As the owner of a small to medium-sized business (SMB), investing in traditional media for advertising purposes can take a sizeable chunk of your budget – money that you could more profitably spend finding new ways to grow your company and keep your customers happy.

One way of reaching out to your target audience that can have a significant impact without severely denting your wallet is to use alternative media for outdoor advertising. 

In this article, we’ll be looking at some alternative outdoor advertising options that have the advantage of giving high visibility to your advertising message at a reasonable cost.

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What Qualifies as Alternative Media?

Mainstream or traditional media for advertising include avenues such as print, radio, and television. In the digital age, advertisers have expanded the scope of traditional media or MSM (mainstream media) to include the likes of online publications, ad balloons on websites and mobile, and dedicated mobile advertising.

Lately however, consumers in their masses have been tuning out online advertising, viewing such ads as unwelcome, annoying and distracting. For marketers, this means that online ads are often ignored (at best) or actively detrimental to brand perception (at worst) and the success of any advertising campaign.

Brands are therefore turning to alternative media – advertising forms that break out of the mold of more traditional methods, and which have a greater chance of getting a positive reception from the target audience. One of the major categories of alternative media is outdoor media or out of home (OOH) advertising.

What Is Out of Home (OOH) Advertising?

Traditional out of home or OOH advertising consists of the kinds of promotions that you’ll typically encounter on the street, or in public spaces outside your own residence. Outdoor advertising in this form is usually static, and out of home media include the following:


Billboard advertisements take the form of large ads which display on elevated boards. Static billboards are (by definition) stationary, and are often located at the side of a road or highway, or on an independent stand. Mobile billboards are usually mounted on the back or side of a vehicle, such as a truck or bus.

Street Furniture

Like billboards, street furniture advertisements display on static media such as newsstands, kiosks, benches, or bus stations. In a similar manner to billboards, street furniture enables marketers to display large, clear advertisements that can be easily seen from a distance.

Street furniture advertising

(Image Source: Streetmediagroup)

Transit Advertising

Transit advertising is a form of Out of Home media that places advertisements on the exterior or interior of public transportation vehicles such as buses and trains, or at transport hubs such as train and bus stations. For marketers, transit advertising is a great way to expose a brand to potentially thousands of consumers each day.

This class of Out of Home media also includes mobile billboards, which marketers can use for outdoor advertising on the back or sides of a moving vehicle.

Point of Sale (POS) Advertising

Designed to encourage impulsive, last-minute purchases, advertising displays at checkout counters are an OOH advertising tool for the interiors of retail spaces. POS advertising (also known as point of purchase advertising) may include display stands at the checkout desk, or other visual displays placed above a container of promoted items.

Place-Based Advertising

Place-based advertising is another form of outdoor advertising designed to reach specific groups of consumers in specific locations, such as gyms and health clubs, restaurants and bars, sports and entertainment venues, shopping malls and grocery stores, gas stations and parking garages, college campuses and military bases, office buildings and convention centers, nightclubs, golf courses, liquor stores and pharmacies. The key advantage of place-based advertising is that advertisers can target consumers based on location and lifestyle, and thereby create contextually relevant messages that boost engagement. 

Read more: Four Reasons Why Place-Based Media Is the Way of the Future

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What Is Digital Out of Home (DOOH) Advertising?

Digital out of home or DOOH advertising is an enhanced form of Out of Home that employs digital and audio-visual technologies. This enables marketing professionals to look beyond the more analog media of paper and plastic, to materials like digital signage, digital screens, and digital billboards.

According to recent research by Nielsen, 49% of consumers notice digital street level ads each month. In even better news for marketing teams, 51% of consumers notice digital street level ads when they give directions to a business – and 65% of those potential customers will visit the business after seeing a DOOH ad.

Infographic image stating that customers are spending too much time online, indicating the need towards Alternative Outdoor advertising

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Since DOOH advertising displays target people while they’re traveling (for example, digital billboards) or whilst they are in public places (for example, digital signage on street furniture), DOOH ads cut through the thousands of competitors advertising online and speak to audiences at a point when they are more receptive.

Image of woman in an unaltered Alternative Outdoor advertising Ad Campaign

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The Advantages of Programmatic DOOH (pDOOH)

Programmatic DOOH (or pDOOH) replaces traditional media buying methods with an automated bidding platform similar to those used to purchase online advertising. When marketers use a programmatic buying platform to find the ad space that they need, they can specify the conditions under which their creative campaign should be displayed.

pDOOH platforms automate the bidding process so that an ad only goes live when its preset conditions are met – for example, advertisements will display only on specific days, times, or weather conditions. 

Marketing teams can access advertising campaign analytics in real time to optimize campaigns instantly. And buyers using a programmatic platform can access the mass audiences offered by DOOH without a huge outlay of resources.

4 Real-World Examples of Digital Outdoor Advertising

Here are five alternative outdoor advertising campaigns which illustrate the power of outdoor advertising to reach consumers across a range of demographics.

1. Beauty Unaltered

Image of woman in an unaltered Alternative Outdoor advertising Ad Campaign

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In an age when Photoshopped images of models and their associated impact on body shaming has become a real issue, the #BeautyUnaltered program of alternative outdoor advertising was run as part of CVS’s Beauty Mark social media campaign.

Every ten seconds, a different consumer’s image was displayed on digital signs at New York’s Times Square, showing unaltered, unfiltered selfies celebrating natural beauty. Adjacent digital billboards displayed the images and associated messages creating awareness about the natural beauty movement.

2. Weather-Responsive Drinks from McCafe

Image of McDonalds using Alternative Outdoor advertising

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This campaign by the McCafe division of McDonald’s UK featured weather-responsive outdoor advertising to promote two frozen drinks (the “Millionaire’s Frappe” and strawberry lemonade). Digital OOH used weather data to display the relevant advertisements when the temperature climbed above 22 degrees Celsius. 

3. Out There For Us During the Pandemic

Street furniture advertising in bus stop

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To acknowledge the efforts of essential front-line workers during COVID-19, the Ad Council created an outdoor advertising campaign dubbed “Out There For Us.” A social media campaign invited people across the US to share messages of gratitude for healthcare workers, grocery store associates, delivery drivers, and other essential workers, with the hashtag #OutThereForUs. 

At the same time DOOH ad spaces displayed these messages at prominent locations like major routes to hospitals, signs on highways, and outside major grocery outlets.

4. This Is Your Playlist…

Image of personalized Alternative Outdoor advertising Ad

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At the digital consumer end of the spectrum, this advertising campaign for Spotify threw the spotlight on some of the best trending playlists on the streaming audio platform – and their individual authors.

How Programmatic DOOH Can Work for You

DOOH advertising – and particularly place-based DOOH advertising – is ideal for attracting passing trade into restaurants, bars, retail outlets, and any other brick-and-mortar business with nearby premises. The programmatic buying process unlocks this advantage of DOOH for SMBs, who can’t afford to spend big on “hit and hope” campaigns with limited ways to track success.

As a small to medium-sized business, running an ineffective campaign for two weeks whilst you wait for the figures to come through from traditional advertising media is far from ideal. Since programmatic DOOH marketing takes place on an automated platform, that platform captures advertising campaign data immediately. 

This means analytics are available in real time. Campaign optimization can be immediate, so you can adapt your approach where needed and get a greater return on your campaign spend.

The Neuron is an easy-to-use demand-side programmatic DOOH platform that connects you to inventory owners without the need for intermediary agencies. Simply upload your ad creatives, specify your bidding criteria, and let the platform do the rest.

To find out more about how The Neuron can assist you in bringing out alternative outdoor advertising ideas to boost your brand, get in touch with us.