Outdoor Advertising Suddenly In The Limelight

One of the oldest forms of advertising—outdoor—has gotten a big lift in recent month,s thanks to Hollywood and politically-minded public interest groups. 

Yep, outdoor is (sorta) sexy again, thanks to the Oscar-nominated “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the story of a woman who places billboards outside of her hometown questioning the competency of the local police force in solving the murder of her daughter. 

The tactic was repeated—earlier this week in the real world—when the political action committee Progressive Turnout Project launched a billboard campaign in Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district targeting Representative Paul Ryan after his repeated refusal to pass gun reform. 

The campaign came after last week’s tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, which the PAC said was the 18th school shooting in 2018. 

The organization put up a digital billboard message near Ryan’s Janesville, Wisconsin, congressional office. The message reads: “17 killed in their classrooms; Still no gun reform? How come, Paul Ryan?” 



According to a spokesperson for PTP, the group has also placed two additional billboards in Janesville. One reads, “Save Social Security, Pass Medicare For All, Defeat Paul Ryan" and the other: "Kings of Debt," with a photo of Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. 

The group doesn’t currently have plans to use the tactic again, “however we are open to the idea,” the spokesperson said. 

Hmmm, seems to me Republican Sen. Marco Rubio would make a good target for such a campaign, after the reception he received when addressing the gun issue at a nationally televised (CNN) town hall meeting in Florida. He said he wouldn’t back a ban on assault weapons and would continue to accept funding by the NRA. 

Anyway, this spotlight on outdoor comes just as Warc has released new research, pointing to the effectiveness of the traditional medium. 

OOH has accounted for an average 5.9% of global advertising spend since 1990, per the Warc research, while OOH ad spend amounted to $31 billion in 2016. Preliminary estimates for 2017 put spend at roughly the same level. 

But the organization reported that “successful” brands—brands within Warc’s case study database--allocate an average 13% of their media budget to out of home.

The report also found government and nonprofit organizations (26% of budgeted spend), alcoholic drinks brands (16%) and retail brands (14%) are among the highest investors in OOH. 

Who knows how much impact those billboards in Janesville will have. Some people will surely take notice. But real impact? Real results? 

That will take a lot more.  

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