With competition for consumer attention at an all-time high, digital out-of-home (DOOH) media provides advertisers with a unique and effective way to engage with their audience in the real world as they move throughout their day. However, without proper attention paid to the creative aspect of this powerful ad medium, advertisers will struggle to fully catch peoples’ eyes and drive business results.
Beyond the purely aesthetic desire to build visually appealing ads, creative elements can have a drastic impact on the overall success or failure of a DOOH campaign. According to the Advertising Research Federation, 75% of an ad's effectiveness is determined by its creative. Additionally, research from Harvard Business Review found that highly-creative ad campaigns had nearly double the sales impact of non-creative campaigns.
For brands looking to maximize the benefits of this effective channel, it’s critical to consider the specific DOOH creative requirements to build stunning ads that grab consumers' attention and drive them to action.
Here are the top 10 elements to consider when building DOOH creative:
1. Context: In DOOH advertising, the context, or physical environment in which an ad plays can significantly impact what creative will be most effective. A DOOH ad could run on a wide variety of screens — all of which can have an impact on the audience viewing an ad and how they perceive the products being shown. From health-conscious consumers viewing an ad on a gym TV to upscale shoppers seeing an ad inside a luxury mall, knowing who will most likely see an ad and where they will be when they do allows advertisers to build targeted messages into their creative that are supported by the ad’s physical surroundings.
2. Color: Color is a major driver of attention, and contrasting colors can make DOOH ads stand out against their background. However, the effect of a specific color largely depends on the colors surrounding a DOOH ad. For example, an ad with bright blue colors appearing on an urban panel against a grey cityscape would likely stand out and draw attention, however, the blue in that same creative would have much less impact when viewed on a tall billboard against a blue sky background. To ensure that an ad garners maximum attention, advertisers should align the color of the creative with the physical environment in which a DOOH ad will run.
3. Dwell Time: Dwell time is the amount of time a viewer will likely see an ad. Because DOOH ads are seen by audiences as they move throughout their day, different venue types can have drastically different dwell times, which shapes how advertisers tell their brand story. For example, a highway billboard seen by people driving quickly past may have a dwell time of only a few seconds, whereas a bus shelter screen may have a dwell time of 5-15 minutes as riders wait for their next bus. Advertisers activating screens with shorter dwell times should build creative with fewer words, bigger font and more prominent branding for quicker and more impactful messaging. However, when activating venues with longer dwell times, advertisers can expand their creativity, dive deeper into their storytelling and emotionally engage the audience.
4. Product Imagery: Human brains process images 60,000 times faster than text. This is why (especially in low dwell time venues), including an image or visual can help advertisers convey their message quicker and strengthen the association between their brand and a product or service. For example, rather than just showcasing the logo for a liquor brand, including a picture of the bottle will help with instant recognition.
5. Branding & Logos: For some advertising channels, over-emphasis on logos can hurt a brand’s storytelling. However, the fleeting nature of DOOH ads means that consumers may only see a few seconds of an ad, so advertisers should be generous with logos and branding if they want to make the best impression. Integrating branding into the copy and visuals of a DOOH ad, using heavyweight fonts and placing the logo at the top of the creative will all help a brand stand out within an ad.
6. Video & Animation: Movement can draw attention and increase engagement with a DOOH ad. Creative teams should consider including moving elements (even simple animations) within DOOH creative to drive greater impact. However, to avoid viewers missing key information, advertisers should adapt the type of motion based on the average dwell time. For short dwell time venues like certain urban panels, consider partial motion creatives (limited motion graphics on a static image). For venues with longer dwell times like bus shelters or gym TV screens, think about adding video.Pro tip: Not all DOOH screens will play with sound. Therefore, it’s important to always include subtitles to ensure the proper message is being captured.
7. Timing: The time of the day and day of the week an ad is seen plays a big role in how a message is received. For example, an ad for a “hot cup of coffee to start the day” would be most effective in the morning. On the other hand, an ad for an “ice cold beer to wind down” would only make sense toward the evening. To make the most of a DOOH ad’s timing, advertisers should plan campaigns carefully to ensure their creative has an optimal impact on the target audience.
8. Events: When building seasonal or tentpole campaigns, referencing the event (e.g. March Madness) or a specific moment in time (e.g. Summer) within the DOOH creative helps tie a brand to the event's excitement. However, it’s also important to remember that the creative has a shelf life bound by the event. This makes it crucial to launch tentpole campaigns at the right time to drive maximum impact and avoid serving DOOH ads too soon before an event or too late after the moment in time has passed. The use of programmatic technology can help with running a single campaign that easily swaps out time-bound creative for the most relevance.
9. Screen Specifications: The technical specifications of a DOOH screen can heavily influence the layout, copy or imagery used in an ad. Some DOOH screens are massive (e.g. spectaculars in Time Square) while some are no bigger than an iPad (e.g. grocery store displays). In addition, screens can be vertically oriented or horizontal, high resolution, or low. While most programmatic systems take into account the technical requirements for display, considering screen specifications when building creative can help ensure that key messages will shine through in the ad.
10. Omnichannel Alignment: With competition for attention at an all-time high, brands need to reach consumers with a cohesive message at both online and offline touchpoints. Building DOOH into an omnichannel strategy from the beginning will help advertisers maintain continuity in creative elements and storytelling across all channels and drive maximum impact with their campaigns.
DOOH offers boundless opportunities for advertisers to dazzle viewers and convey their message in a unique and engaging way. For brands looking to truly succeed, careful attention must be paid to the creative aspect of any DOOH campaign. By taking into account the elements we’ve outlined in this article, advertisers will be armed with all the tools they need to build captivating DOOH ads that drive consumer action.
If you'd like to learn more about how to build attention-grabbing creative, download our eBook: Mind the Gap — Bridging the Gap Between Technology & Creative in DOOH.