Hungry for OOH: OOH and the Restaurant Industry

Imagine you are walking down the street when suddenly your stomach starts to growl. That’s a call for lunch! While walking, you notice a massive advertisement of a restaurant, and bingo, you’re there! This is one of the beauties of outdoor advertising when combined with restaurant branding. 

There is no doubt that food businesses can take advantage of outdoor advertising to reach a more extensive customer base. Managers and restaurant owners can benefit from a billboard marketing campaign that is affordable and effective. In 2015, restaurants ranked fourth among the top ten advertisers who spend the most on outdoor advertisements. A survey by Arbitron discovered that nearly 4 out of 10 people (39%) who visited the store saw the ads on billboards. 

The one thing we all have in common is our love of food. In places like the United States, indoor dining is once again available to the public. Food advertising has stirred up people’s appetites; people have been waiting a long time to eat their favourite dishes at their favourite restaurants. While food photography plays a significant role in today’s restaurant advertising, communicating a clear message and establishing strong branding are equally important. 

In this article, we will look at some of the best restaurant billboard designs that have left a mark and see what we can learn from them:


The marketing and advertising approach of McDonald’s has made it one of the best fast food chains in the world. McDonald’s golden arches are the most widely recognized advertisements in the US, and they successfully differentiate themselves from the competition. 

A segment of this campaign is the work of Cossette to funnel drivers off the road at intersections where there are McDonald’s’. Evoking wizards of Oz themed ad, viewers are urged to ‘Follow the Arches’ which is a four-billboard design campaign (three static and one digital) across Toronto, Canada. Andrew Mumford, regional marketing supervisor at one McDonald’s branch said, “The campaign is a playful example of how the arches are recognizable, even when the consumer only sees a portion of the logo.” 

Cossette Atlantica, an advertising agency, posted an advertisement on a lamp post in Vancouver that appeared to pour coffee into a giant cup as part of a national campaign to promote McDonald’s restaurants. At that time, McDonald’s was offering free coffee cups to draw customers to its breakfast counter. Somewhere in the same city, transit shelters were transformed into an ‘hourglass of coffee beans‘, with endless amounts of coffee beans reminding people of the short-term promotions of McDonald’s.

McDonald’s’ ‘Fresh Box Salad’ was another creative and award-winning outdoor advertising campaign that they created. McDonald’s and HeyeGroup created this poster to resemble fresh salad vegetables, changing a bus shelter into a refrigerator. In June 2008, the ad won a Silver Outdoor Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival and a Gold award at the Montreux International Advertising and Media Festival in April 2009.

McDonald’s has always been regarded as one of the most creative advertisers. These advertising campaigns are so unique and clever and it has surely taken a lot of brainstorming and creativity to create these outstanding advertisements.


Everyone in the world has been affected by COVID-19. As everyone remained focused on washing their hands and maintaining social distance on March 12, 2020, KFC, the big food chain  chose not to use the 64-year-old slogan ‘Finger Lickin Good’ due to the pandemic. In one statement put out by the fried chicken company, KFC global chief marketing officer Catherine Tan-Gillespie said, “We’re in a unique position – having an iconic slogan that does not fit in the current environment.”  Outdoor advertising for London included a disclaimer as well.

Additionally, the big banners and TV commercials of KFC blurred the slogans. 

The same agency designed the chicken chain’s first global ads after five months, and they were still very much focused on COVID cleanliness. In the new ad, the customers were advised to be careful when licking their fingers. “This is a big step for us, but let’s be honest, our slogan is probably the most inappropriate out there right now. It’s not that people’s behaviour is wrong. It’s our bad, not theirs.” said KFC in a statement. 

In‌ ‌2018, KFC ran another ad campaign after receiving heavily worded feedback from consumers in response to a tweet reading “Dear KFC, Everyone doesn’t like your fries. Yours sincerely, The entire World.” KFC didn’t simply ignore the responses after receiving feedback, they spent money to promote a tweet along with Mother, which developed a marketing campaign showing that they listened to the public and would roll out new fries in November. 

Burger King

Another creative way to make a billboard effective is to alter the canvas as shown by this Burger King ad campaign. As the ad states, “It’s Extra Thick,” the campaign advertises the steakhouse burger’s size by showing it breaking the billboard because of the massive size of the burger. 

With 328 restaurants, Burger King has established itself well in France; however, the brand still hasn’t spread to all places. In one campaign, Burger King and Buzzman threw customers false directions on an advertisement that led them to nowhere, thereby encouraging them to try their new delivery service. This campaign was made to promote their new delivery service Deliveroo. 

What now?

Now we have several ideas about what role OOH billboards can play in marketing brand names. The designs we saw were great, some promoting their own products, and some making changes to 64-year-old slogans as the times changed. Each step taken by these big companies is beneficial in marketing their brands, and one of the best ways to do this is through outdoor advertising, as these ads are simple, loud, and highly effective. Let’s admit it, they work!

Restaurants have always been marketing their new deals and products. Currently, 40% of the budget of a restaurant goes to marketing their brand. QSR magazine reported anonymous survey data showing fast food chains partnered with outdoor advertising billboard companies to promote breakfast items at their franchises using big, printed digital billboards in eight DMAs (Designated Market Areas). The OOH team also set up geofences to track vehicles that crossed over these billboards, and the results were impressive. All participating markets saw an average 20% increase in in-store traffic, while the breakfast hour showed a 26% boost. This shows how successful OOH campaigns can be if they are done right.

OAAA & Harris Poll report “Consumer Insights & Intent: Q1 2021” reveals that after a year of Covid lockdown, OOH campaigns will become more prevalent as consumers from major cities start to travel again and restaurants reopening. People will begin embracing outdoor activities more often, due to which OOH ads have gained more attention than digital ads. “People are eager to make up for lost time,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll said in a press release. Additionally, reports suggest that 78% of millennials are interested in outdoor activities, while 82% of Gen Zers seek outdoor dining options, providing additional opportunities for OOH advertising.

Over half of fast food consumers noticed a billboard at an outdoor location in the last 30 days, according to a Simons study. According to the same study, more than 40% of customers find TV ads very annoying. Based on these statistics, it is clear that Over-the-Hill advertising is an excellent medium for marketers to market their brands and attract customers.

Adverts in any format can be effective, but customers are getting to the point where they fast-forward or skip advertisements or simply block them completely. Billboards are the most noticeable and least annoying of all advertisement formats. According to 85% of consumers, the site is useful and 83% believe it is informative. In terms of advertising growth, OOH media is consistently one of the top three. Aside from increasing traffic to your favourite store or restaurant, OOH advertisements also promote online channels and delivery services. 

OOH is always a win-win solution!

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