Evolution of OOH Advertisements

The earliest and most effective form of advertising has been outdoor advertising. As the internet has taken over, digital media has transformed into what it is today. Despite this, out-of-home (OOH) advertising remains one of the most effective strategies in marketing for building brand awareness. In this article, we will be diving into the history of the OOH industry and discussing the major trends and shifts that have made the medium what it is today. 

This form of advertising can be traced back all the way to ancient civilizations- most notably, Egyptian colonies. Dating back thousands of years, tall stone obelisks were erected, used to publicize laws and treaties. For centuries, this mode of advertising has been shown to withstand the test of time, and while by and large, the content has changed, the medium still shows to have unbeatable selling points that others simply cannot recreate. 

History of OOH Advertisements

The 1830s

The first billboard, as we know it, was created in the year 1830 by a man named Jared Bell, who created a series of early billboards. In order to bring in the audience, he envisioned advertising the circus act Barnum and Bailey on a large, colourful, poster billboard that originated in New York – a billboard over 50 square feet in size.

The 1860s

In the 1850s, outdoor advertisements started to appear and a major change occurred around 1860.  Businesses began purchasing space to use for billboards, and soon they started performing different experiments and created different billboards in accordance with the laws. Sometimes they were hand-painted and sometimes they were hand-drawn. According to OAAA, billboard leasing began in 1867, then in 1870 there were nearly 300 sign-paintings, and in 1872, the International Bill Posters’ Association of North America was formed in St. Louis.

For centuries, billboards have been in use. For example, those who traveled on foot, horses, or by pulling carriages would find the posters very helpful to tell them where the nearest inn was located. These roadside signs were used to aid travelers in finding food and shelter. 

The 1890s

In 1891, the Associated Bill Posters’ Association of the United States and Canada was formed in Chicago, which later changed its name to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). The association’s goal was to provide nationwide coordination of services and promote understanding of the poster medium.

Automobiles and Outdoor Advertisements

Due to the boom in automobiles, the OOH advertising industry followed suit Marketers realized the great potential of using long stretches of highways for advertising since automobiles encourage travel and mobility. Travelers were, in turn, compelled to be informed regarding landmarks, attractions, and hospitality on the road.

During the early 20th century, the Model T car was one of the first affordable cars and was swiftly adopted as the primary mode of transportation because of its affordability, and other modes of transport such as trains and horses were relegated to secondary positions. Adding more automobiles to the road system allowed for better highways, which allows advertisers to benefit from prime advertising space. After the Interstate Highway System- which runs 49,000 miles and connects different states-  was formed, billboards gained an extraordinary level of success. Hundreds of businesses used this highway for the advertisements such as Coca-Cola and Palmolive. 

Coca-Cola is a great brand to follow when it comes to OOH advertising. Throughout the 60s and 2000s, this top brand found innovative ways to market their campaigns. Artist Haddon Sundbom was hired by CocaCola to illustrate their holiday billboard campaign in the year 1930. The billboard showed Santa with a big belly and jolly red cheeks. 

1942 marked the first year that OAAA introduced OBIE awards, and the Coca-Cola “Yes Girl” design won the first Best of Show Award. 

Despite its immense success in OOH campaigns and its commitment to brand awareness, Coca Cola has held on to one of the most highly coveted advertising spots for more than 50 years, the Piccadily Lights. Delony Sledge, the advertising director at Coca Cola in 1959, was asked why Coca Cola championed the OOH site and he replied, “I would not, by any far stretch of the imagination, do away with the Piccadilly Circus sign. I am sure that it has added to the extraordinary quality of Coca-Cola all over the world.”

The history of Coca Cola goes back to 2000, when its first digital billboards lit up in Times Square. More recently in 2017, Coca-Cola unveiled its first 3D billboard, the largest 3D Robotic billboard in the world, at the same place. 

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965

We haven’t alway handsfree highway advertising. A highway beautification act was signed into law on October 22, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This limited how many billboards could be placed on highways, as well as regulating factors like the size, spacing, and lighting. In the interest of staying within the regulations, creative marketers took this as a challenge and came up with creative and engaging designs.

The Smoking Man Campaign- 1970

By 1970, tobacco companies shifted their marketing efforts from mass media to out-of-home. In Winston’s smoking man campaign, a stream of smoke flowed from his mouth as he showed a thumbs up, demonstrating chain smoking’s carefree nature. This became a rising trend in OOH advertising. Tobacco advertising, however, was banned in 1972! 

After the Outdoor Advertising Inc campaign was launched in 1975, a billboard campaign featuring Shirley Cochran, Miss America III, resulted in a 940 percent increase in brand recognition across the country.

Present Day

The reason why outdoor advertisements have become bigger, brighter, and more creative over the years has to do with a few major factors; firstly, the larger and brighter the ad is, the farther away you can spot it. Second, rising competition has fueled the race to technological innovations in outdoor advertising– digital out-of-home, by and large, is a product of increasing competition. Lastly, the more efficiently companies can spend their advertising dollars through scheduling technologies, the better. . Hand Painted and computer printed materials were the standard for advertising at the beginning of the 1990s, but with the outdoor advertising industry quickly evolving, we’re seeing more dynamic, technology-centric creatives. 

A variety of outdoor advertising formats were available from outdoor companies, including bus shelters, tranists, airport advertising, and mall displays. 

In the early 2000s, LED light and digital billboards were popular and rose in popularity dramatically.  Today, there are many smart sensor billboards since technology has advanced. Over time, the industry has been evolving by introducing new ways to market products and services, such as graffiti billboards, 3D elements, smart sensors, facial recognition, and also augmented reality. As a result, consumers have begun interacting with outdoor advertisements in completely new ways. 

There are more OOH advertisements these days than ever before! The United States today has almost 2 million billboards, including local and state highways. The development of better ideas, better collections has opened the door to creating better advertisements. A number of companies are utilizing augmented reality and virtual reality to engage their targeted audience while also gaining brand awareness. 

Wrap Up

As early as the beginning of time, man’s need to advertise and market, to share feelings, and to uplift each other can be seen. The use of billboards helped in educating people and informing them about the rising prices of products. OOH advertisements have been very effective and they have become one of the most important means to address cultural issues and any social cause. One of the reasons billboards reach a targeted audience so quickly is because the billboards are large and relatively affordable as opposed to other advertising mediums. Billboards have always contributed to the growth of society. 

As we all know, everything changes over time, and this extends to OOH advertising as well. In addition to dynamic displays and high-impact outdoor placements, some experiential activations have evolved into memorable and highly engaging displays. Billboard advertising is involved with a variety of materials and innovations today whereas smarter and faster OOH systems continue to improve as they become more technologically advanced. Despite everyday innovations and methods for advertising outdoors, OOH shows no signs of slowing down, and the future holds much promise for this medium. With so many creative designs coming up every day for outdoor advertisements, marketers continue to surprise their target audience and therefore, billboards are definitely here to stay! 

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