Out-of-the-box ABM

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2 min read

Happy Birthday, OOH: 172 Years Old and Thriving!

Break out the party hats because today we’re celebrating the birthday of out-of-home advertising!  From manually nailing printed flyers on posts in the town square to deploying 3D anamorphic billboards, the medium by which we publicly advertise has evolved dramatically with time, but one fact still rings true:  OOH has always yielded a unique power to attract and connect meaningfully with prospects and customers.

172 years old, and vibrant as everJohn Donnelly & Sons

While outdoor advertising has existed in some form as far back as the records go, we credit Irish immigrant John Donnelly for starting the business of outdoor advertising. Born in Monaghan, Ireland in 1829, John and his wife Mary Ann fled the famous Potato Famine in 1848, arriving with their two small children in Boston, Massachusetts. That brave, bold move not only changed their lives; it changed advertising history.

John Donnelly started his billposting business, John Donnelly & Sons, on September 27, 1850, and OOH was born.

We like to think that, all these years later, there’s a certain symmetry to the fact that was also born in Boston, further transforming the world of OOH advertising.

From something simple to a complex, versatile marketing channel

Back in 1850, there weren’t a lot of options to tell your story, whether you wanted to state your opinion or promote your business. Word of mouth was the standard, backed up by printed ads. Donnelly’s business was designed to post more printed ads — handbills — around town so more people would see them as they went about their business. Good idea!

Donnelly’s most notable customer during his first year of business? You guessed it — American showman P.T. Barnum.

Donnelly Advertising - Better Buy Birds Eye!

Following John Donnelly’s lead, others wishing to get the word out developed out-of-home advertising into a formalized industry – one that is so captivating and effective it’s still going strong today. In fact, OOH is the only traditional ad medium that is still growing.

Its momentum is stronger than ever, especially now that consumers are digitally exhausted and more receptive to brands that meet them where they’re least distracted – outside of their homes and away from their screens. (Marketers agree, saying OOH is the “perfect counterbalance” to all that digital overload.)

History buffs and advertising aficionados can explore the detailed history of the OOH industry here. The timeline of OOH milestones over the years shows the evolution of billboards and the industry’s expansion to include a panoply of media beyond billboards that can accommodate both traditional printed and digital ads.

OOH is still the most natural form of advertising

Today, outdoor advertising is all around us. We still do it the “old-fashioned way” – you stop a friend on the sidewalk to extol the virtues of your new sneakers. You put out a lawn sign to support your favorite political candidate. Sponsored banners adorn ball fields from grade schools to the Major Leagues.

But OOH has also benefited from the advancement of tech, incorporating the latest technologies to attract and impress customers and help marketers make the most effective decisions about ad content, formats, and locations.

Unique and modern OOH formats

OOH endures because of its enduring ROI

Just in time for OOH’s birthday (really, it was a serendipitous coincidence), we’ve released our latest nationwide survey of OOH marketers. With help from our partners at Kickstand Communications, we anonymously asked marketers who buy and use OOH advertising about their return on investment. Because, in the end, advertising is intended to generate interest and stimulate sales, right?

Here’s the bottom line: 96% of respondents report an average 51% monthly revenue increase directly attributable to OOH. That’s some darn fine ROI. We recently drank our own lemonade, so to speak, with our very own OOH campaign back in Boston, and are still reaping the rewards.

OOH has already had a more-than-impressive run, but despite being 172 years old, in many ways it feels like we’re just getting started. Happy birthday, OOH. Here’s to many more happy years and happy returns!

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