Writing on the Wall—Out-of-Home Advertising


Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising, also known as outdoor media or display advertising, is the oldest form of marketing communications. Egyptian obelisks displayed carved proclamations. The walls of Pompeii, preserved for centuries under volcanic ash, were an advertising medium for politicians and gladiators, as well as an early social network through graffiti. The development of lithography at the turn of the 19th century led to the proliferation of illustrated posters in ensuing decades. The development of the mass-produced automobile at the beginning of the 20th century prompted the modern billboard.

As the oldest form of advertising, OOH should be the first rendered obsolete in the digital age, per simple reasoning. On the contrary, OOH advertising is the only pre-digital ad format to see growth this year. However, OOH’s strength does not mean a resurgence of P.T. Barnum posters and Burma Shave signs. Digital Out-of-Home advertising (DOOH) is leading the format’s positive trending. Billboards are increasingly becoming Jumbotrons, huge electronic screens showing vibrant and often rotating ads. DOOH finds its way into smaller spaces too, such as mini TVs on gas pumps and in elevators.

By its very nature, advertising is an interruption, a paid insertion into what is normally commanding your attention—a magazine, a TV show, a music broadcast, a newsfeed. Technology has been thwarting advertising for years, starting with VCRs that allowed viewers to fast forward through commercials. Now, streaming media is eliminating ads and varities of software are limiting them online. OOH advertising is an interruption too, whether it is blocking your view of highway scenery or a gas pump. You can look away; however, you can’t delete it. And if you’re watching NASCAR, avoiding ads means avoiding the action.

In another emulation of digital media, OOH advertising can be interactive. IBM gained praise with a campaign for its Smarter Cities initiative. Note how the pieces gave a new twist to bus shelter advertising, an OOH staple. Viewers physically engaged the communication. The inventiveness of the ads earned notice in news media and social media, digitally extending the message and increasing impact.

Nature hates a vacuum. So does advertising. Where there is space for sale, marketers will seek to fill it with ads. OOH occupies physical space, often inventively, always impervious to deletion. As is the case with all aspects of P for Promotion, Christian marketers must make sure OOH advertising garners attention through worthy means and adds value not clutter.

Mark 13:4 NIV

[4] “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

What is the relationship between OOH advertising and sports? Do fans consider sponsors as supporting the sports experience?

What responsibility do Christian marketers have in making sure OOH advertising is suitable for all audiences, even if they are targeting a specific one?

Biblical image: Moody Publishers/FreeBibleImages.org

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