Copywriting 101: 7 Tips For Writing The Perfect OOH Ad Headline

Times square ooh billboard advertising

The secret to getting and holding the attention of customers has always been the perfect marketing tagline. The headlines that stand out are those that not only  cause people to remember them, but also share them with others. Humorous, catchy, memorable, and impactful imagery, or a combination of all of the above, are what make the best headlines. They are also what prompt consumers to look for  those products later.

As the online market space becomes  crowded with banners and pop-up ads, the out of home advertising territory  still reigns supreme. The advertisements at every airport, on every roadside, and bus stop, remain the only ads that can’t be swiped away or ignored, although they can be overlooked or lost in an oversaturated area. Below are 7 ways to ensure your headline stands out in the crowd.

1. Visual Text

OOH advertising times square in 2008

Motorists speeding down a highway, listening to blaring music, with one eye on their GPS map, while at the same time  waiting for a call, already have their attention spread thin. Size alone won’t be enough for a roadside billboard to leave a noticeable  impression.  

Think big and be bold. Make sure your headline is easy to read. Calligraphy may look great on stationery but can be difficult to view  at 65mph. Even with 672 square feet of space available (the largest standard-sized billboard), the need to be able to read the complete message from a distance can still end up causing a problem. Strong colors are just as important in getting the message across. If your brand or products have a subdued color theme, try to incorporate them in a smaller logo while using bolder colors in the main area.

A general rule of thumb is seven words or less to be readable at a high speed. So keep your message short, sweet, and highly visible.

2. Imagery

Choose your images well. High-resolution is a must if it is going to be expanded into larger sizes. Make sure the image and your text complement each other with color, positioning, and tone. Adorable or shocking images, combined with a “Now that I have your attention…” tagline, has also been an effective approach.

Be responsible with your imaging and text. Always keep in mind that out-of-home ads will be seen by all ages. There are no filters or restrictions, so a clever phrase that suggests an  innuendo, may ultimately be harmless and acceptable but should be done carefully and with  heavy review. Additionally, texts and images that may be socially insensitive or have a negative impact on a specific ethnicity or religious body should also be handled with care. 

For ideas of successful visual ads, look through Pinterest or Instagram. Searching for products related to your own (or just billboards in general) will result in  numerous examples while giving you real-time statistics. Both platforms can provide a quick view of how shareable the images  are through shares, likes, comments, or pins.

3. Memorability

Remember your audience. If your company specializes in an area with industry-specific terms and acronyms, it can be tempting to include those in your ad. However, keep in mind you’re aiming for memorability, not exclusivity. More than one deal has been made from an offhand remark by the receptionist who noticed an ad on their  way into work. You want everyone who sees it to be able to pass it on to others.

Apply humor. With caution. A clever turn of phrase works great for some companies, but what one person finds humorous can just as easily turn another away. Furthermore, a catchy but smart slogan that sticks in someone’s mind and makes them smile is more likely to be shared . With the strong presence of social media, a quick snap of a well-done ad can spread easily if it has either humor or impact.

4. Uniqueness

Truck advertising moslon export

Expand your thinking. Traditional billboards and advertisements in a frame on a bench may not fit your brand’s image.  Wall murals, chalk writings, and hand-drawn designs give a very different feel than neon lighting and pristine photography. Decide at the beginning what feeling you want to evoke. The familiarity of a neighborhood fixture. The fast-moving speed of an up-and-coming tech innovator. Solid reliability or whimsy and spontaneity.

5. Minimalism

Make your message simple and easy to remember. Clever enough to make an impression, but not confusing. People move at a fast pace. Many spend 3 seconds per post when glancing through social media. Headlines prompt investigation and inspire curiosity.  

6. Creativity

OOH cab advertising in London

Start with a free-thinking session. Write down every idea, thought, and theory. Trying to immediately come up with the right phrase usually doesn’t get results.  

If you make physical products, put some in front of you so that you have the colors and the feel in your line of sight while you think. For a microbrewery, line up the bottles and remember the reasons for the names each one was given. Toys for dogs? List the reasons you decided to make your own and what makes them different from the competition. 

Imagine trying to explain  your product’s outstanding features – unique, clever, useful, beautiful, or utilitarian – to someone who has never heard of it. Answer these questions and create your headline from the results.

  • Does it solve a problem? 
  • Create comfort?  
  • Attract attention?
  • Inspire a feeling of exclusivity or luxury?
  • What does it offer that is new or unique?

Remember, seven words or less. High-speed visibility. Brevity and boldness. 

7. Writing

Creating a headline that accomplishes everything you need can be a daunting task. Bringing all of your available creative talent to the table gives you memorable and exciting products that you want to share with everyone, but getting that attention in a saturated world is a high mountain to climb. 

So don’t limit yourself. Trying to do it all in-house can sound like a  great idea in the beginning, but can rapidly become overwhelming. There are numerous services that can provide expertise. A little research online will give you a variety of options, full-service sites such as The Content Panel, and social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are great search areas to find memorable ads. These online spaces  have proven to be popular and writer forums and service providers can connect you with talent as well.

Professional ad writers can take some of the weight off, but the final decision always comes back to you. Make sure what you receive and put out in the world represents your brand and your vision. Whether you write it yourself or find outside talent to assist you, the headline that makes it out the door should embody  your style.

Try not to dismiss any ideas at first. Write it all down and then start filtering. It’s easy to dismiss something as unusable when it’s not in front of you, sometimes it takes seeing words together to realize they enhance the meaning. 

Size, fonts, spacing, and distance, is always critical. Whether you expect your ad to be viewed from a car, on a train, in the backseat of a taxi, or along the sidewalk, always keep the perspective in mind.

Consider your audience at all times. Maybe they are trendy, formal, reliable, exciting, or technical — all of which influence the final result. 

Final Words

Billboard advertising in London at night

In the end, your headlines should be easy to read, easy to remember, and easy to share. 

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