just eat car advert

Many people think that designing a billboard is all about creativity.

They’re wrong.

Okay, now I've got your attention, this blog post will give you the most actionable and effective billboard design tips.

We'll walk through using creativity to make your billboard stand out, the right image to attract attention from your audience

Creativity is one of, if not the most important features of designing a great outdoor advertising campaign.

A study by the Harvard Business Review attempted to quantify the value of creativity in advertising.

They found that creative advertising campaigns were more effective and performed better on average than less creative adverts. Yet, you can only do this in retrospect. Quantifying creativity is hard... Who’d have thought?

Let’s put our best foot forward to get the billboard design right the first time.

What billboards should do

The best billboard designs will all do these three things:

  1. Create an impact
  2. Communicate a message
  3. Persuade to action

The best ooh campaigns take a person on a journey. Starting at zero, catching their eye through design, often through an emotional response, persuading them to engage with your brand.

If an outdoor campaign only has impact, good, it’s caught their attention. But what then? Impact alone isn't what ooh or billboards are for.

An explosion has impact, but it doesn’t lead to a business outcome.

Now let’s say the ooh advert has caught their intention and explains what the product is. You’ve made an impact through design and got the message through by communicating what the advert is about.

So what?

This isn’t strong enough alone to make a difference. There needs to be a reason why this person should care.

Dave Trott gave a great example of this. Take this tv advert from 2013:

If I asked 10 people if they remember the ad. I bet at least 6 would remember it. Even after 6 years. How many would remember it was made by the telecommunications company Three though?

Two? At most.

This is why the third element of persuasion is vital. Persuasion ties a great creative with your brand. The result is an emotional response from the audience and commercial gain for the brand.

Impact, communication, and persuasion - you have the what, the how and most important the why.

This approach will enable you to create a memorable billboard that builds awareness and keeps your product top of consumers mind.

Tips on designing your first Billboard Campaign

Build a story

go compare car advert

The average person who sees your billboard needs a reason to take action.

Give it to them.

You can weave a story into all your messaging which adds continuity into your digital marketing. This breeds familiarity with your business and breaks down the barriers between prospect and customer.

Ooh is a halo media channel that's designed to uplift brand awareness against other channels. From a creative perspective, it has to land the brand story on the head.

Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director of AgencyUK

Brands that get this right are instantly recognizable across marketing channels.

Go Compare used this to great effect when running car advertising campaigns across South Wales.

The business resonated with the local population by combing their digital and ooh messaging as part of an integrated marketing campaign. The billboards reached hundreds of thousands of impressions, hundreds of interactions and handfuls of people singing the infamous television jingle in the streets.

Strong imagery

nspcc car advert

Imagery does the heavy lifting when it comes to the design of an effective ooh advert.

The right image stirs emotions, inspires memories and can create an immediate response.

Create strong imagery to convey your message, favour simplicity but avoid anything too subtle in the designs. By the time your audience works out your meaning, the moment is gone.

Large typeface and simple Text

united nations large and simple typeface advert

Credit adsoftheworld.com

Billboard Copy

Brevity is key in advertising, especially in ooh. Your copy should be short and sweet and convey one core message. As simple and focussed as you can get.

Billboard fonts

Our main tips for fonts are to use large and legible fonts. Try to avoid Serif fonts and opt for bold to stand out against the image. Avoid small text as it risks being to small to view.

Colours and contrast. 

just eat car advert

Colours are the heart of a brand’s identity.

They are powerful, memorable and using the right colour can stir up an emotional response.

Our best tips for standing out are to add contrast and saturation is important to make sure your billboard pops.

Inspire to take action

mcdonalds follow the arches billboard advert

credit: Adweek.com

The billboard caught their eye, built an emotional response and now they need a reason to take the next step.

Help them make that step with a strong call to action.

Some billboards include a “search for brand name” call to action. While others like our Makers Academy campaign include an offer such as “Learn to code in 12 weeks”.

Offers aren’t essential, but conveying a next step or goal is key.

This can be as simple or abstract as the design of Mcdonald’s follow the arch campaign shown above.

Making the Most of the awareness

For online brands, this marketing strategy relies on aligning your digital strategy with the billboard campaign.

Whatever call to action you choose, you should it so that it results in easy access to your website.

Ooh campaigns make it far more likely consumers will search your brand on their mobile.

Make sure that you are ranking as close to the top spot for this term as possible so you are found.

Compare the Market used two techniques to guarantee this as part of their “Search for Sergei” OOH campaign.

auto sergei advertCredit: The Drum

This is the search result consumers would see when searching for this campaign.

autosergei search results

  1. They created a Google Ads campaign which included the keyword “Autosergei”. This ensures that their advert is the first thing anyone searching this term sees.
  2. They created a landing page for this campaign. This captured searches with the keywords mentioned on the billboard.

Get to the point

Billboard’s aren’t the place to show off how smart you are.

Don’t waste those valuable seconds with a clever esoteric quip. By all means, use humour if it fits with the branding.

Humour works well for a brand such as Churchill Brewery who poked fun at their customers.

church end breweryCredit Adsoftheworld.com

But, the majority of brands will do better with a simple, accessible and directive message.

Veygo prominently show their logo, used a simple design, a clear image that targets their audience and a strong offer.

veygo car advert

Whatever style you opt for, it is important to maintain a consistent brand voice across billboards and your digital marketing.

Tailor to the medium

Consumers spend varying amounts of time with an opportunity to see your ad. Use this to your advantage.

Bright colours and imagery work great for car advertising. Commuters may only see the car for a few seconds.

While the average London commute currently stands at 74 minutes. With commuters often stood on the platform waiting for a tube to shoot towards them. This is an opportunity to take advantage of extended dwell time.

In this setting, longer text excerpts can work great. They hold attention while commuters look for something to distract them.

jack daniels tube advert

I recently spoke with the Dominic Slade and Steve Hanratty of The Builders arms, a Creative Agency in London. They specialise in high-value brand thinking and execution for challenger brands.

Here are their suggestions for a startup designing and running their first ooh campaign.

"For start-ups contemplating their first ooh campaign; do remember to keep it simple. Be single-minded in what you want to say, keep headlines short and sharp, and don’t be afraid to be visual – because visuals engage. Branding is critical, but that’s not to say you need a logo the size of a house; but the colours you use, the graphic design you employ and the tone of voice you communicate with (humorous/playful/serious) should all be reflective of who you are as a brand."

Steve Hanratty, Creative Partner Builders Arms