Outdoor advertising can be very hit or miss. Constantly surrounded by hundreds — if not thousands — of billboards, posters, bags, digital signs, and more, consumers are bombarded with brand messaging day in and day out.
A recent study by Nielsen revealed that while only 21% of US respondents paid attention to digital out-of-home (OOH) ads “all of the time”, 29% reported “most of the time”, 33% reported “sometimes”, and 13% reported “almost never”.
Clearly, gaining the attention of a majority of the population is a difficult feat for many OOH ads and the brands behind them. Therefore, to be successful in today’s oversaturated markets, brands need to come up with truly innovative, impactful ad campaigns. Anything less will get lost in the noise.
To give you an idea of what’s worked well, this article will take a look at three of the most creative, dynamic OOH ads over the last year and a half. Then, we’ll close with some tips brands can take on board when creating their next OOH campaign.
3 Highly Creative Outdoor Brand Campaigns
For an OOH campaign to be successful, it needs to be immersive — something that grabs your attention and holds it. It also needs to leave an impression on viewers and encourage them to take action.
While the following examples are quite different from one another, each OOH ad discussed below proved to be wildly successful in its own way.
1. “Embarrassing Plastic Bags”, East West Market - Vancouver, Canada (2019)
East West Market, a small community grocery store in Vancouver, garnered international attention in mid-2019 after launching its “Embarrassing Plastic Bags” campaign.
The goal of this OOH campaign? According to the company’s owner, David Lee Kwen, their goal was to promote their new, reusable canvas bags and shame customers out of choosing single-use plastic bags. But how did they manage to “shame” customers? Well, each 5¢ plastic bag the store sold included a hyper-embarrassing slogan — such as: “Dr. Toes’s Wart Ointment Wholesale” and “The Colon Care Co-Op”.
Source: Daily Hive
Understandably, many consumers would be hesitant to carry around bags with these kinds of slogans. With one customer even saying she’d rather carry her groceries in her arms than use a plastic bag.
But here’s the real kicker. The only cost associated with this unique OOH campaign? Purchasing the bags. East West Market spent $0 promoting their bags — yet, they received global recognition and interest.
Thousands of people tweeted and posted about the campaign, and some consumers even traveled to the grocery store solely to snag a bag. The success of this OOH campaign was undeniable. And, most importantly, East West Market accomplished their original goal.
In an interview with the Daily Hive Vancouver, Kwen proudly shared:
“After we implemented the embarrassing plastic bags, the number of our customers bringing reusable bags surged to 96%—reducing the use of plastic bags in our store.”
Thanks to the success of this campaign, East West Market and its embarrassing bags became a globally recognized brand. They even created reusable versions of the embarrassing bags, so “people can enjoy the slogans without the plastic.”
While bags might not be immediately recognizable as an OOH campaign, they meet all the basic requirements: advertising a brand by being out and about in public and seen by a wide range of consumers.
And as traditional OOH advertising continues to oversaturate, trying out alternative OOH formats will become more popular.
2. “Malnutrition Facts”, Dole - NYC, LA, Baltimore (2021)
In early 2021, Dole caught the attention of consumers all over the US with their creative “Malnutrition Facts” campaign.
Again, this is a great example of a brand that’s experimenting with both traditional and alternative OOH formats. From larger-than-life projections on buildings to posters gracing everything from trash cans to garbage trucks to dumpsters — Dole took a somewhat guerilla approach to this campaign.
Part of the success of these ads can be attributed to the strategy Dole employed: a mix of the familiar with a twist.
The ads’ format was that of a typical nutrition label — something everyone is familiar with. However, instead of listing ingredients and nutritional data, each version of the ad shared an eye-opening set of facts about modern malnutrition and food waste.
Source: Campaigns of the World
Consumers were taken with this digital marketing campaign, sharing images and reactions on various social media platforms. The campaign also included a digital side — with paid digital ads, social media, and content — to support the brand’s “Sunshine for All” project.
The goal of this campaign? To spotlight the issues and causes that Dole supports, which allows the brand to build emotional connections with the public. Modern consumers want to know that the brands they patronize share their values — from issues like sustainability to food waste to mental health.
Dole made a bold move with these ads — but it paid off. Consumers all over the world were talking about the campaign, which undoubtedly increased their brand awareness.
3. “Purina Street Vet”, Purina - Paris, France (2020)
“Do you really know how healthy your dog is?” That’s the question Purina’s digital billboards asked Parisians for three weeks in mid-2020. Dubbed “Purina Street Vet”, this OOH campaign used cutting-edge technology to create an immersive experience for consumers.
But how did it work? The brand placed its special billboards all over dog-friendly areas within Paris and the billboard’s pole released irresistible pheromones. When dogs approached and peed on said pole, their urine was collected and then analyzed in the specially-created sterile environment at the base of the billboard using chemical reagents and screening technology.
Source: Ad Age
Within 30 seconds, Purina’s “Street Vet” would display the dog’s results — an instant health check-up. The technology was able to detect up to four different health problems: diabetes, kidney failure, urinary infection, and alimentary imbalance.
If a health issue was detected, the digital billboard would then display a recommended Purina Pro Plan diet — “clinically designed to prevent disease”. And, if the results indicated a deeper checkup to be necessary, users could download the results and share them with their veterinarian.
The goal of this campaign? While the ultimate goal was to increase awareness of and sales for Purina’s Pro Plan diets, it also aimed to change consumers’ perception of how important regular health check-ups are for dogs — a bit of disruptive marketing. Additionally, it helped people feel more connected to their pets and showed that Purina cares about animal welfare.
Again, this is a great example of a brand using an innovative OOH ad to showcase its values and reassure consumers that they’re on the same page. Impactful and memorable, this OOH campaign was a resounding success — generating 50 million impressions, detecting health issues in 41% of dogs tested, and, ultimately, increasing positive brand sentiment by 11%.
What Can You Learn From These OOH Campaigns?
As we can see, creativity and innovation reign supreme. With so much competition in the OOH advertising industry, capturing and sustaining consumer attention is nearly impossible.
However, each of the above-mentioned OOH campaigns were able to do just that. So what sets them apart from the competition? Let’s see.
1. Connect With A Cause
Each of the ads we highlighted had something important in common: they were connected with a cause. In today’s world, advertising a product or service alone doesn’t really cut it — there has to be something more.
For example, East West Market wanted consumers to buy and use their reusable canvas bags. But instead of focusing solely on increasing sales of their own product, East West Market tied their campaign to a cause: decreasing the use of single-use plastic to support the environment.
Now, when consumers purchased and used the brand’s canvas bags, they were showing their support of a movement — they were able to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
The Takeaway? If you want an OOH brand campaign to have a better chance at success, make sure it’s connected to a cause that your brand supports.
Modern consumers want brands to be vocal about their activism and values. Including both in your OOH marketing strategy is a great way to show consumers that your brand cares and follows through.
2. Use Technology To Your Advantage
To be fair, Purina’s Street Vet was two years in the making. With help from engineering institute YNCREA and the veterinary clinical VetParis7, Purina developed the technology needed to make this OOH campaign a success.
Offering quick, comprehensive results, Street Vet was able to easily capture and sustain consumers’ attention. Furthermore, this OOH ad didn’t stop at a diagnosis, it provided actionable next steps for dog owners.
And while the technology used to test the dogs’ urine was impressive, that wasn’t the only place the brand used tech to enhance the experience. If a tested dog required a more extensive health checkup, owners could also scan and download the information to their phones.
But using a digital OOH billboard and taking advantage of modern technology, Purina was able to create an immersive, responsive experience for consumers.
The Takeaway? While not all brands can create advanced technology to support their OOH ads, they can utilize modern technologic solutions to enhance their campaigns.
Adding QR codes to billboards or posters allows brands to direct consumers to the logical next step. Be it a specially designed landing page or a video with further explanation, this small addition makes it possible for marketing teams to extend the consumer experience.
3. Follow Through With Actionable Steps
These days, consumers want brands to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. While a creative OOH campaign idea is wonderful, if it all ends there, consumers won’t be impressed.
For example, consider Dole’s “Malnutrition Facts” OOH campaign. It didn’t just end with some eye-catching guerilla billboarding — they followed through with the issue.
After the campaign went live, Dole launched their “Malnutrition Facts” website, which spotlights Malnutrition Projections and global facts, provides tips and recipes, and lists ways for consumers to get involved via Dole’s “Sunshine for All® Fund”.
This OOH campaign was part of a larger project for Dole and allowed the brand to draw attention to its values and actions.
The Takeaway? When creating an OOH campaign, make sure it’s more than fun visuals and witty slogans. If your ad is connected to a cause, ensure consumers can follow through with next steps.
Create a landing page with more information or release an app to spotlight your brand’s activism — whatever marketing efforts fit your version of “actionable steps”.
Funny ads may get some media attention. People might tweet about impressive guerilla marketing. But unless your OOH campaign is connected to a larger cause and allows for follow-through, there’s a chance it won’t be the resounding success you’re hoping for.
Successful OOH campaigns need to connect with consumers — which means brands need to know what their target audiences value. And if you’re interested in gathering the consumer insights necessary to create impactful campaigns, we recommend using brand tracking.
With access to reliable, nuanced data, you’ll be able to make better, more informed marketing decisions.