Sometimes your best advertising outlook is a look outside. Out-of-home (OOH) marketing can be a highly effective way to reach an audience.

What it is

Advertising in public spaces or commercial locations (office and residential buildings, malls, and other public spaces). Options include billboards, murals, digital signage, transit (e.g. buses, subways, platforms), street furniture (e.g. bus shelters), kiosks, and elevator screens.

Why you need it

Just as other forms of advertising target what your market reads, watches and listens to, OOH ads hit them “where they live, work, shop and play,” says Nicole Gervais, research manager, Astral Out-of-Home in Montreal.

The continuous presence of these ads makes for powerful branding. “It creates connect points with consumers throughout the day,” says Rosanne Caron, president of the Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada (OMAC).

How it helps

You can’t turn OOH ads off, so they register consciously and subliminally. Caron cites eye-tracking studies showing more than half of OOH ads are seen the first time someone encounters them. These ads are also persuasive. According to OMAC, about 25% to 40% of people seek more information about a product or service after seeing an OOH ad, especially younger people.

Good to know

“OOH is very targeted,” says Gervais. If you’re trying to reach a certain type of client, consider everything from her neighbourhood and the form of entertainment she enjoys, to where she likes to eat and the roads she takes to the cottage. OOH ads can follow her, and advertisers can measure the impact of their ads within the first three-to-five seconds of eye contact through visual optimization services, Gervais says.

If you’re trying to reach an affluent market, your spend can focus on a high-end mall, transit shelters in upscale neighbourhoods, and office tower elevators. One of Gervais’s financial services clients wanted to target 18- to 34-year-olds. So the campaign focused on the entertainment district and university campuses, and involved scanning a QR code to access a special offer.

How much

There’s no set cost for OOH advertising. But you can compare the costs using CPM—an advertising standard that measures the cost of reaching 1,000 people.

If you pay $1,500 to put up a billboard for a month on a road with traffic of 10,000 cars a day, your CPM is $5. That $1,500 to reach 300,000 people (10,000 cars times 30 days) translates into $5 per 1,000.

For a national newspaper, the CPM is about $47, while an ad buy in a specialized magazine could have a CPM of more than $100. In contrast, Caron says OOH CPMs range from $1 to $25. The more niche the audience, the more expensive.

Who can help

The OMAC website has links to leading companies in the field, examples of award-winning OOH ads in several categories (including financial), and case studies.

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based financial writer.