How OOH Is Changing the Game For Music Advertisements

As one of the oldest art forms on earth, creating and listening to music is something that we’ve had the pleasure of indulging in for thousands and thousands of years. Music is something that brings people together, across all languages and all cultures. It’s also what sets great musicians and artists apart. In today’s world, music is being produced in mass quantities at a very fast rate, with millions of songs available to the public at the click of a button. Now more than ever, it’s difficult for artists to stand out and be heard through all the noise. Over the past decade however, the music industry has been turning to out-of-home (OOH) advertising to make an impact on listeners around the globe. Iconic artists, like Drake and Miley Cyrus, have been teasing their upcoming albums through cheeky, yet eye-catching billboard ads. The streaming platform mogul, Spotify, has been celebrating listener habits through remarkable and bold integrated OOH campaigns. In this article, we’ll look at how and why the music industry is taking advantage of OOH promotion and provide some amazing examples of artists and companies who are boosting their engagement using OOH.

The tease-and-reveal

An image of a black and white billboard that says, "The 6 is watching". It also has praying hands in the middle.

One major way that artists and bands have leveraged OOH advertising to promote themselves is through tease-and-reveal campaigns. Music makers will use cryptic messaging on billboards to engage their fans, create hype around the big reveal, and most importantly, get people circulating their music. This ‘less is more’ tactic excites people because it involves them without giving away too much. People enjoy being captivated through the enticement of a teaser ad, especially because it makes the eventual product all the more worth it. In 2018, after a year of silence, the band Twenty-One Pilots began posting mysterious OOH billboards around different cities, such as Berlin, London, and Toronto that featured the band’s new logo. Fans of the band immediately took to social media to circulate photos of the cryptic logo and offered theories about the meaning of the ads. The band eventually revealed on Twitter that two new songs would soon be released, a new album would be coming soon, and an eventual world tour would be announced! 

An image of a city street with a bunch of yellow and black posters. In the middle of the posters there is a black outline of a circle with a random symbol in the middle in black as well.

More recently, Miley Cyrus partnered with the OOH ad company, MilkMoney, to promote her newly released EP called “She Is Coming”. Miley promoted the EP with big, bold, and colourful OOH digital ads that were plastered with the hotline number 1-833-SHE-IS-MC, daring her fans to call and listen to unreleased music and leave private messages. The campaign went on to generate 105 million impressions and over 100 million earned impressions, with MilkMoney winning MediaPost’s 2019 Digital OOH Award for Best Integration with Traditional and/or Digital Media.

An image of a poster that displays Miley Cyrus holding a phone to her ear. The poster says, "She is coming" and provides a number to call.

The use of OOH advertising to tease listeners, while at the same time allowing them to interact with the message, provides the artist or band with yet another creative outlet to entice and promote their audience in a way that feels more personal than any other medium. 

Spotify Does It Best Using OOH

One of the biggest and most successful music-related OOH campaigns was created in 2017 by the music-streaming mogul, Spotify. Since the campaign began, Spotify concludes the year (or the decade) with OOH billboards that capture the biggest cultural moments and streaming trends that were inspired by the app – calling the campaign, Spotify “Wrapped”. In 2018, Spotify launched various OOH ads across 21 markets, including transport hubs like Penn Station in New York and Sao Paulo in Brazil. The OOH billboards included bold and vibrant colouring that included some of the biggest and most popular user listening habits over the past decade. In Sao Paulo, for example, each station on the yellow line of the train revealed a different year of music and what people were listening to each year. 

an image of a train station with posters that plaster all of the walls. The ad is for Spotify and they are bright green blue and pink and have different dates and names of places on them.

During the same campaign, one billboard showed the number of people who streamed “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” last year during the solar eclipse! Another featured the number of streams of Mariah Carey’s, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” over the year at London’s Westfield Mall. This billboard was strategically placed so that during the upcoming holiday season, snow would be falling over the billboard — combining both digital and physical features. 

An image of a billboard that demonstrates the number of streams that Total Eclipse of the Heart had the week of the solar eclipse in 2017. The ad also shows Bonnie Tyler's head numerous times.

The billboards also encouraged people to log onto the website to see who they had been listening to over the decade, including each listener’s personal analytics — which users then shared like crazy across all social media platforms. Personalization plays a critical role in these campaigns, which is one of the major reasons why it blew up. Collecting listener data and then using that data to create a better user experience is exactly the kind of marketing that today’s consumers love to see. The “Wrapped” campaign is also such a huge success because it combines OOH advertising with digital and social media, which is such a popular and fun way to engage the public. Especially since research shows that 70% of a consumer’s day is spent outside the home, and 68% of mobile usage is done on-the-go, thus the two formats compliment each other perfectly.

In 2019, when brands began to realize that the Gen Z and Millennial demographics are the key audiences to target, Spotify created a “Music For Every Mood” campaign. This OOH-focused campaign aimed to deepen the relationship with the younger generations by creating relatable and satiric billboards that highlighted certain playlists and songs that younger users would resonate with. The colourful and quirky billboard ads were a huge success in engaging with their target audience and increasing engagement. 

An image of a billboard for Spotify that is displayed in bright pink and dark blue. The ad shows a popular meme that says, "Me: It's okay, the breakup was mutual." and then, "Also me:" and then an image of a Sad Indie playlist.

This year, Spotify is going to launch a new global campaign called “Music, Meet Podcasts”. The OOH campaign will highlight the new platform on the app called “Listening is Everything”, which will connect listeners to each other over the app through music and podcasts. The campaign will center around how listening plays a role in our everyday lives and how we connect to what we listen to, with others. It will include a series of digital videos that feature artists, like Calvin Harris, and how they relate to great minds like Michelle Obama. Just like some of Spotify’s other campaigns, it will combine social, digital, and OOH advertising (the ultimate combo) and involve a number of digital OOH billboards. 

It comes as no surprise that according to the company’s Q1 2020 statistics, Spotify has 286 million monthly active users, which is an increase from 271 million at the end of last year. The biggest and best brands are investing a lot of their money in OOH advertising because it creates such wide-spread user engagement, which leads to greater popularity and profit. 

Amazon’s go big or go home approach

Another music streaming service giant, Amazon Music, erected a 79-foot tall replica of their Echo speaker in the middle of Times Square to promote their new unlimited music service. The billboard also highlighted the speaker’s lyric search feature by including the text, “Alexa, play the song that goes ‘Love is all you need’.” The combination of the larger-than-life OOH billboard and the endearing text-based creative, work to catch the consumer’s eye, and keep it. According to Amazon, the bigger and bolder, the better — and that proves true with this OOH ad.

An image of a giant billboard for Amazon music that displays a gigantic speaker and says "Alexa, play the song that goes... Love Is All You Need".

Publicity and OOH boosts brand awareness

Not only are artists and streaming services using OOH to promote themselves, but brands are also using OOH to capitalize on the publicity surrounding award nights put on by the music industry. Last year, Apple ran a series of billboards around LA right before the 2019 Grammy Awards that featured nominated artists, such as Ariana Grande and Kacey Musgraves. The billboards depicted the artists’ most recent albums, but instead of using the same album visuals, they used Bitmoji’s. Apple placed these billboards close to the Staples Centre (where the Grammy’s were going to be held) in the hopes of being seen by the thousands of new eyes that would be coming to the city. The billboards also displayed the Music App on Iphone and told people to listen to the nominated albums there. 

An image of three large poster billboards that line a hotel building. The ad is for Apple Music and displays three different album covers from Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande, and Kasey Musgraves.


The best and most effective way to get your music heard and to promote music in general, is by using OOH advertising. OOH cuts through the clutter and gives artists a platform to display their music in a fun and unique way. OOH also reaches way more people than any other advertising medium and does so in a way that entices listeners. If anything should be taken away from this article, it’s the fact that the best ads are the ones that aren’t about the company, they’re about the customers. If you can let your customers relate to the story you’re telling, the same way that they relate to your music, you will succeed in gaining their interest. And the best way to showcase that, is through OOH advertising.

Talk to a Mobile Billboard specialist today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *