Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) Advertising: 8 Key Creative Best Practices

Raven Garza on Jan 13, 2021

When was the last time an outdoor ad stopped you in your tracks or made you do a double-take? Odds are, it was due to one of the digital signage design strategies we explore below.

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) screens can be found in many locations and come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. What's unique about DOOH is, unlike static OOH signs, it comes with digital flexibility similar to what advertisers see online or through mobile displays.

While it's true that industry standards are still being determined for DOOH, there are a few tried and true methods that will help audiences notice your ad more often, remember your message, and engage with your brand.

Let's jump in:

1. Tailor your creative for DOOH.

If you're running campaigns on other platforms and decide to invest in a DOOH ad, remember to alter your creative to better suit an outdoor display. It might be tempting to quickly reuse an existing ad, but keep in mind that what works in one channel might not work for a digital signage design.

By making tweaks to your messaging, font size, or image placement you can immediately improve an ad's relevancy and better capture audiences' attention.

When done thoughtfully, using DOOH creative to complement ads on other channels, particularly mobile, is a compelling way to get your message across and lead customers through the buyer's journey.

2. Make your colors POP without being overbearing.

We love having fun with the color wheel as much as the next bunch of creatives, but digital displays often work best with analogous color schemes (those that are next to each other on the color wheel). Complimentary colors (such as yellow and purple) don’t work as well when placed together on screens.

A Tostitos ad that used analogous colors to create contrast while highlighting their product and message.

Our recommendation is to pick a color and use other closely-related colors as accents to highlight key information. You should also focus on creating contrast by using a dark background with light text or vice versa to ensure your message can be seen from far away.

3. Incorporate movement into your digital signage design.

Studies show that content with elements of motion or movement is more effective at attracting people's attention than static imagery. However, this doesn't mean that you have to create an elaborate production.

"Subtle motion" is a popular technique used to elevate creative in DOOH, where a minimal movement is added to one or a few elements of an ad to draw the viewer's attention. This can also be applied to static images to create an effect of motion, such as an image slowly panning the screen or zooming in.

A Spotify ad that ran on Grocery TV across the U.S.

4. Display relevant content.

While planning your DOOH campaigns, create multiple designs that can be displayed depending on variables such as special events, locations, traffic, the weather, flight statuses, etc. When consumers come across contextually relevant creative, they're more likely to gain interest and engage with your brand.

If you design an ad for Grocery TV, the goal would be to reflect the grocery retail environment within your creative. Here's an example from Degree where they address customers as they wait in line at the checkout aisle.

Though, that doesn't mean your content has to strictly mention the grocery experience. Brands can also more broadly consider what the viewer might be doing before or after they visit the store.

For example, grocery shopping is sometimes grouped with errands like getting a car wash, so advertisers in that industry can remind customers about cleaning their vehicle while they're out and about.

5. Add interactive technology when it makes sense.

As we mentioned in a recent post, there are all types of innovative technologies making their way into the DOOH industry. A few examples include motion-sensors, augmented or virtual reality, and speech activation.

While this is an exciting option to explore for a campaign, we encourage your team to determine whether adding a new technology would amplify or detract from your message.

6. Create time-sensitive content.

If you create targeted ads depending on the time of day, people will be more responsive to your digital signage design. Placing a video of a fresh cup of coffee at 9am will be much more impactful than running it at 9pm, for example.

It's also worth noting that streaming live content, whether that be from a social media feed or an event, is another effective way to captivate audiences.

A Hershey's KitKat ad that ran during the morning hours on Grocery TV.

7. Include vibrant images that work with the surrounding environment.

When working with elevated highway billboards, we recommend using images that are simple rather than busy and distracting. If there's too much going on in your ad's accompanying photo, onlookers might feel overwhelmed and miss the message or call to action.

Save the detailed imagery for areas with up-close visibility like sidewalks or displays in grocery stores. In general, people react best to photos with human faces and eye-catching visuals that are relevant to your business.

8. Use a clear, large font.

Research shows that Sans-Serif fonts tend to work best for outdoor digital signage designs since they're easy to read at a glance. If your brand's font isn't optimal for DOOH, look for alternatives that will complement your messaging.

Here are some free fonts that have great readability: Lato, Roboto, Open Sans, Source Sans Pro, and Nunito Sans.

It's also important to remember that digital screens need to have text that is large enough to be legible from a distance, so don't be shy about upping those pixels. The exact sizes will depend on where the display is and how far audiences are, but following the 3x5 Rule might help guide you: Try to limit the amount of text to 3 lines, each with 5 words or less, or 5 lines of text with 3 words or less.

A Bank of America ad that ran on Grocery TV showing an example of the 3x5 Rule.

Did we miss something?

Reach out to us on Twitter or LinkedIn and let us know about what you've learned about DOOH creative best practices. Be sure to check out our Creative Engagement Kit for additional resources like ready-to-use ad templates and our favorite content creation software.

Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter below to keep tabs on new articles and discover more about our network!

Join the GTV Gist.

Our monthly newsletter includes updates on network growth, exciting company news, and industry insights.