Outdoor advertising

Here in Amsterdam most Cultural institutions (theaters, museums, etc) advertise there special events via outdoor advertising. Outdoor advertising means hanging a fairly large poster in the streets. At the Tropenmuseum when designing our main advertising image of the exhibition we focus most of the time on outdoor advertising. All the other advertising designs are a derivative of the outdoor advertising. Why the focus on outdoor advertising? When we asked our visitors how they got the idea to visit our museum the number one answer for paid communication was outdoor advertising. This could of course be a self fulfilling prophecy. When working with a small budget you don’t have a lot of money to diversify your advertising strategy. So when you always do outdoor advertising the obvious answer that you will get from your visitors when researching advertising effectiveness will be… Outdoor advertising. But this is not the case. As far as my research and our different advertising experiments shows, outdoor advertising is still one of the most effective. Why is outdoor advertising so effective?

I think the first reason is that because a lot of cultural institutions use outdoor advertising, cultural interested people are more attentive for outdoor advertising. They know that when a poster pops up along there traveling route they should take more interest. Secondly people often travel the same routes in a city (f.e. route to work) so people see the poster several times a week. Third, it is harder to skip then for example a television advertisement. Fourth, IF (and that is a big if) you have a good design it gives you a chance to really stand out. But even in outdoor there are so much possibilities varying in size, place and money that a lot of money can be easily wasted.

Because I am so involved in developing outdoor advertising campaigns I personally have some criteria that I use to check if we are on the right way. Or to check what I think of other outdoor designs.

1. Is the message clear or is the message easy to understand? As a rule of thumb they say you should not use more then seven words to get your message across.
2. The Bike test. In Amsterdam everyone travels by bike. And the pace of people riding their bikes is very high. So when passing by does the design stand out. People don’t notice there surroundings very well except if there is something appealing, strange, frightening, sexy or fun that distracts them. And when they decided to watch the advertisement they only do it for two or three seconds on average.
3. What is the target group? And does it appeal to them?
4. Does it look nice? Yes that is the most subjective, but that’s also a matter of experience. I don’t only look at our own designs but also at the designs of other museums. And the more you see the better your esthetical knowledge develops. (or you can just use this ‘expert’ argument to convince others of your great insight)
5. Does the message match the content? Don’t advertise with the biggest and most beautiful gold collection in the world while there is only one showcase in the museum.

But do we always make good outdoor advertising here at my work? No probably not. The outdoor design is made with a team of people who all have their opinions. And a lot of opinions leads to compromise. Most graphical designer have a ‘I know best’ mentality. Then there is the occasional curator, our printing coordinator, my boss, his boss, and the list goes on and on. Then there is the time constraint en budget constraint. Most of the time we keep on changing the designs until last moment but there is a deadline and then it has to be printed. Not every exhibition has a big advertising budget so we just keep it simple.

In this post I just want to show one example we have made for this summer ‘Zonnefeest’ (Sun festival). Next time I will share our design process and the choices we made to come to this result.

For further references:

Some Guidelines

For inspiration

And maybe:
Some research (it is from the outdoor advertising association so there research probably will show that it is good to do)