the poster.

Since the agency was located on the town square, they attracted lots of business from all the shops on the square. Every one of them wanted an ad in the window of every store that had decided to display them.

By JackWhack — On Aug 20, 2012

I still think that the best form of outdoor advertising media is the old-fashioned billboard. It is nearly impossible to ignore an ad that is larger than the car you are driving.

I read billboards all the time, even if I have already driven by them many times. So, I have these advertising messages stored in my subconscious. I think that this is what advertisers are shooting for when they pay the big price to get their ads up there.

Regular billboards are just as effective as ever, even though there are now digital billboards being made that can have multiple ads on them and switch between them every few seconds. I'm pretty sure this helps the company that rents out the space maximize their profits.

By shell4life — On Aug 19, 2012

I think that outdoor advertising banners on vehicles really do get noticed. I have heard that some companies are now paying people to let them stick their advertising banners on their cars.

Of course, there are requirements. The person has to drive a certain number of miles during a specified time period to qualify. The business wants to make sure that plenty of people are getting to view the ad.

I know that whenever a vehicle with some sort of banner on it passes me, I can't resist the urge to look at it. I'm sure this is a very effective form of advertising.

By healthy4life — On Aug 19, 2012

@tigers88 – Those people who get paid to wave signs in front of businesses are called “boarders.” My friend got hired to do some outdoor advertising with signs and a costume for a local Mexican restaurant, and she actually did entice several people to stop there.

She had to wear a big sombrero and a long tiered skirt. She wore a big sign that she slipped over her head, and it hung around her neck. The writing on it was big enough for the people driving past to see easily.

The restaurant used the sign to advertise daily lunch specials, and my friend would dance around out by the road for about three hours in the middle of the day. Once she had someone's attention, she would wave them on into the parking lot.

By tigers88 — On Aug 18, 2012

There is a little pizza shop close to my house that has a lunch special. Every day they have a guy standing out in front of the store waving a sign that advertises the special. I have to think that it is effective because I started going in after I saw the sign for the first time.

By chivebasil — On Aug 18, 2012

How effective are outdoor advertising billboards now that so many people have smart phones and GPS systems that can do a better job of telling people what is around and how to get there?

I know from personal experience that I find most of the things I am looking for using my smartphone. A lot of the billboards that I see are irrelevant to me because I already know what I want and were to get it.

By vigilant — On Aug 17, 2012

I run a small bike shop and for the longest time we did minimal advertising. But after doing some research I decided to buy a billboard on the highway closest to my shop.

I figured that if anyone was passing through town and needed bike gear they would see the billboard and know where to stop.

In just the first month I saw a 20% rise in sales. It was not just from people from out of town either. We met a lot of people that lived close to the shop and had no idea that it was there.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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