creative out of home advertising

5 tips for designing effective out of home ad creative

Out of home media specialists Talon Outdoor dropped in to offer us an insightful presentation on creative practices for out of home advertising, showcasing some examples of effective ads.

Out of home is a unique marketing channel, and it comes in many different shapes and sizes. OOH ad placements include everything from huge digital screens and billboards, to bus wraps, wall murals and beer mats. Crafting the perfect creative for your placement is an art, and there are some wonderful examples of brands doing just that.

Putting your brand out there and grabbing attention is no mean feat. Captivating creative is crucial when it comes to out of home. In fact, a recent study by Nielsen found that creative contributes to 47% of total sales, the most of any element in OOH ads.

In order to achieve creative effectiveness, you need to capture attention, reach your audience in the right mindset, and utilise the channel to its full potential.

The type of creative used will vary massively based on which type of placement you’re using.

vigil ooh ad

Let’s take tube station ads as an example. Ads in this placement are perfectly suited to long-form copy, as they have a high dwell time. Passengers may be standing at a platform for 2-3 minutes, giving them plenty of time to take in an advert with longer, thoughtful ad copy.

Using high dwell time formats leads to a 6x higher ad recall, 14x higher brand recall and 4x higher content recall.

mcdonalds out of home ad

In contrast, a vertical ad on a busy street is only likely to be glanced at, rather than dwelled upon. Ads in these placements should only use short copy – ideally only a headline, image and logo. Passers by are likely to only see the ad for a few seconds, so the creative needs to be snappy and impactful.

When it comes to creating an impactful ad, there are a number of factors to take into consideration. Here are five tips to help you design effective out of home creative.

1. Keep it simple to attract attention

When it comes to outdoor, generally speaking, the simpler the better – especially in placements where people are likely to be rushing past. Out of home is a media form with a low dwell time – typically less than four seconds – so there’s no need to overcomplicate things.

Don’t go overboard with copy, don’t try to achieve too much within one ad, and remember that most people won’t be dwelling on the creative. There are plenty of other channels you can use to share additional info.

Remember, whilst people might be rushing to catch the train, it doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Be succinct, so that people can catch all the info in a matter of seconds.

However, simple doesn’t mean dull. Even simple creatives need engaging elements. Using contrast between your elements is also an effective way to improve fixation.

Let’s look at this Pepsi Max ad creative. It’s simple, only showing an image and a bold headline. However, the elements almost jump out of the page. What’s more, the logo is incorporated within the image, so brand recall will be high.

pepsi max ad

2. Don’t disrupt creative flow

Creative flow is better when there’s nothing disrupting attention. Consider how someone will interact with your ad.

Most people will look at the image first, then the headline, then the subheading and then the logo. Make it easy for people and have these elements ‘flow’ into one another. Don’t make people work for it.

Similarly, using too much copy can reduce fixation on key elements, making it harder for people to recall your ad and takeaway your message.

The ad below gets it right – the reader’s gaze starts on the image and flows through the elements in natural order from left to right.

ooh ad flow

3. Make the logo bigger

“Can you make the logo bigger?” A dreaded phrase for designers, but in this instance, this type of feedback is acceptable. In order to maximise brand recall, the logo needs to stand out.

Placing your logo close to high-performing assets such as the headline can also help people to sit up and take notice, as well as having it set against a contrasted background. It’s also clever to incorporate your logo into the image itself.

In the McDonald’s ad below, the iconic golden arches make up the only image on the ad, ensuring the brand is instantly recognisable. (Ironically, McDonald’s is one of those brands that can get away with leaving the logo off entirely, thanks to its distinctive branding).


4. Where possible, opt for animated or video ads

Unless you’re using a roadside placement, video is generally a safe bet for increased interest. Adding motion to your ads tends to make them more engaging for passers by. Full motion digital out of home is 2.5x more impactful than equivalent static sites. Full motion not only delivers a powerful emotional experience, it also helps boost brand effectiveness, and can be a great way to extend the reach of TV or online campaigns.

The rise in 3D billboards really takes this principle to the next level – grabbing attention in a big way.

5. Give it context

Context is also crucial. Ensuring that your ad matches its environment can help your message hit home. Contextual copy displayed at the relevant moment with relevant content can increase brain response by 32%. Examples include personalising your creative based on the location of your ad.

creative best practices ooh

There are also a growing number of OOH ads ‘interacting’ with neighbouring ads. For example, the much-celebrated ‘Oops’ ad campaign from O2 sees the creative ‘crash’ to the floor. The creative perfectly matches the subject of screen replacements.

o2 oops billboard

There’s also this recent example from KFC, promoting its delivery service. The billboard ad features an arrow pointing to an adjacent ad for PlayStation’s God of War: Ragnarok, with the tagline “and that’s why there’s KFC delivery”.


And there we have it – a quick guide on how to design effective creative for out of home advertising. With the rise in popularity in sharing OOH creative on social media, there’s a great opportunity for brands who get their creative spot on to boost awareness even further.

Looking for an agency to help out with designing effective creative for your brand? We’d love to talk. Contact us to speak to a member of the Creative team.