Companies that Spend the Most on OOH Advertising and Why

There’s a reason why some of the most influential and profitable companies in the world invest their money in Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising. Companies like McDonald’s and Amazon understand that in order to have growth year over year, you have to invest in well-rounded advertising strategies. To establish a cohesive, creative, and engaging online presence is impressive, but to stay ahead of the curve means integrating outdoor advertisements. Brands are coming to realize that the use of OOH advertising will put them ahead of their competitors. According to Business Insider, digital OOH (DOOH) ad spending will rise by 19.2% in 2021. Moreover, the number of digital billboards in the U.S. reached 9,600 in H1 2020 and growing. These numbers are growing because of companies like McDonald’s and Amazon who are trailblazers within the advertising world and are forcing other companies to follow in their footsteps. Let’s take a look at which companies are currently spending the most on outdoor advertising and why it’s paid off.

An article created by Marketing Charts found that in the first quarter of 2020, Apple, McDonald’s, GEICO, Amazon, and HBO were the top 5 OOH advertising spenders. What do all of these companies have in common? They are leaders in their respective industry categories. Each of these companies have massive advertising budgets to begin with, so it’s no surprise that they invest a large portion of that budget into OOH advertising. However, they also understand the value that OOH advertising can bring to each of their companies, which is why they are the leading spenders of the medium.

McDonald’s and OOH

According to Statista, McDonald’s spends the most money on advertising in comparison to its fellow big-name QSR chains. This is not surprising considering the nature of McDonald’s as a global household name and the fact that the total revenue they generate plus the sheer size of the company makes up for their advertising costs. One of the major factors that sets them apart from their competitors is brilliantly creative OOH advertising campaigns.

An image of the rising sun next to a billboard for a McDonald's McMuffin.

Back in 2015, in collaboration with Cossette media, McDonald’s created a digital billboard in harmony with the movement of the sun. The billboard featured the infamous McDonald’s Egg McMuffin that rose up the billboard just as the sun did in the morning. The billboard was synced to the sunrise so that as the sun rose, the Egg McMuffin did too. The OOH ad won the Carte Blanche OOH contest and was circulated online for months as one of McDonald’s most innovative ad campaigns.

An image of a billboard for McDonald's that just has the golden arches on it but is in the shape of a McDonald's fry container. The billboard has yellow light beams coming out of the top to represent fries.

Another extremely creative multi-tiered, non-traditional OOH ad campaign McDonald’s created was their famous “Fry Lights” campaign. They created a billboard that would light up at night with yellow beams that resembled McDonald’s fries. The billboard simply said, “Best fries on the planet”. McDonald’s fries are a symbol of some of the best quality fast food in the industry and so by creating an OOH ad campaign that matched the quality of the brand was simply perfect.

3 different billboards for McDonald's. The have McDonald's french fries in the shape of directional signs to demonstrate the way to the nearest location.

Similarly, in 2019 McDonald’s created a billboard campaign that led customers to their restaurants with creative drawings of their fries. In collaboration with TBWA/Paris, McDonald’s featured their iconic fries in a series of simple and brightly coloured posters that transform the fries into directional arrows for drivers. The billboards would also include phrases like, “2nd exit at the roundabout”, or, “Turn right”. This was another brilliant way for McDonald’s to capitalize on one of their products that people already know and love and creatively use it to their advantage.

An image of a McDonald's billboard that is made of soil and all the different types of lettuce that are in their salads. Overtime you can see the lettuce grow to make out the words, "Fresh Salads".

In order to promote their new salad options, McDonald’s created a billboard that literally grew lettuce in order to create hype and awareness of the new items. McDonald’s first found a south-facing billboard that would get maximum sunlight and then planted the 17 varieties of lettuce that go into McDonald’s salads onto the billboard. Over the span of three weeks, thousands of heads of lettuce grew with the help of gardeners who watered and pruned it twice a day. After three weeks, the billboard spelled out, “Fresh Salads”. The OOH ad campaign was a huge success, gaining a 30% sales increase in the area that the billboard was located with more than 546,000 salads sold. The campaign was also covered by local broadcast media and numerous national and international publications.

These are just a few examples of times when McDonald’s went above and beyond to create outdoor ad campaigns that shocked and inspired the world. They also inspired other fast food chains to step up their advertising game, setting a precedent for the industry and demonstrating to the world just how influential and original McDonald’s can be.

Apple and OOH

The Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) reported that the top spenders in OOH advertising in the first quarter of 2020 were technology or D2C brands. They also revealed that Apple was the third-largest spender in OOH advertising during the second quarter of 2020. Just like McDonald’s, Apple is a leader within its industry. Apple also understands the value of OOH advertising as a medium that can help them engage with their loyal followers in a more meaningful way.

The world renowned “Shot on iPhone” campaign is one of the many outdoor advertisements that Apple has created to directly engage and inspire its audiences. A campaign that began in 2015, has become an annual phenomenon that features photography made by people on their iPhones. The photos are always inspiring and emphasize the endless possibilities that iPhone offers its users. One of the brilliant reasons why Apple is able to market themselves so well is by using consumer-generated creations as the product itself rather than the result of the product. They are, in a sense, allowing their customers to create the advertisements for them, which allows the product to speak for itself. For a more in-depth analysis of Apple’s amazing outdoor advertising, check out this article.


Since there are always new TV shows and movies to promote, HBO takes to OOH advertising in order to get the word out. The streaming platform is constantly looking for ways to promote new ads in cost-effective and easy ways – especially since the message is always changing. OOH advertising provides HBO with the tools to quickly and easily promote new shows and movies as they premier. Furthermore, according to OOHToday, HBO viewers are 9% more likely to say they noticed an OOH ad in the last 30 days. Their target demographic can recall OOH advertising more easily and so they take advantage of that by advertising using outdoor mediums.

An image of an HBO outdoor advertisement that is a projection of the inside of an apartment building. The fake apartments are lit up to display what's going on inside each.

Besides their regular billboard promotions, HBO has produced some spectacularly creative OOH ads. In collaboration with BBDO, an advertising agency, HBO created a live-action OOH campaign to promote their programming. At night, the view of eight well-lit apartments and four stairwells were shown on the side of a building in downtown Manhattan with choreographed films of the people living inside the building. The campaign then extended to, HBO On Demand, and HBO Mobile, where people could play around with the characters in the building. 3,200 people ended up visiting the Manhattan event, over 1 million users visited within the first 3 weeks, and the campaign won the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. Needless to say, the campaign was a huge success in creating brand awareness and engagement.


GEICO and McDonald’s remain the biggest spenders on OOH advertising. Although GEICO’s OOH advertisements aren’t the most aesthetically appealing, they are everywhere, and they are interesting. Besides saturating the OOH landscape, GEICO ads are also iconic since their introduction of the famous mascot, the gecko, back in 1999. The auto insurance company is the second largest in the United States allowing them to allocate a lot of their ad spend on outdoor advertisements. They also know how to utilize characters in their ads that consumers find personable and memorable.

An image of a billboard with a GEICO ad on it. The billboard includes the infamous GEICO gecko.

While being one of the top OOH ad spenders, GEICO also likes to feature their billboard ads in their TV commercials. This demonstrates how often consumers see the GEICO brand on the roads and across cities everywhere. By using OOH in their commercials, GEICO adds that extra level of relatability for consumers. It also adds a sense of brand awareness on a grander scale, making it apparent why GEICO depends so heavily on outdoor advertising.

Amazon and OOH

Amazon was the 6th largest spender in OOH advertising during Q2 of this year. It’s also worth more than $1.7 trillion, making it the second-most valuable company in the United States behind only Apple. Amazon uses outdoor advertising to appear more tangible and real in the eyes of consumers. People respond best to things they can see as well as physical objects that tell them about a company. For Amazon, it is the most effective form of advertising because it allows them to connect with consumers not solely online, but also in real life.

An image of a massive billboard in the middle of Times Square in NYC. The billboard is an ad for Amazon Music and includes a giant Amazon speaker.

In New York City, Amazon created an outdoor billboard that stood at 80 feet tall. They wanted to promote the new Amazon Echo in a big and bold way. The Times Square billboard was one of the largest advertising instalments ever created in the Square, breaking the record held by Pepsi from the 1940s. With the ad budget that Amazon has, they have the ability to create outdoor advertisements that literally and figuratively tower above the rest.

An image of a giant billboard ad for Amazon Music. The billboard displays two artists.

In collaboration with Brotherhood Media, Amazon created a DOOH campaign across London and the UK to promote Amazon Music. Brotherhood Media targeted high traffic areas that offered new creatives each week with music from Ed Sheeran, Dizzee Rascal, Sam Smith, and more. The outdoor ad campaign helped to bolster the already extremely successful streaming platform and further cemented Amazon Music as one of the top music streaming services in the world.

Wrap Up

The biggest and most influential companies in the world understand the impact that OOH advertising has on their respective companies. And it’s not just because the size of their advertising budgets are so enormous. Creating advertising that is both engaging and can reach people on the most widespread scale possible is imperative for any company to stay competitive. That’s why smaller businesses continue to follow in the footsteps of mega-brands like McDonald’s and Apple. Everyone should be utilizing OOH advertising in their marketing mix, it would be a total waste not to.

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