Primedia Outdoor: Advertising Design Creative Learnings

The following creative learning points are taken from Primedia Outdoor’s study into the effectiveness of outdoor advertising media:

  • Use strong, striking colours to create impact
  • It is preferable to have a coloured background rather than a white background
  • Simple design (i.e. uncluttered) but not boring
  • People bring the ad alive. They make the brand more relevant
  • Product demonstration is particularly important to less sophisticated, rural consumers
  • Higher LSM, urban consumers want innovation and creativity (particularly relevant to younger audiences)

Outdoor advertising design can be used to reinforce the positioning of the brand through the use of creative elements.

Outdoor Advertising Design Guidelines

The outdoor advertising viewing audience is mostly mobile. People travel swiftly in vehicles or walk at a brisk pace while they perform the activities of daily life. Mobility limits the potential viewing time of an outdoor advertising message to only a few seconds.

Because of limited exposure time, outdoor advertising design requires a disciplined and succinct creative approach. However, high frequency is a fundamental strength of the medium and repeated exposure will ensure that a message is absorbed and retained over time.

Here you will find guidelines and basic rules for designing for outdoor advertising mediums. If you require any assistance with visualising or designing your outdoor advertising creative please contact our Production Team.

Outdoor Advertising Design Considerations

Can the reader read the copy at a distance? & Is the basic idea expressed quickly and with impact?
Is the copy legible whilst moving?

Product Identification

Is the product clearly visible?

Short Words & Short Copy

Can the reader read the copy at a distance?
& Is the basic idea expressed quickly and with impact?

Legible Type

Is the copy legible whilst moving?

Large Illustrations

Do the illustrations demonstrate the products usage?
Are the illustrations visible from a distance?

Bold Colours

Do the colours have impact and complement each other?
Use colours with contrast. Try to avoid subtle colour blends that belong in print.


“Keep it simple” – does the background interfere with the basic idea?


Is the consumer involved? Will it attract attention – does it have an IDEA?

Outdoor Advertising Design Legibility Guidelines


The spectrum of full colour, vividly and faithfully reproduced, is one of outdoor advertising’s distinct advantages. Designs bursting with brilliant colour can evoke emotional responses that will inspire lasting impressions.

Complementary colours such as red and green are not readily legible. Any combination of colours of similar value, even without vibrating, will have low visibility in outdoor design. However, complementary colours that have strong contrast in value, and therefore little vibration, provide maximum visibility.



The colour combinations below demonstrate readability at distance with No.1 being the most legible, decreasing in legibility to No.6


Typestyle for Outdoor Design

Fonts selected for outdoor advertising designs must be easy to read from variable distances. Adequate spacing between letters, words and lines will enhance visibility. The relative size of letter characters is also an important consideration.

type1 Upper and lower case type is easier to read than all capitals letters
type-2 Too little spacing between letters makes them merge together
 type3 At long distance, very heavy letters become blobs, and very thin letters become invisible
 type4 Ornate script faces, and extensive contrast between thick and thin reduce legibility

Tactical Advertising Design

The world is a hectic and busy place. Outdoor advertising reaches people whenever and wherever they travel outside of their homes. Over time, outdoor advertising can consistently reinforce a message with crisp immediacy.

Location, Location, Location

Outdoor advertising conveys the right message, to the right audience, at the right time, in the right place. Understanding the dynamics of the marketplace is essential for effective outdoor advertising design. Often, finding the relevant and hidden relationships between the message and the environment makes the advertising smart.
Although many outdoor panels have a landscape format, some displays are portrait. The physical orientation of an outdoor advertising unit will significantly affect the placement of design elements such as product identity and the headline. Orientation will also affect the overall balance of an advertising design. It is important to remember that geography, demography and the orientation of a display are all necessary considerations when designing for the outdoor advertising medium.


Outdoor advertising is a frequency medium that provides multiple exposures to a message throughout the full duration a campaign period. Recency is another important factor. Defined in the book, “When Ads Work” by John Philip Jones, recency reminds people who are already in the marketplace that a brand, store or service is a good choice.
Consistent and repeated exposure to an outdoor advertising message over an extended period of time will maintain high levels of advertising awareness and recall. To avoid memory decline, multiple design executions for a campaign can be implemented simultaneously or introduced at appropriate intervals during the campaign period.
Source: Outdoor Advertising Association of America

Outdoor Advertising Design Golden Rule: Less is More

Let’s examine this statement further…

1 message, 41.1% awareness

2 messages, 36.7% Awareness, a 5% decrease in awareness

3 messages, 34.9% Awareness, a further 2% decrease

4 messages, 33.8% Awareness, another 1% drop in awareness levels

5 messages, 29.2% Awareness. A total decrease in awareness of 12% overall!

Guidelines for Digital Billboard Design

Essentially the same principles apply to digital billboards with some additional points to consider:

  • full-motion video brings unprecedented dynamism to the medium, but one must bear in mind that the absence of audio needs to be borne in mind and substituted with titling.
  • Use of large blocks of white in the background looks harsh and generates flare at night, detracting from the visibility of content.

There are many creative and innovative ways to use DOOH that make this platform so appealing:

  • interactive engagement through mobile technology
  • social media integration
  • augmented reality
  • Thermal activated ads
  • Dynamic Data driven digital ads