When and How to Use Outdoor Advertising for Tours, Activities, & Attractions

Matt Kempel

In this digital age, online advertising in tourism is the essential ad medium because of its ability to reach travelers at all stages of the customer journey efficiently and effectively. So, when does it make any sense to invest in traditional forms of advertising, such as outdoor advertising, and is it as effective as digital advertising?

Outdoor ads, or Out of Home (OOH), include ad formats such as large transit ads, roadside billboards, bus shelters, and car/taxi top placements. These ads can be static image ads or dynamic video formats, also known as Digital Out of Home (DOOH). Out of Home is the oldest form of traditional advertising, and its use has remained constant in recent years, according to an article in AdWeek.

Out of Home Ads Can Reach Travelers at All Stages of the Customer Journey

You might expect that OOH ads can only attract the top-of-the-funnel stage of the customers’ journey—the awareness stage—and therefore won’t easily convert viewers into buyers. However, a 2019 U.S. Nielsen Out of Home Advertising Study proved that OOH ads don’t just drive awareness for viewers, but they can get results at every stage of the customer journey, including the purchase stage.

Specifically, this study proved that “90% of U.S. residents age 16 or older noticed an out of home advertising format in the past month” (This is the top-of-the-funnel or awareness stage). As well, “42% of OOH viewers searched for an advertiser on their mobile device after seeing the ad” (This is the mid-funnel or consideration stage), and “20% of OOH viewers visited a business immediately after seeing a directional OOH ad” (These are actions that lead to the bottom-of-the-funnel or purchase stage).

For good reason, tourism brands are using this medium to complement digital media more than ever to stand out amongst all the brands competing for your customer’s attention. At Blend, we believe that outdoor ads are underutilized in tours, activities, and attractions but, where and how they are used requires the right strategy.

When & How to Use Out of Home Ads

Outdoor advertising is ideal when your customers are in-destination, and looking for things to do in a competitive location. OOH ads, when done well, are difficult to avoid and reach consumers differently than digital ads because of their size and contrast in a real-world environment.

Example: 360 CHICAGO Out of Home Campaign

Chicago’s popular attraction 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck is a staple tourism destination in the city. That attraction competes for bookings with hundreds of large-scale attractions, including Skydeck, the city’s other observation deck.

We recently developed a summer Out of Home Campaign for 360 CHICAGO. The campaign was designed to target travelers visiting Chicago by communicating exciting aspects of the attraction. We wanted to highlight its famous 94th floor 360° panoramic views of Chicago and communicate TILT—the thrill ride that allows visitors to move or “tilt” downward for views from 1,030 feet above the Magnificent Mile.

Here’s a snapshot of our process and some of the final ad designs.

Developing and Planning an Out of Home Campaign

Be Creative

Outdoor ads is a medium where creativity thrives! The message has to be simple and punchy, and readers have to get it instantly. The imagery has to be engaging, demand attention, and cut through the sea of other ads. Thus, outdoor ads have a tough job of maximizing impact and doing it with a “less is more” approach because consumers will only look at them for seconds at a time.

In this example, these ads are designed to communicate the 360° panoramic views and the TILT Thrill Ride in an engaging way, using multiple sizes and static or digital formats to meet 360 CHICAGO’s target audience where they are.

Location, Location, Location

Out of Home Advertising relies heavily on intelligent location planning. Demographic and behavioral data are used to create a plan with the optimal number of impressions, so our ideal audience will see the ads throughout their day.

The goal of this and any solid media plan is to place ads in high-traffic locations where they will be the most visible to the primary target audience. It is also crucial to balance with an optimal mix of formats and meet a planned budget that will achieve maximum ROI. This process may involve negotiating with several outdoor ad suppliers to get the best available locations, formats, and prices and ensuring the ads will be maintained. 

As we look for placement options, we consider the following:

  • Where are our prospective customers? More specifically, where are they hanging out, walking, or traveling?
  • Which direction are they traveling on a highway?
  • What formats are going to work based on how long the person might be able to focus their attention on the ad? For example, a video ad on a bus shelter may work because people are walking or standing; but not all placements will allow for several seconds of attention.
  • Do we have the right mix of distribution and repetition? The budget only goes so far and must be balanced between reach and frequency (which is true of most advertising).
  • Impression volume is also important for any given placement and can help distinguish between the good options and the best options.

In the case of 360 Chicago, we wanted to have coverage near airports and popular Chicago attractions that visitors frequent, as well as some Uber advertising. But we also wanted to reach locals, so certain bus stops and subway stations made sense as well and provided locations where we could reach both groups of prospective customers.

A good sales rep who understands the business will propose appropriate options, but it’s always up to the client or agency to vet the proposals.

Right Message, Right Time

Different locations and different times of day may provide opportunities to mix up the ads. For example: after 8 pm, we could switch to messaging about sunset, date night, etc. Consider who is going to be looking at your ads at different times of the day, how far in advance they might be planning, and what message or experience they’re most likely to act on.

With the right creative and planning strategies, OOH can be a valuable complement to your annual tourism media plan. Learn more about tourism advertising strategies here.

Are you interested in seeing what Out of Home Advertising could do for your tour, activities, or attractions business? Let’s chat.

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About The Author

Matt Kempel

Matt is the Creative Director at Blend Marketing. His keen design eye leads our design team to help our clients craft their brand image and provide the creative vision that brings their experiences to life across all digital and physical touchpoints.

Email Matt

About The Author

Matt Kempel

Matt is the Creative Director at Blend Marketing. His keen design eye leads our design team to help our clients craft their brand image and provide the creative vision that brings their experiences to life across all digital and physical touchpoints.