OOH in the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare has always been one of the most pressing matters in the eye of the public. Especially during the pandemic, the limelight shines over the pharmaceutical industry brighter than ever before. With limited social gatherings and interactions, mass shutdowns of public spaces, along with declining ratings from traditional mediums, pharma companies are urged to modify their marketing strategies to reach their target audiences better. This is where out-of-home (OOH) advertising comes into play. This article will take a look at how OOH has been a great help in a successful marketing campaign for medicinal and healthcare services, together with some brilliant case studies.

Billboard saying "We're not immune to your courage. Thank you, healthcare professionals."


It is an undeniable fact that advertising takes up a huge portion of monetary investment in the U.S., and one of the biggest chunks goes to pharmaceutical companies. A report by Statista calculates the American’s direct-to-consumer ad spending in the period from 2012 and 2019. There is a clear upward trend throughout the years, with a peak of 6.46 billion U.S. dollars back in 2018. The finding also notes that the number representing 2019 is only for the first 9 months and has a similar increase rate as the previous year, 4.54 billion and 4.79 billion respectively. Another report by Zenith, also demonstrates a steady rise in the amount of pharmaceutical ad spend dollars in the U.S., at a yearly average of 6% during the period from 2013 to 2018, contributed greatly by the freedom of prescription medicine direct-to-consumer advertising only in America.

On the marketing side, in recent years, there is also a noticeable shift from using traditional mediums like television and radio to OOH and digital. According to Zenith, while television ad spend still takes up roughly half the total amount of pharmaceutical advertising, the number is shrinking every year and is predicted to continue going down by 5.2% in 2020 and 2021. This is at an alarmingly faster rate than the whole market, which is decreasing only about 1% per year. On the other hand OOH is rapidly making an impact, evidently by a strong increase of 11% in 2018 and an estimation of 15% in 2019. 

Billboard by Grady, presenting Douglas Ricks in cop uniform, saying "I wouldn't be here without Grady."

Why OOH For Pharma?

The reasons why OOH is growing rapidly in the pharmaceutical industry are endless. When it comes down to investments, one of the most noticeable features of OOH compared to other mediums is that it’s cost-effective and has a massive ROI. PJ Solomon’s monthly report in July 2019 shows that, based on CPM (Cost Per Mill/Cost Per Thousand), in comparison to four other advertising methods, OOH is one of the most cost-effective, taking only around $2-4 (with the exception of digital OOH). Nonetheless, among the same channels, the recall rate – how many people can remember an ad after being shown it – is incredible, with more than 50% for printed ads and up to 82% for digital. The 2018 summary report by COMMB also points out that OOH has about 6 times the revenue ROI, ranking in third right after digital search and television. And while it appears that TV and radio are in diminishing returns, the other three – namely OOH, digital displays, and newspapers – are still on the rise, with OOH being the most promising.

Wall billboard saying "In honor of all the brave nurses. Now and forever." in New York

Not only is it effective by itself, but OOH is also proven to work exceptionally well alongside other mediums to perfect a successful marketing campaign. Whatever one channel might lack, for example, visual presentation for radio, or the mass public reminder for television, OOH is the perfect complement to back it up. Especially in the case of social media, it’s more likely for a person to go look up a brand online after they have seen a billboard or a truck-side ad. Additionally, since there are no ad blockers in real life, OOH ads can reach a part of the audience that is untouchable by online marketing. Moreover, OOH can work hand-in-hand with mobile apps and websites, encouraging people to have fewer physical contacts due to Covid, while simultaneously increasing web traffic. With the advantage of being located in the open with their big, bold, and colorful designs and slogans, OOH can easily be presented to the general public, no matter what consumer group they are in, unlike other mediums that are more niche in their target market. 

LA Care billboard with an old woman and a kid dancing with wings behind them, with the text "Elevating healthcare in the city of angels since 1997"

During this time in the pandemic, OOH is one of the better choices for any pharmaceutical and healthcare company in terms of consumer engagement. As people are limited to their homes and essential areas, such as hospitals, now more than ever, marketing strategies are needed to change, in order to bring their message directly to these gathering spots.  Mobile advertising, especially truck-side ads, work perfectly well in this department. It’s the same idea as billboards, only with better mobility. Having an ad with the message for a new medicine or new insurance package plastered on the side of a truck, as well as constantly being on the move and passing through numerous residential areas, demonstrates the effectiveness of truck-side ads. What’s more convenient about this approach, is that healthcare companies can make use of existing delivery trucks and don’t have to do much else to gain better consumer engagement. 

Another extremely important aspect of the pharmaceutical industry is consumer trust. With medicine or insurance, it’s always boiled down to the ability to market a product and boost sales. When it comes to healthcare however, people are much more cautious and skeptical. With OOH, companies have a better chance of being in the public’s favor and gaining their loyalty. A recent study by Rapport finds an impressive 275% boost in consumers’ loyalty by using OOH, alongside the rise in the effectiveness of online advertising, paid search, and social media. Another research by Nielsen came to the conclusion that outdoor advertising holds a higher level of trust in brands than other mediums in general, and more surprisingly within the younger generations, showing 56% of millennials trusting OOH rather than online displays (48%), or videos (46%). 

Case studies

Delta Dental of Minnesota

Delta Dental's billboard stating "With great teeth, anything is possible.", next to 4 wrestlers fighting in the ring

The most outstanding example of a successful pharmaceutical campaign goes to Delta Dental, an independent and non-profit health services company in Minnesota. In 2014, having recognized the cruciality of raising awareness and boosting sales for Americans due to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, Delta Dental launched a grant OOH campaign all over the city. The campaign consisted of bus ads, posters, and digital bulletin networks for the duration of 12 weeks. The end result saw an almost perfect rate of individual and family dental plan subscriber enrollments (92%), as well as an impressive rise of 62% in website traffic in 2015 when compared to the previous year. 

The campaign was such a huge hit that, in 2015, Delta Dental of Minnesota received the OOH Media Plan of the Year Award hosted by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OOOA) and expanded to become a national campaign, as well as becoming the face case study for OOH effectiveness in the healthcare industry.

SickKids VS Limits

Children posing in front of SickKids' billboard

SickKids (affiliated with the University of Toronto) is Canada’s biggest and most care-intensive center focusing on children’s health across the nation. Initially started in 2016, they launched what has become an annual campaign with the title “SickKids VS”. The main purpose of the campaign was to shine a positive light on the bravery of children and their ongoing battles with illnesses. With the tagline, “Sick isn’t weak”, television commercials and posters made their presence all over central Toronto, showing the positivity and the immense strength of patients, along with heartfelt stories to inspire donors.Without saying, “SickKids VS” came to be a huge success and became an annual tradition for the foundation, with heavy production and mass OOH representation every year.


It is no doubt that OOH advertising has a strong role in the marketing industry and is still improving every day. OOH has proven to be of tremendous help in boosting awareness and sales and can be the necessary step for any company that wants to stand out among its competitors. 

CVFP MEdical group's billboard saying "Better health. Better life." with the illustration of a doctor and her patient

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