Centuries of Out-of-Home Advertising – Short History

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Although out-of-home advertising (OOH) currently dominates traditional methods of marketing, it traces back thousands of years. From as early as the Egyptian times, big stones were used to publicise laws.

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The Outdoor Advertising Association of America gives a detailed historical timeline of the OOH Advertising industry here.

The creation of mobile printing in 1450, eventually enabled the creation of the first illustrated poster in 1796. About a century later during the mid-1800’s, Americans painted signs and posters on fences to advise passersby about their local products. Around this time, Jared Bell started printing circus posters. Fast forward to 1850, the first outdoor advertisement was used on street railways, and by 1870, around 300 companies were offering sign-painting services.

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By 1891, Bill Posters’ Association of the US and Canada was formed (now called Outdoor Advertising Association of America, OAAA). The primary goal of this organisation was to increase awareness of the poster advertising method.

By the early 20th century, major brands such as Kellogg and, Coca-Cola were nationally advertising their products on billboards. Billboard advertising prevailed during war times by supporting the war or peaceful alternatives.

For the first time in 1975, the Outdoor Advertising, Inc. (OAI) created a campaign to measure the effectiveness of billboard advertising. They displayed Shirley Cochran (newly crowned Miss America) on billboards across the country. Results demonstrated that her name recognition increased 940% following the campaign. Outdoor Billboard Companies now help fund other industry studies to showcase how powerful outdoor advertising is for many brands. 

From that point on, OOH methods broadened to include: advertising benches, transit shelters, digital screens, moving billboards, etc. Innovative and creative designs and means are continuously appearing over the years.

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