September 17th, 2015 | Chris Lloyd

Outdoor Advertising: Irritating or Inventive?

billboard, OOH, ads, advertising, outdoor advertising, cars, seattle ad agency

Technology fuels campaign engagement — for better or worse.

Plastered onto hundreds of billboards and subway station walls in June, Protein World launched their awareness campaign with a bikini-clad model asking viewers, “Are you beach body ready?”

beach body real

An eruption of negative backlash ensued, and the public defaced ads with phrases like:

“Stop encouraging women to starve themselves.”
“Your body is not a commodity.”

Others turned the signs into a trending topic on Twitter:


Protein World’s “beach body” ad quickly became one of the most notorious outdoor advertising campaigns in recent history. Social media users and news outlets claim the ads perpetuate impractical body standards and harm self-esteem levels of viewers. Furthermore, the brand’s online presence increasingly agitated consumers, as its Twitter page condemned England as “a nation of sympathizers for fatties”.

Each Body Ready Vandelized

Controversy is not the future of outdoor advertising, innovation is.

Controversy has plagued out-of-home (OOH) advertising since its conception hundreds of years ago. People claim the ads pollute scenic skylines, yet states continue to build new, more technologically advanced billboards each year. In fact, nearly half a million billboards (a number that is quickly growing) line our highways, as they provide crucial revenue to cash-strapped towns and landowners. Their rise coincided with major technological advancements within OOH advertising; advertisers can now craft more innovative and engaging ads that consumers appreciate.

Furthermore, most marketers utilizing OOH ads have minimal budgets and do not intend to offend customers. Local and non-profit organizations frequently use outdoor ads, as they consistently rank as the least expensive ad medium per view. This accessibility promotes constant growth in the OOH advertising market, which currently accounts for more than $7 billion in revenue, up 1% from last year.

OOH advertising’s new technology can engage millions.

The average person gazes at OOH ads for just four seconds; however, new technology can potentially greatly increase that statistic. Technology grants outdoor ads the propensity to increase consumer engagement through interactive measures. For example, Women’s Aid in the UK fashioned a morphing, interactive billboard featuring a battered woman.

Women's aid

Facial recognition software recognized when people held a gaze toward the woman. This sent a signal to a computer that altered the woman’s appearance to slowly heal and post viewers’ faces on the bottom of the billboard. When spectators noticed the morphing billboard, engagement amongst others in the crowd increased, spurring a lengthier and more meaningful interaction time.

Women’s Aid also utilized Weve, an opt-in mobile geomarketing app, which sent texts encouraging donations from people within the billboard’s proximity. Spectators not using Weve could opt to donate through instructions on the billboard.

The Women’s Aid ad paid tribute to the importance of not turning “a blind eye” to abuse and garnered millions of online views when it became a viral sensation.

New technology in advertising, coupled with the inexpensive nature of outdoor ads, allow for the continued prosperity of the medium. Outdoor advertising creates high visibility and engagement for brands seeking a lower price point per view. If you think OOH advertising may suit your needs, send us a message at


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