What Factors Affect the Cost of Outdoor Advertising?

The Advertising Medium

A full tram wrap is going to cost you much more than a small billboard display in a local high street that runs for four weeks. Outdoor advertising mediums offer a range of small and large-scale options to suit different brands and budgets.

Advertising Period

Whatever the medium, the longer the advertisement is present, usually the more it costs. However, in some scenarios, extended rental bookings can mean a discount.


Location is one of the biggest influencers on price, particularly for static billboard advertisements. Famous sites like the Piccadilly Lights cost thousands, but it’s possible to advertise much more modestly on a local level and still yield impressive results. Location is also relevant to transit outdoor advertising. A bus advert on a busy city route will likely cost more than one seen by fewer people on quiet rural roads.

Advertisement Construction

What the advertisement is made from can significantly impact front-end costs. A static traditional paper billboard advertisement will be less expensive than a slick vinyl tram wrap or a 3D LED hoarding.

Production and Installation

Production and installation costs vary from one advertising medium to the next. An advertisement that is inexpensive to produce may be more expensive to install and maintain and vice versa. Always consider the outdoor advertising medium in the round, as unforeseen expenses mean it’s easy to get caught out. An affordable static billboard ad could suffer in the winter months and need frequent renewal due to bad weather. The equivalent 2D or 3D LED version would be more expensive to commission but would not deteriorate in the same way.

What is Outdoor Advertising?

Outdoor advertising, also called Out-of-Home advertising or OOH, is an umbrella term for advertising that reaches consumers when they are outside their homes. There are three main types.

Billboard Advertising

Billboard advertising is everywhere, in the centre of town, at the bus or railway station, and along traffic-dense roads like busy city networks or even next to motorways.

Billboards are cost-efficient and effective, and there are different formats, from the traditional static billboard or hoarding to the brightly-lit neon displays of Piccadilly Circus in London and Times Square in New York.

Billboards can be used for specific products or promotions or to increase general brand awareness. New technology has seen the advent of 3D billboards and 3D LED billboards, which are eye-catching and really do stand out in a cluttered urban landscape.

Street Furniture

Street furniture applies to bus stops, bus shelters, railway stations, tube stations, and telephone kiosks.

Transport or Transit

Transit outdoor advertising is mobile advertising on buses, trams, taxis, and trains. There are many different options, from vehicle wraps to panel advertising down one side of the bus, train, or taxi. Companies can also book ads within the vehicle or even promote a product or service on a ticket receipt.

Digital Outdoor Advertising

Digital outdoor advertising, DOOH, sometimes also called digital signage, is a specific type of outdoor advertising that uses electronic technology to facilitate a screen display. The most frequently seen version of this is digital billboards, which feature rotating adverts every 6-8 seconds.

What are the Benefits of Outdoor Advertising?

  • Outdoor advertising doesn’t have to compete online with a massive volume of other advertisers or fall victim to ad-blockers of swipe-right
  • Outdoor advertising is a great way to reach large numbers of people with relatively low costs compared to other advertising mediums
  • Outdoor advertising reaches people from all walks of life, but it is possible to target specific demographics much more easily than online or television advertising
  • Outdoor advertising is suitable for all types of businesses, from big-name brands to SMEs and start-ups – it works locally, regionally and nationally
  • OOH commercials can be used to increase brand presence or for a specific product, service, or promotion
  • It’s an effective way to increase footfall and sales both in-store and online
  • Outdoor advertising is cost-effective with a good ROI – Return on Investment
  • Outdoor advertising can be tailored to reach specific people and locations with flexibility not usually offered by online or television commercials
  • Outdoor advertising can be truly memorable and create an emotional response in viewers that is long-lasting, increasing engagement with the product or brand
  • Monitoring outdoor advertising is reasonably straightforward, allowing advertisers to track results and gain the most value from their campaign
  • Outdoor advertising reaches customers who are not online or who only use the internet occasionally
  • Outdoor advertising can create a strong sense of place and local identity as well as engender a feeling of anticipation and excitement for specific events
  • This type of advertising is an excellent complement to other elements of the marketing suite like online promotions, email campaigns, and social media presence
  • Outdoor advertising appeals to all age ranges, from the static billboard poster seen by an older person who doesn’t use the internet to 3D LED interactive billboards with hashtags and links to socials for the under 25s
  • Generally, the audience is captive with outdoor advertising, so most viewers are not usually distracted by other media
  • Outdoor advertising is very flexible and is highly effective for short and medium-term campaigns and long-term branding initiatives
  • A key element of outdoor advertising is the use of repetitive impressions; with a television or radio commercial, each repeat would cost air time, but outdoors, the constant impressions form part of the overall rental cost for the advertisement and are essentially limitless. Repeat impressions allow for brand and message reinforcement and are particularly useful for a new product or service
  • Outdoor advertising is budget-friendly
  • Digital billboards allow for flexible changes, which can be time, event, or environmentally sensitive
  • Raising awareness with interactive campaigns is another powerful feature of outdoor advertising. ‘Blind Eye‘ was a campaign run in 2015 by The Women’s Aid group. The advertisement ran for sixteen days using interactive billboards at major shopping centres. Cameras measured viewer’s responses, and the more engaged a viewer was, the more the image on the screen changed, in this case, bruises on a woman’s face which began to fade and heal, reinforcing the strapline of never turning a blind eye to domestic violence

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How to Create the Best Outdoor Advertisement

Every company or organisation will approach this process slightly differently, but there are some key fundamentals to remember to ensure your outdoor advertisement hits the mark.

  • Set marketing objectives across the board, which should tie up with other forms of advertising
  • Thoroughly research the target demographic
  • Create targeted content
  • Research location
  • Look at the best outdoor mediums in your location and for your demographic
  • Keep it simple – complex advertisements can be expensive failures
  • Create content that can be repurposed at a later date
  • Make sure there is a framework of analysis in place so that whichever form of outdoor advertising you choose it can be effectively monitored

How to Choose the Right Location to Rent Outdoor Space

Identifying the target audience is the first element of finding the right location for your outdoor advertising campaign. Now, you need to work out the best place to reach them. Here are some ways to isolate the perfect postcode for your advertisement.

There are a range of factors to consider, including:

  • Traffic flows
  • Where the target demographic lives
  • Where your business is based
  • Your prospective customer’s interests and daily routines
  • The core purpose of the campaign or promotion
  • Think cohesively. Big brands like McDonald’s have successfully combined outdoor advertising with in-app advertising on Waze for a high number of impacts. Outdoor advertising should not be out on a tangent with no reference to the rest of the marketing offering
  • Invest time in more detailed customer research. Plenty of websites can help with this and offer a more informative insight into your prospective audience and their behaviours. These tools also track behavioural changes, which can help inform any adjustments to ad locations and content

It’s easy to think that reaching your audience requires a high-profile and expensive location, but that’s not always true. A boring commuter route could see your billboard in front of young professionals twice daily as they travel to and from work. An advertisement for a local restaurant with an app and delivery service might do well outside the railway station to catch hungry travellers as they are going home after a long day.

Booking Outdoor Ad Space

Booking outdoor ad space is a bit of an art and a science. There can be competition for the best locations, and certain times of year will see a significant price hike to reflect footfall and impressions. Here are some top tips.

  • Most outdoor advertising operators know the value of their different locations, so the price will vary based on specific events and traffic volume
  • Expect higher prices for high-traffic locations such as popular tourist areas, the roads in and around busy retail centres, or major entertainment or sporting venues
  • Seasonality is really important. In the run-up to Christmas, any well-located urban billboard in or near a busy retail area will cost more.
  • Work on a 3-6 month booking lead-in time
  • When planning the campaign, calculate where and how often you want the advertisement to appear for the twelve months following its first appearance otherwise, you could find there are no sites available
  • Longer-term bookings will secure discounts with most OOH advertising operators. This should work well with forward planning and marketing objectives
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Final Thoughts

Outdoor advertising has a place in the marketing suite of any company, regardless of size or age. There are numerous options to suit different products, preferences, target demographics, and budgets.

Thorough research is essential to identify the best medium and location. The cost will depend on several factors, including how long the promotion runs and how complex the advertisement is. An average of £350 per week is a good ballpark figure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best form of outdoor advertising?

There are so many forms of outdoor advertising and choice of locations and mediums that the answer to this would differ according to who asked the question. There isn’t a brand or business that wouldn’t benefit from targeted outdoor advertising, but it must be well-researched and aimed at an identified demographic if it is to be successful. Depending on the brand and its product or service, any one of many different options could be effective. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so the final choice will depend on the audience, budget, and geographic area.

How can I work out which is the best form of outdoor advertising for my business?

With any form of advertising, thorough research should underpin the decision regardless of budget. There are good metrics available for footfall and impressions across a range of outdoor advertising options, making it possible to match a location to the target demographic for the promotion.

Which sectors or businesses can benefit the most from outdoor advertising?

Because of the ability to tailor advertising to target specific demographics plus the flexibility of scale and cost, there isn’t a business or company that wouldn’t benefit from the right outdoor advertising campaign. Audience reach is extensive, and it’s an ideal advertising tool for travel, leisure, retail, hospitality, motor, and finance, as well as charity organisations and even political parties. The options for different mediums in OOH advertising mean it is a viable choice for businesses of all sizes that can target potential customers regardless of their demographic or location.

What are bespoke metrics?

Bespoke metrics are things like social hashtags and dedicated microsites. A hashtag dedicated to an outdoor campaign can encourage participating customers to redeem an offer or take advantage of a discount. This is a relatively easy way to gauge the impact and engagement created by an advertisement and keep it separate from a company’s main website or social media presence. Another option is to create a dedicated microsite or landing page, which provides an effective way to monitor traffic from the advertisement to that page. If customers want to engage with a brand or product, they also don’t want to spend time searching a busy website to find the thing they saw advertised on a billboard. This is one way to lose traffic rather than promote it.

Are there any rules about outdoor advertising in the UK?

Plenty! There is a system of advertising control in England run by local government plus the content of any ad or promotion must not contravene the Code of Practice laid down by the Advertising Standards Authority or ASA.

Aren’t billboards expensive and just for big-name brands?

The answer is yes if you want to advertise in the famous Piccadilly Lights in London or Times Square in New York. However, billboard advertising is generally affordable and cost-effective for all types and sizes of businesses, including start-ups. A 48-sheet billboard can cost as little as £300 per fortnight, it all depends on the location and the size of the advert.

Why should I choose outdoor advertising over other mediums?

Television advertising is big-budget because not only do you need to book air time, but the production costs of the actual commercial usually run into the tens of thousands. Newspaper and magazine readerships are on a major decline year on year, plus people can flick past ads in print mediums or turn off the television or radio. Digital advertising is reaching saturation point and is easily avoided by viewers by swiping past or deploying ad-blocking software. Outdoor advertising is free of all these drawbacks, plus there is a massive range of options to choose from to suit all types of companies and organisations and different budgets.

What is non-intrusive advertising?

Non-intrusive advertising is advertising that doesn’t interrupt what someone is doing. An example of intrusive advertising is pop-ups when browsing online; an example of non-intrusive advertising is a billboard visible whilst you are shopping or queuing in traffic. Data suggests that a high percentage of people shun intrusive advertising as they find it irritating, invasive, or upsetting, making a compelling case for outdoor advertising, which is almost exclusively non-intrusive.

Mike Alexander
I’m Mike, a seasoned professional with a decade of experience in the dynamic realms of marketing and advertising. My journey has been fueled by a passion for staying at the forefront of outdoor advertising trends. I look forward to helping you to realised your advertising ambitions.
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