5 OOH Myths Marketers Should Stop Buying Into

By Brian Rappaport

Myths and urban legends. We know them, we've heard them, we've told them.

"Drinking soda and pop rocks at the same time can make your stomach explode!"

"You need a massive budget to do anything in out-of-home advertising."

Let's stop right there.

Out-of-home (OOH), a channel that was skyrocketing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, has essentially completed its post-pandemic rebound. Outdoor advertising will grow about 12 percent in 2022, for a total of $7.9 billion. That's basically where it was before the masks came on, and people had to stay at home. Want a true sign of the channel's recovery? OOH advertising revenue increased 28.9 percent in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year, accounting for $2.62 billion – nearly equivalent to pre-pandemic highs when Q2 2019 OOH revenues totaled a record-breaking $2.69 billion. 

Still, it seems like a weekly occurrence where I'm introduced to a founder, CMO, or VP of growth that has never spent a penny of their marketing budget on OOH because of some common myths. Brands shouldn't be afraid to invest in OOH, and not as a secondary media channel – as a primary one. The more these myths are dispelled, the more marketers may start realizing the potential OOH has to drive sales, awareness, and grow their consumer base.

So, what exactly are these myths surrounding OOH? Here are five of the biggest:

You need to spend $500,000 – $1 million to see true impact in OOH.

The bottom line here is you don't. You're a brand that wants to run a campaign in a Top 10 DMA – or the usual "go-to's" of New York and Los Angeles, but you have a restrictive budget? Totally fine. Come to the table with some planning parameters. Are there core ZIP codes where you've seen most of your sales come from and want to double down on? Are there core ZIP codes where sales have lagged, and you want to see if OOH can move the needle? Do you have a clear and descriptive core consumer profile? Are you trying to drive retail foot traffic?

There have been so many times when a brand has wanted to run a campaign in Los Angeles but after sitting down and discussing true brand objectives/goals, ultimately realize they just need to be in Echo Park/Silverlake and Venice. To be sure, it'll be tough to make an impact with a $5,000 to $10,000 budget, but not a $50,000 to $100,000 budget if you are strategic and targeted.

OOH is an awareness driver only – you can't measure it.

If this were 2010, you'd probably be right. Sure, it would be nice to know that 400,000 cars per day passed by your giant wall on Sunset, but that's not precisely bottom-of-the-funnel metrics. Things have changed. First, you can truly understand where your audience lives/works/plays thanks to purchase and attitudinal behaviors transcended into psychographic heat maps showing the highest concentrations of a target consumer (thanks Neustar data!). If you're looking more for top-of-the-funnel metrics, there are brand lift studies that help you understand aided awareness, brand recall, favorability, message recall, and consideration among other takeaways.

For bottom-of-the-funnel metrics, you can now understand online to offline conversion events as well as how OOH influenced drive-to-store, drive-to-site, and app downloads. Lastly, brands can truly extend the life of their OOH campaign through cross-device retargeting and reaching exposed/unexposed MAID's (Mobile Advertising IDs) across other channels.

OOH is billboards. That's it.

This is one of my favorites. It usually goes hand in hand with subways. Looking back on how OOH has evolved in the past 10 years is incredible. There are myriad ways to hit a core audience. You'll always have the printed/static billboard or massive wallscape, but why stop there? What about hand-painted walls? What about advertising on the digital screens connected to EV charging stations? What about advertising in gym locker rooms, inside elevators, in lobbies of residential buildings, on rooftops along a flight path heading into a major airport, branded food trucks, a digital boat in Miami, a digital double-decker bus in Los Angeles? The limitations of OOH are virtually nonexistent, and that's where brands with incredible creative directors rise to the top.

OOH has an eight-week lead time – and runs for one year.

About one-third of all OOH ad dollars will go to digital OOH (DOOH) this year. The ability to react in real-time, run messaging around specific events, and change messaging based on brand positioning are just a few of the driving factors why DOOH continues to maintain its popularity. Cities continue to undergo digital transformations, and in addition to digital billboards, you're now seeing transit stations, train cars, and lifestyle centers all being digitized.

This allows brands to "turn on" within a city instantaneously – and they can go live within an hour of receiving creative. Programmatic DOOH is a whole other level, allowing a brand to utilize data-driven decisions (location, audience, demo) to go live on various digital screens in each market at a given moment (starting/stopping as they wish). You don't have to run for 12 months, or even four weeks. Digital OOH allows you to have a major burst in a market for one hour, one day, or one week.

If you're targeting Super Bowl, why run for four weeks when the big game is over in one weekend? There are no limitations to flight. If you're a brand that still loves that 100 percent SOV and wants to be on that giant wallscape – or beautifully printed bulletin, we're not shipping materials via horseback. If you have creative ready to go, odds are you can be live within two weeks.

I can just do this myself.

There are a handful of incredible OOH specialists out there. There are consultants who have been in the industry for years. If you're a brand or marketer with limited experience in OOH, do yourself a favor and find someone who does. It's a niche channel and you simply cannot do it alone. The metaphor I constantly use is why do professional athletes have agents negotiating their contracts? Because they want to get their client the value they deserve. There are hundreds of media partners out there.

Looking at one market, you're probably going to need several different media partners to craft together a smart, holistic strategy. What works in one market (mass transit for instance) may not work in another. Find a partner who has the perfect blend of experience, market knowledge – and yes, ad tech. Challenge them, and don't solely rely on a platform or software.

It's Q4, brands have budgets to spend, and customers to reach. At the same time, it's an incredible time to test OOH as a channel if you're one of the brands that haven't. Last-minute deals are abundant as media partners rush to meet year-end goals and fill any space still unsold. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Art Basel, The Holidays – there's no shortage of events, and you can capitalize on reaching customers focused on all of them – without $500,000 or eight weeks lead time. Trust me.


The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


Brian Rappaport is the CEO of Quan Media Group.