From the February 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Outdoor advertising is effective and priced just right for a growing business. So why isn't yours using this time-tested medium? Conventional vehicles, including billboards, taxi tops and more, are part of a marketing category called "out-of-home," which includes many new place-based opportunities-from ads in health clubs and airports to naming rights for a local baseball diamond. There's bound to be an out-of-home ad option that's priced right.

Right now, outdoor advertising is hotter than ever thanks to technology. New York City company Magink Display Technologies Inc. (www.magink.com), for example, is developing digital billboards that resemble paper but behave like electronic screens; outdoor advertising firm Lamar Advertising (www.lamar.com) is converting key billboards in cities like Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh to LED units, called "SmartBoards." These types of billboard messages can be changed easily and frequently.

To facilitate planning and tracking of outdoor campaigns, new forms of measurement are being adopted by Arbitron and Nielsen Media Research on behalf of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. Eventually, the industry plans to use GPS and "people meters" to give marketers demographic data as well as information on the numbers of viewers exposed to their ads.

Build a Campaign

The goal of an effective marketing campaign is to surround the customer with your messages. With the right mix, your customer can read your ad in the morning paper, see your billboard while driving to work, and hear your radio spot on the way home. Out-of-home media provide all the options you need to round out your campaign.

This kind of advertising works best when it's used to communicate a single message, so it's the perfect medium for building awareness for your store, product, service or brand. Brief customer exposure and limited copy space dictate the use of a single compelling visual along with a headline, slogan or logo. The outdoor ads for Absolut Vodka and Calvin Klein underwear, for example, are effective, yet use virtually no copy. While it's best to keep outdoor advertising simple, some place-based media, such as bus shelters and posters in restaurant restrooms, have a "captive" audience that's more likely to spend time with longer copy.

Your Message Here

Looking for out-of-home ideas? Try these:

  • Billboard-style ads placed on dogs wearing special harnesses: K9 Billboards Inc.
  • (www.k9billboards.com)
  • Video screens on the backs of stadium seats:
  • New Age Media Concepts (www.namct.com)
  • Posters at diaper-changing stations:
  • AJ Indoor, a division of NextMedia Outdoor Inc. (www.ajindoor.com)

A final tip: If you're looking for a branding opportunity that also generates goodwill, contact community parks about sponsorships. Naming rights are becoming available for everything from parklands to tennis courts, baseball diamonds and gardens.