Outdoor Advertising explained simply » Forms, advantages & more

Outdoor advertising exists since people started trading. Even thousands of years ago, Egyptian merchants used stone tablets to advertise on street corners. This article mainly discusses the modern use of classic outdoor advertising, also called “out-of-home-advertising”, its possible uses, costs, and its advantages and disadvantages.

Old Burlesque Billboard
Historical advertising billboard

What is Outdoor Advertising?

Out-of-home advertising is advertising in public spaces, such as on billboards or buses. Advertising media are placed in good locations where many people can see them. For several years, the digital counterpart of outdoor advertising has been more popular than the print one.

Advertising doesn't only include billboards in fixed places. Outdoor advertising can be placed on vehicles, trailers, people (sandwich billboard) as well as on mobile inflatable advertising frames. But more about that later.

What kinds of outdoor advertising are there?

There are many types of outdoor advertising, such as posters, billboards, lettering, and neon signs. Examples of outdoor advertising can be found on advertising pillars, columns, totems, sandwich boards, showcases and their corresponding digital equivalents.

1. Advertising Columns

Advertising on advertising columns were invented in Germany over 150 years ago and has established itself as a popular advertising medium until now. The idea of advertising on advertising columns is simple and smart. It offers space for large-format advertisements that are easily seen from a distance, and therefore perfect for outdoor advertising.

Ad space marketers distinguish between two sales models of advertising columns:

  • The whole column is reserved exclusively for one advertiser.
  • Several companies share the space.

There are also backlit City Light columns for the premium segment. Until March 2022, the German outdoor advertising specialist Ströer experimented with digital advertising columns (Source: Invidis (German)). However, these are still triangular instead of round, as flexible organic LED panels are still too costly and suffer from teething trouble.

Empty advertising column
Empty Advertising Column

2. Digital Totem

The digital totem is the new way of outdoor advertising. It is an advertising medium equipped with an LCD or LED display. Outdoor stands can be set up as a single display or integrated in a network. They have the advantage of being flexible and customizable. So, digital signage totems show daily specials or information on traffic delays.

3. Showcases

Showcases are a great way to promote products and services. Display cases are commonly used in stores, at trade shows, or even in public spaces such as train stations and airports. They provide the perfect platform to showcase companies and brands.

A good showcase is important because it can help get people's attention. Make sure your showcase looks appealing and inviting, and draws the eye to the most influential points. Furthermore, prices should be clearly visible if you have a store. Price specials or discounts can be shown in the showcase.

If you want to get the attention of people walking by, you can also use neon signs. These can either be attached to the display case or placed nearby. Drawing people's attention to your store is especially effective in darker environments.

4. Digital Sandwich Boards

Digital sandwich boards, are a form of outdoor advertising that is increasingly seen in metropolitan areas and tax-privileged locations. It involves installing a large screen that conspicuously reminds potential customers of the company and arouses their curiosity. The effect of a digital sandwich board is like a classic poster – only much more eye-catching and formative.

Digital sandwich boards are one of the most eye-catching and clear types of in-store advertising. These advertising media are like big, digital billboards that you can put anywhere you want.

5. Advertising on Buses and Trains

Advertising on buses and trains is a good way to reach many people at once. This type of advertising is great for companies that want to reach more people. Advertising media are usually highly visible and noticeable to a large audience.

If you decide to use bus and train advertising, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you need to make sure that your advertising is visible. Advertising should be eye-catching and draw people's attention. People need to be able to understand the advertising. Your message should be understandable within a short time.

Bus Atvertising
Bus Advertising (Image Source: Pexels)

6. Poster & Billboard Advertising

Posters are a classic form of outdoor advertising. They are good for big advertising campaigns and can be mounted on buildings, as well as on freestanding installations. This makes them very visible and gives them a high reach.

A major advantage of billboards is that they are relatively inexpensive to produce.

7. Digital Screens

Digital outdoor advertising is one of the growing forms of outdoor advertising. These types of ads are shown on big LED or LCD screens that are set up in pedestrian areas, shopping malls, or other public places. Digital screens display information such as advertisements, news, weather reports, and more.

What are interesting industries for outdoor advertising?

Basically, outdoor advertising is suitable for all companies seeking to address regional or supra-regional clientele. It is important for companies in the retail sector to let people know about their businesses. Local service businesses like barbershops, craftsmen, restaurants, and hotels also benefit from outdoor advertising to let people know about their services.

What are the pro and cons of outdoor advertising?

Outdoor classic advertising provides a large reach for a relative low cost and is less intrusive than other types of advertising. However, logistics in the form of personnel and material expenditure are necessary to post the locations regularly. The “blessings” of digitization such as animated content and other advantages are also left out.

Advantages of Outdoor Advertising

  • There is a wide reach of advertising campaigns through placement in multiple neighborhoods and on radio and television.
  • Entry costs are kept low because, unlike digital ad space, analog billboards do not require outdoor electronics with a power supply.
  • Out-of-home marketing is less intrusive and distracting. Advertising on roads should not distract motorists and not lead to accidents.
  • In comparison with television and radio advertising, there are low investment costs. Billboards also cannot turn off.

Disadvantages of Outdoor Advertising

Print advertising can't keep up with the changes that digital brings.

  • Tracked or sensor-driven playout of specific content is just as impossible as time-dependent targeting of different audiences (commuters, students, seniors, etc.)
  • Only static content possible with no animations. A blockbuster is better promoted with a trailer. Screens bring out colors better and generate more attention.
  • Print-based outdoor advertising requires logistics for printing and mounting.
  • Out-of-home advertising requires a high level of creativity, as people are less responsive due to oversupply.

What are the costs of Outdoor Advertising?

Prices depend on the location, area and lighting. The rent for a poster space is between approx. 4 EUR and 47 EUR per day for large spaces. Add to this the printing costs for the billboards, between approx. 150 EUR and 300 EUR. The cost of renting an advertising column for the whole column is between approx. 6 and 52 EUR per day, also depending on the area. (German examples).

Comparison with other Forms of Advertising (German market)

Other forms of advertising are more expensive than outdoor advertising.

  • Radio advertising: Prices vary depending on the station range. Regional stations broadcast their ads for about 20 euros per second. With large, well-known radio stations, it sometimes costs until 150 euros.
  • TV advertising: At public broadcasters like RTL, advertising playout costs about EUR 4,000 per second. Regional special interest channels, on the other hand, charge around EUR 150 per second.
  • Magazine advertising: Large magazines charge up to EUR 90,000 for an advertising page.
  • Newspaper advertisement: A 20 cm² advertisement costs on a Saturday between EUR 600 (regional newspaper) to EUR 90,000 (supra-regional).


Outdoor advertising is a promising way to promote companies and attract new customers. There are large billboards on main roads and highways, city lights, and advertising columns in pedestrian zones possible. Many local industries benefit from this. This applies to service provider, restaurants, crafts, and retail.

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