Out-of-Home Advertising Regulations: What You Need to Know Before You Advertise

Source- Movia Media

Out-of-home advertising regulations can vary significantly depending on the country, state, or local jurisdiction in which you plan to advertise. While there are various Out-of-Home advertising formats available, the primary association with outdoor advertising for many individuals is the classic highway Billboard. These Billboards represent a distinctive advertising method that exposes your advertisement to the public. Known officially as “Bulletins,” large format Billboards attract significant audience numbers as people engage in their daily routines.

Leading brands worldwide have embraced out-of-home (OOH) advertising as a strategic tool to reach new audiences, maintain top-of-mind awareness among existing customers, and convey their unique brand narrative effectively and authentically. Just as we analyze smaller brands to understand their hyperlocal and hyper-focused advertising strategies, we can also examine global enterprises’ “outernet” approach.

Source: thestrayferret

OOH Advertising Regulations

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 placed restrictions on the placement of Billboards along highways, particularly in rural, scenic, and agricultural areas, aiming to preserve the natural beauty along federal highways in the United States. While Billboard advertising is still permitted on many highways today, advertisers must be aware of various country, state, and local regulations worldwide that dictate where and how such advertisements can be displayed, based on the specific location and the nature of the products or services being promoted.

The Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) has established a set of voluntary industry principles in addition to complying with external laws and regulations. The OAAA endorses these principles and encourages its members to adhere to them for ethical and responsible advertising practices.

  1. Adherence to Free Speech Standards

Affirm the First Amendment right of advertisers to promote legal products and services. However, we also support media companies’ right to reject advertisements that are misleading, offensive, or not in line with community standards. We particularly oppose the display of obscene content in any form.

  1. Respect for Privacy

 Endorse responsible data use for advertising purposes and recognize the benefits of mobile and digital technology. We encourage transparency and control regarding the collection of precise location data from mobile devices for advertising purposes.

  1. Protection of Children

Take precautions when placing ads for products not intended for minors, ensuring they are displayed at a reasonable distance from places where children congregate. We support exclusionary zones and reasonable limits on advertising displays for such products.

  1. Support for Public Causes

Advocate for the use of out-of-home advertising for political, editorial, public service, and non-commercial messages. We are committed to providing pro bono public service space to support communities and worthy causes.

  1. Effective and Attractive Medium

Be dedicated to providing value and service to advertisers nationwide while maintaining the quality, appearance, and safety of advertising structures. We embrace new technologies to enhance service and information for advertisers and the public.

  1. Respect for the Environment

Promote environmentally friendly practices, including waste reduction, energy efficiency, and the use of recyclable materials in advertising.

  1. Safe Digital Billboards

Ensure that digital billboards display static messages without animated or distracting elements. We monitor ambient light conditions and adjust display brightness accordingly for optimal visibility and safety.

  1. Upholding Industry Self-Regulation

Support responsible billboard advertising practices in commercial and industrial areas, oppose illegal activities like illegal cutting or construction in scenic areas and advocate for the removal of illegally erected billboards without compensation.

  1. Protecting Billboard Industry Rights

Uphold the rights of out-of-home advertising companies to maintain lawfully erected billboards and support fair compensation for the removal of legal billboards as per applicable laws.

In summary, the OAAA’s voluntary industry principles reflect a commitment to ethical advertising practices, environmental responsibility, consumer privacy, and the promotion of public causes while ensuring the effectiveness and safety of billboard advertising. These principles guide member companies in upholding industry standards and fostering positive relationships with communities and stakeholders.

Billboard Regulations

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 imposed restrictions on the placement of Billboards along federal highways, particularly in rural, scenic, and agricultural areas, aiming to preserve the natural beauty of these areas in the United States. Despite these regulations, many highways still permit Billboard advertising today. However, advertisers must take into account various country, state, and local regulations worldwide, depending on the location and the nature of the products or services being promoted.

State and Local Regulations

The Highway Beautification Act (HBA) grants states significant power to implement controls on billboards, with local control authority derived from the states. Regulations concerning billboards differ across jurisdictions, with states and local governments typically issuing permits and levying fees to cover the expenses associated with managing billboard controls. It’s worth noting that regulation, rather than outright prohibition, is the prevailing approach. Professor Weinstein conducted a review of ordinances in 215 cities and discovered that the majority allow for the construction of new billboards.

Regulations of Digital Billboards

On September 25, 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provided clear guidance reaffirming the states’ authority to permit digital billboards, as long as they adhere to specific criteria. Digital billboards must not exhibit flashing, intermittent, or moving lights to comply with these guidelines. A majority of states, along with an increasing number of local jurisdictions, are moving forward to authorize the use of digital billboards. Typically, static messages on digital billboards display for durations of six to eight seconds, aligning with industry standards that remain consistent with federal regulations.

Extensive research, conducted both publicly and privately, has indicated no correlation between digital billboards and traffic accidents. For instance, in 2012, Massachusetts established regulations permitting digital billboards following a thorough examination of traffic accident data over several years. This evidence-based approach reflects a growing acceptance of digital billboard technology within the regulatory framework while prioritizing public safety considerations.

However, there are some common considerations you should be aware of before launching an out-of-home advertising campaign:

Permits and Permissions

 In many areas, you’ll need permits or permissions to display advertising signage in public spaces. These permits may be obtained from local government authorities or relevant regulatory bodies. Failure to obtain the necessary permits can result in fines or removal of your advertising.

Advertising signs on public lands

Numerous businesses in sectors like tourism and retail often request authorization to install advertising signs on public lands near roads or highways to market their services.

The Ministry will assess these signs considering the guidelines of road authorities, safety standards, and the conservation of scenic vistas.

Since sign placement requires minimal land investment, long-term authority, such as securing mortgage financing against the sign site or capitalizing the investment over time, is unnecessary. Restricting authority to a land use permit allows for easy removal of signs deemed unsuitable by the Area Supervisor and offers flexibility for potential higher and better land uses in the short term.

Land Use Permits should include appropriate conditions to ensure responsible site management (e.g., signs mounted on posts rather than trees, signs kept in good condition, removal of signs when no longer needed, etc.).

Visibility of signs from roads or highways must comply with regulations set by the relevant road authority. Signs are not permitted on highways under the Ministry of Transportation’s control unless a sign permit is granted.

Applications will be evaluated following the guidelines outlined in the Application Review and Land Disposition Process policy and procedure directives. Applicants applying for Land Use Permits for signs must obtain permission from the pertinent road authority if such an authority exists.

Zoning Regulations

Different areas may have zoning regulations that dictate where certain types of advertising can be displayed. For example, there may be restrictions on the size, placement, or content of advertising signage in residential versus commercial areas.

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 limited the placement of any Billboards around highways, rural, scenic, and agricultural areas to protect natural beauty along federal highways in the US. Though today, there are still many highways that allow for Billboard advertising, there are a number of country, state, and local regulations around the world that advertisers will need to consider, depending upon the location and what the brand is selling. 

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 is one example of a zoning law for Billboard advertising. These laws regulate where Billboards can exist and can also include restrictions on size and height, how many Billboards can exist in an area, and what types of advertising can be displayed. 


Local authorities often establish specific regulations regarding the size of outdoor advertisements within municipalities. These guidelines also extend to the placement of out-of-home (OOH) advertising near roads, buildings, or other structures. Such regulations dictate the physical dimensions, positioning, and installation requirements for OOH advertisements. These ordinances serve to prevent visual clutter, promote public safety, and preserve the aesthetics of prominent areas.

Media owners bear the responsibility of ensuring that their inventory aligns with these local regulations. However, it is beneficial for advertisers to be aware of these limitations as they can influence the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns and help them achieve their objectives in compliance with local guidelines.

Source- OAAA

Content Restrictions

Some jurisdictions have restrictions on the content of outdoor advertising, particularly regarding obscenity, offensive language, or imagery that could be deemed harmful or inappropriate for certain audiences.

  • Offensive or Inappropriate Content: Material that is offensive, obscene, or inappropriate is generally prohibited in advertising. This includes content that promotes hatred, discrimination, violence, or explicit material.
  • False or Misleading Claims: Advertisements must be based on factual and evidence-based claims. Deceptive or misleading claims that can mislead the audience are typically not permitted. This encompasses inaccurate or unverified assertions related to health, public safety, and environmental claims (e.g., claiming a product is “100% Recyclable” when it is not). If your message may be contentious, it’s essential to have supporting evidence for your claims.
  • Compliance with Advertising Standards: Regulatory bodies establish specific advertising standards tailored to different industries. These standards may vary based on the type of product or service being advertised. For instance, regions with strict regulations on alcohol and tobacco may prohibit advertisements for these categories. Additionally, some transit authorities may require specific language in ad copy, such as “Remember to Drink Responsibly” for alcohol ads. Political advertisements often necessitate sponsor disclosures.
  • Trademark and Copyright Compliance: Advertisements must respect the intellectual property rights of others, including trademarks, copyrights, and patents. Advertisers are liable for any infringement related to these protections.
  • Disrespectful or Harmful Content: Advertisers should avoid content that could be considered disrespectful or offensive to particular groups or communities. This approach helps ensure swift creative approval and avoids delays in posting. Advertisers should also refrain from advertising content that may be harmful to children or young people, such as promoting vices near schools.

Location and Community Standards

Advertising signage must often comply with safety and accessibility regulations to ensure it doesn’t pose a hazard to pedestrians or obstruct visibility for drivers. This may include considerations such as minimum height requirements, distance from roadways, and accessibility for people with disabilities.

  • Protected Areas: Specific locations are designated as protected due to their natural, historical, or cultural importance. Examples include national parks, heritage sites, historic districts, archaeological sites, and wildlife reserves.
  • Residential Zoning: Many municipalities impose restrictions on advertising in residential neighborhoods to prevent complaints from residents and safeguard residential property values.
  • Cap-and-Replace: Certain municipalities enact cap-and-replace ordinances that limit the number of outdoor advertising assets a media owner can have within a particular jurisdiction. These ordinances require media owners to remove existing assets before developing new ones.
  • Moratoriums: In some areas, there are moratoriums on the development of new outdoor advertising assets. These moratoriums may even prohibit repairs or improvements to existing structures, to gradually phase out outdoor advertising in the area.
  • Educational and Religious Institutions: Advertising near schools and places of worship is restricted in certain categories. Media owners must be aware of local regulations and inform advertisers about compliant inventory options.
  • Transportation Corridors and Scenic Byways: States and local governments often forbid the development of outdoor advertising along transportation corridors such as expressways, toll roads, and scenic byways like the Blue Ridge Parkway or sections of the Pacific Coast Highway. This is done to maintain driver focus and preserve scenic routes and viewpoints.
  • Proximity to Competing Businesses: It is common practice to prevent advertisers from placing ads near competing businesses. Lease agreements often include clauses that protect businesses from competing advertisements on the property’s outdoor advertising assets.
  • Proximity to Sensitive Facilities: Restrictions on outdoor advertising may exist near sensitive facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, or military bases. This is done to avoid potential disruptions and maintain a respectful environment.

Environmental Regulations

 Certain types of outdoor advertising, such as billboards or signage using electronic displays, may be subject to environmental regulations related to energy usage, light pollution, or visual clutter.


  • Environmentally Responsible Material Usage: Certain regions mandate the use of environmentally friendly materials for out-of-home (OOH) advertising, such as biodegradable or recyclable substrates.

  • Prevent Use of Harmful Materials: Advertisers should steer clear of utilizing materials that include toxic substances or dangerous chemicals that could pose environmental risks.

  • Adoption of Sustainable Energy Sources: The emphasis on utilizing sustainable energy sources, such as solar-powered formats, is growing. Many cities are now requiring media owners to efficiently power their digital networks using sustainable energy.

Duration and Renewal

Some jurisdictions may limit the duration of outdoor advertising campaigns or require periodic renewal of permits. Ensure you understand any time limitations or renewal requirements before launching your campaign.

Source- Billups

Competitive Restrictions

 In some cases, there may be restrictions on advertising in certain locations to prevent unfair competition or monopolization of public advertising space.

  • Line of Sight: Adhering to industry standards, it is recommended to maintain a minimum distance between outdoor advertisements that promote similar products or services from competing businesses. This practice, known as “line of sight,” consideration, aims to prevent the clustering of competing ads and the dissatisfaction of advertisers. While not guaranteed, it is a common practice in the industry.
  • Competitive Separation: Advertisers have the option to request “competitive separation” for digital units. This ensures that advertisements from competing brands are not displayed adjacent to each other, offering exclusivity, and avoiding brand conflict.
  • Allocation and Required Rotations: In areas with high demand and limited supply of advertising space, media owners often establish guidelines to ensure fair access to their most sought-after assets. These locations, known as “rotary,” locations, have a set rotation period typically ranging from 8 to 12 weeks for each advertiser. After this period, advertisers are required to “rotate” to a different area, allowing other advertisers to access premium spots. This practice safeguards against cherry-picking by advertisers, promotes fair distribution of advertising opportunities, and encourages new advertisers to utilize premium assets in the market.


Before launching your out-of-home advertising campaign, it’s essential to research and comply with all relevant regulations and obtain any necessary permits or permissions. Consulting with legal experts or regulatory agencies familiar with local advertising laws can help ensure your campaign is compliant and successful. Regulations governing outdoor advertising can evolve and vary from one market to another. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of these regulations to prevent penalties or fines and to ensure the smooth execution of your advertising campaign. At Billups, we possess extensive expertise and a comprehensive understanding of local markets globally. We are committed to guiding you through and complying with local laws and regulations to guarantee the seamless execution of your ad campaign. Reach out to us today to begin.

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