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How to use outdoor advertising

Outdoor advertising allows you to make a strong impact with your campaign message. By putting up a huge billboard or bus side from the Campaign Resource Centre website, you will get your message across to a much wider variety of people and give your campaign launch a "wow" factor.

You can download outdoor advertising resources free from the CRC. Find a media planning agency who can work with you on meeting your campaign targets. Small business sites may also give you some more cost-effective advertising. Contact local community areas, buildings or parks for information. Even if a campaign on our website doesn't offer outdoor materials, you could use an A4 or A3 poster outside your local community centre and have a mini outdoor campaign.

What types of outdoor advertising are there?

There are many forms of out-of-home advertising and some you may be familiar with already. If you are thinking of using outdoor advertising however, it is always worth reviewing the different types:

  • Billboards – are the traditional roadside or street-side large poster sites that come in a range of formats such as 6, 48 and 96 sheet billboards. These are quite expensive due to their size.
  • Digital out-of-home – similar to be above but offering a moving, digital opportunity to bring your advertising to the next level.
  • Street signs – is the advertising found on park benches, bus shelters and so on – in fact any large space advertising at street level.
  • Transport – is the outdoor advertising on buses, taxis, at railways and airports or on the underground.
  • Small businesses – are small, built-in poster sites linked to local businesses such as a football ground, council building or community centre.

Things to consider

How do you know if outdoor advertising is right for your campaign? The following questions may help you in deciding whether to choose outdoor advertising.

Do I need to reach a bigger audience with my campaign?

This is a key point to consider. You may already have opportunities to promote your campaign to existing audiences, for example in doctor's surgeries or schools. However, if your goal is to increase your target audience, outdoor is an effective way to reach new people.

What will it cost?

Outdoor advertising can be more expensive than other media so make sure you are getting the most out of your budget. Think about your Return on Investment (ROI) and what targets you have in mind.

Are outdoor resources always available to me?

The Campaign Resource Centre does not supply outdoor advertising resources for all our campaigns. However, if you have a strong case for wanting a billboard or bus side for your campaign, then please let us know. Any new creative should always have our approval so we will try to work with you to ensure that your campaign is a success.

How do I book outdoor media?

A local media planning agency is the best place to start. They can help you with your budget, timings and deadlines. They can also suggest spaces for you. As with all planning agencies, they will take their fee, so factor that into your campaign costs.

Media planning

One you have chosen your outdoor creative, here's a useful checklist to consider:

  • Where will my outdoor advertising be seen? Is the site you've chosen going to give you the best access to your target audience – or indeed new audiences? How many people are expected to see it? Is it clearly visible in a well-lit, easily seen place with lots of people going past?
  • What size format does the space take? Check on our website that we have the right size of ad you need for the space.
  • Are there any other campaigns running in the same space? Make sure that any other posters do not conflict with the information you are giving out. And that your poster will stand out to passers-by.
  • Are there any deadlines? You need to know when the creative needs to be supplied and how long you have hired the site for. It may be that small business sites will let you have the space for long periods.

Creative sign-off

As with all posters and creative, please make sure you do a thorough spell check on everything. If you've altered the material in any way, adaptations might sometimes need approval from the Partnerships Team

In which case, you would be required to fill in an Open Artwork Request Form (see the example below) which you can download from the CRC site. Send this off with your artwork files to and the partnerships team will approve it for use. You must have this approval before it goes live.

Finally, always make sure you have the right size, logo and any contact details for whatever outdoor advertising format you have chosen.

Evaluating success

How do you know when your out-of-home advertising has given a good ROI? The main things to consider are how many people saw the ad, and what is the size of your potential audience? It can seem quite complex at first but here's a number of ways to track a campaign's effectiveness.

Opportunity to contact (OTC)

This measures the effectiveness of your out-of-home as a consumer contact point. You can actively research a journey, by car or by foot, between different out-of-home ads.

There's a number of ways to do this: through survey data (using travel diaries or GPS tracking devices on survey participants); mobility modelling (movement, location, a person's velocity and acceleration); and audience rating of those who saw your ad on route (visibility adjusted contact).

Traffic data

By getting data about pedestrian or vehicle traffic in the area where your ad is to be placed, you can get calculate ad exposure. Typical data includes commuter numbers, leisure activity participation, road traffic counts, government surveys, and censuses. Although the quality of this data can vary, it is still a useful measuring tool.

Pre-and-post-campaign measurements

Sales, sign-up or subscriptions are simple ways to measure an outdoor campaign's effectiveness. Is there a noticeable pre and post difference? It can become difficult to separate from other activities you're running at the same time, or from unexpected external factors, but it's still important to review this as an overall picture.

Ad specific coupons, codes and URLs

Creating different URLs or phone numbers, or specific coupons or codes for your outdoor advertising is a great way of testing, as they can easily be measured. Limiting a phone number or QR code so it's only used on your outdoor will then let you efficiently track your response rates.

Location, message and developing a digital trail

These are all key areas to consider when measuring effectiveness. It's also important to look at past campaign performance as a guide to measuring your own campaign. You can find this information on the Campaign Resource Centre and it will also help you in deciding what to measure.

Last updated: 10 January 2023