Innovations: The Fuel of Out of Home Advertising

Recently, while waiting to check-in at the airport, I could not help but look at the digital boards all around featuring fun trivia, gossip and advertisements. It made me reminiscence those days when standing in a queue at the airport was not as interesting as it is today. These boards and the huge glossy ads on the pillars are undeniably, an innovative way to reach out to the audience in the most unobtrusive manner unlike the constant barrage of advertising texts and mails which invade our personal space. Out of home or popularly known as OOH advertising , is indeed, a great way to tap the minds of the masses especially when they are sitting idle behind the wheel stuck in a traffic jam or standing bored in a queue at the airport , metro station or movie theatre or simply lounging in the mall.

Time is a very important social indicator. And in the recent years, the amount of time spent out of home has increased tremendously in India, especially in the metro cities. In fact, according to an index prepared by Nubeo, the average time taken by a person to reach his destination in Mumbai is 66.18 minutes, 60.82 and 58 minutes in Pune and Kolkata respectively. Other big cities are not far behind. Thus, allowing a huge window of time to advertisers to reach out to their prospective consumers. However in this age when information is easily available, it is important to stand out in order to leave a lasting impression.  And as it is said, “necessity is the mother of invention”, several innovations have been made in the field of OOH. Now, anyone would wonder that how can one innovate in this field? What can possibly make the already existing billboards and transit ads more interesting than they already are?

But the truth is that creativity and imagination in advertising has reached great heights and it is not just in the medium/platforms but also in the content. A number of successful campaigns can be quoted and otherwise found online. Being a superhero fan and team Batman, a personal favourite is the campaign done by Warner Bros. in Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia prior to the release of Batman vs. Superman wherein they used augmented reality to let people wear the costume of their chosen superhero and appear on the digital screens installed on the fully wrapped bus shelters.

A Digital Media used for the promotion of Batman Vs. Superman, Source:

A Digital Media being used for the promotion of Batman Vs. Superman, Source:


PepsiCo chose to tap the sensory ability of smell for advertising Cheetos by installing scent diffusers at the bus shelters in Colombia which attracted the pedestrians to the distinct cheesy popcorn smell and made them think about buying it.

Pepsico promoting their new cheetos with scented bus shelters. Source:

Pepsico promoting their new cheetos with scented bus shelters. Source:


Sometimes, when an idea hits our head, we visualize a bulb lighting up right above our head and this is exactly what the Economist did in the UK with their ad campaign wherein their symbolic bulb lit up each time someone walked past it.

Advertising today is become more and more about our experience. From just being visually appealing, it has now moved on to indulging our other senses such as touch, smell and in some cases even taste. While ambient advertising is exploring newer venues to place the advertisements, the traditional ads such as the billboards and digital boards are seeing a major change in terms of the design. But this is not where it ends, the content has also drastically changed from being straightforward and direct to teasing and witty. In fact, they are sometimes even thought provoking. For instance, the Australian Childhood Foundation created a powerful and meaningful campaign when they pasted their huge posters carrying the message “Neglected children are made to feel invisible.” on child mannequins standing against the wall.

A common trend today is to focus on online and social media marketing for establishing a brand but the few above mentioned examples of outdoor campaigns definitely prove the power of the latter in terms of outreach and success.Hence, the takeaway lesson for the start up marketers should be to avoid following the herd into investing in clichéd online ad campaigns. Innovation always stands out and being a trend-setter is way better than being a follower because a well-thought outdoor campaign can deliver in far lesser time frame than online media.

Indian Scenario

In India, a 2013 FICCI-KPMG report on media and entertainment had pegged this industry at Rs 1823 crore and further added that it is projected to touch Rs 2727 crore by 2017.Although, this sector in India is lagging behind its global competitors, it has immense untapped potential.

As a matter of fact, a much- talked campaign saw Tata Motors hanging an actual real size 3D model of TIAGO on a hoarding in a prime location in Mumbai along with high intensity lights to build curiosity.

Tata Motor’s creative approach towards advertising it’s Tiago on OOH Media, Source:

Tata Motor’s creative approach towards advertising it’s Tiago on OOH Media, Source:


Thus, new dimensions of advertising are now being explored. Ambient advertising is making its mark with vinyl wrapped bus shelters and digital boards combined with glass facades. Recently, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has decided to permit the use of glass facades on the walls along the tracks for promotion. So far, transit advertising has grown in popularity with companies such as IndiaMart using completely wrapped metros for branding.

Delhi Metro gets a wrap from Indiamart, Source:

Delhi Metro gets a wrap from Indiamart, Source:


It is not uncommon to see ad stickers of start ups behind autos or on top of cabs. Sometimes these ads are even backlit with LED lights.The soaring popularity of such methods is attributed to its cheapness and effectiveness. Websites such as,, etc have opted for auto ads and amongst these, has even reported a 40% surge in website traffic with an investment of less than Rs 20,000 on their auto ads.

Taxis too, are being used for branding with cab companies like Meru and Easy Cabs offering their clients to use the four doors and the translites on the top of the car. Sometimes, even the headrests are used and now LCDs, too, are being installed. The formula for success in this type of campaign is simple: More the cars, more the visibility. As per the World Advertising Research data of 2006, it was estimated that taxi ads in London produced 7,500 impressions per taxi per day. Similarly, it is estimated that in Mumbai, 500 impressions are produced for every kilometre, thus, leaving one lakh impressions per day per cab and close to 90 lakh impressions quarterly. In fact, Meru has created a database of the kilometres covered by the vehicles per day for its clients to study the effectiveness of their investments.

Making the most of the space available, Source:

Making the most of the space available, Source:


Amongst the various others, another interesting platform is provided by the aviation industry. Jabong,which is an emerging brand has used the inside of Indigo Airlines feeder buses to advertise their merchandise. Similarly, Ola and Snapdeal have advertised on buses and metros whereas Paytm has chosen the metro cards as its chosen medium of advertisements and one can most certainly not doubt the impact and extent of coverage because a metro card is an everyday necessity for regular commuters. Everyone (including me) has stared at that card out of sheer boredom while travelling and we now even have the pattern and colours memorized.Hence, it is not always the size of the ads which counts.

Ola, the taxi aggregator has moved towards using locational data of the customers to advertise. Geo-fencing for location based advertising is one of the latest technological innovations which is gradually getting implemented. It’s benefit lies in these types of ads being personalized and timely.

Ambient advertising in India has picked up immensely with glass facades coming up outside malls,airports, on street lighting, metro stations etc. Jabong and Myntra have expanded their outreach through such ads in addition to billboards and other means of OOH advertising. put up a huge model of their mascot in a busy work place area to attract the attention of the office goers to their services. The mascot being a well dressed mouse is in itself quirky and the 3D model made it even better. Another fascinating mascot is the panda belonging to which placed its cut- outs in strategic locations close to eateries to draw their prospective users.’s 25-foot mascot, Mr M, does more than just evangelising at Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, Source:’s 25-foot mascot, Mr M, does more than just evangelising at Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, Source:


A popular media today are the LCD, LED etc screens installed in the food courts to trap their audience at the best time. And the massive curvy board which recently became functional in the posh Ambience mall in Delhi is not only hard to miss; it is also a novelty for the people who are happily enjoying their food.

Now the bill boards are also not far behind. These traditional mediums have undergone a makeover and still retain their worth amongst advertisers. After all, who doesn’t want to be a part of the city’s skyline! We don’t see the clichéd painted or flex boards anymore. It is all about style today and one just cannot stop looking at the fancy ads near the airports or in elite localities and market places. Even a Gionee phone becomes as desirable as an Apple product and this is all due to the creativity of the ads and the lighting of the boards.

In another interesting instance, to pique the interest of the spectators, an ad agency had placed an entire billboard in the sea in Mumbai to promote a movie based on Global Warming and the possibility of flooding due to it.And just when one thought that this is the zenith of advertising, we keep finding newer and more remarkable ads like Unitechwhich used thousands of dummy matchboxes to produce Lego-like high-rise structures in order to promote their new Villas.

The Promotion for the movie Day after tomorrow at Mumbai, Source:

The Promotion for the movie Day after tomorrow at Mumbai, Source:


Nevertheless, it is not just the method and manner of presentation but also the content which has transformed into being more dynamic,intelligent, witty and (sometimes) cheeky. eBay, an ecommerce website placed a white billboard in Mumbai with just a tag saying “Sold Out” and its brand name. The two words were enough to generate inquisitiveness amongst people to check out the website. And of course, when it comes to tag lines, one cannot forget the ‘war of ads’ between the two rivals Snapdeal and Flipkart who sparred over each other’s catch phrases to prove that they were better than the other. and also indulged in a similar ‘ad brawl’. This succeeded in not just promoting their brands but also entertaining the masses who read the boards. However, it is not the conflict but the smartness behind the content which is laudable and the one trait which is evident is that most ads today are tantalizing its audience into following it up.

So, like in the popular children’s story ‘Hansel & Gretel’ where Gretel used to leave a trail of pebbles in the forest to reach home and once when she used breadcrumbs instead, she and her brother reached a dangerous place, the trail that we choose to create for our audience is very important. We don’t want to lead them to a rival or have them totally lost. This makes advertising very important for any business especially for the start ups, which need to create both a market as well as a consumer base for themselves and in the jungle of information, it is easy for them too, to get lost or misled into choosing a less appropriate type of advertising platform which could be disastrous.

But innovation is restricted not just to how you campaign but also to how you plan your campaign.In the world of digitization, start-ups like ADmyBRAND have come up to bridge the lacunae between information and advertisers. ADmyBRAND, which is a venture by IIM-Calcutta alumni,is a modern avatar of the traditional media agency and a one-stop portal for comparing outdoor media on hundreds of parameters, booking desired media and monitoring the entire campaign online. They have partnered with above 52 media owners who have listed more than 38,000 outdoor media and is growing exponentially.The unique selling point of this enterprise has to be its mantra of promoting a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ or DIY approach by providing their data and services to brands in order to help them develop a ‘tailor-fit’ campaign which in turn shall help these businesses channelize their resources well and give them an edge over others.Their webpage for outdoor advertising which is known as 8Hoardingis worth visiting and is an ‘online advertising genie’ with endless options and choices just at the command of a simple click.


The authors Pratyush & Aishwarya are associated with ADmyBRAND generating unique insights for ATL marketers in India. An environmentalist by education, Aishwarya, swings between her studies during the day and writing at night. An avid reader and a frequent blogger, she enjoys poetry and loves to travel. Pratyush is a content designer, a data researcher, a webmaster, a Coder by day and blogger by night, a geek, a technologist and beyond everything a free thinker.


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