Free Advertising?! Is anything really free?
Deciding which type of advertising or free advertising to use for your business can include reviewing an extensive list of options. Once you select your medium, you then have to consider whether to pay for your ads or try to get the same exposure for free. Usually there are pros and cons to both sides, but it’s ultimately the data which will help sway which way you go.
Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is no different than any other advertising medium. There are both free and paid options to consider when adding outdoor advertising into your business’ marketing strategy. How do you know which one is best?
Free OOH advertising
Some of the more popular outdoor advertising strategies that are considered “free” include:
- Flyers – printing up flyers for distribution can help remind people of the latest sale or event associated with your business. While this may allow you to hit a large audience, it can also potentially lead to a lot of waste as people toss the ad without taking it in.
- Sign flipping – place a dynamic sign flipper at the closest, busiest street to help draw people into your business as they go by. The constant motion of the ad can be eye-catching to motorists and potentially help bring in customers immediately. There are limitations on this type of advertising though since a person can’t be outside all day holding your ad. Make sure you’re scheduling them during the busiest traffic times.
- Car wraps and signs – using a company vehicle or an employee’s car to promote your company gives you the freedom to take your ad on the road. Even if you don’t want to fully wrap a car, magnetic signs are available that affix the top of a vehicle, like what pizza delivery people use. It’s important though to drive your mobile ad on roads with a slower speed limit otherwise drivers and passengers might not have time to read the ad as it goes by.
- Public places – putting a sign up in a public location or placing a flyer on a public bulletin board is another way to get exposure, but there are often stipulations on how long the ad can be up. If you’re promoting an event, there may even be a restriction on how far in advance your sign can be posted.
While there technically will still be cost involved creating the ad piece or paying someone to hand materials out or display them, with these options, you still own the process and aren’t paying another company to manage the advertising for you, which makes these options”free.”. That also means that it’s up to you figure out when and where to display your ad rather than having an expert to rely on for advice.
Paid OOH advertising
Paid outdoor advertising consists primarily of billboards and transit posters or ads. Even the signage you see inside a bus or on top of a taxi counts as paid OOH advertising. Most often, in order to secure these advertising spots, you work with an agent who’s able to help you locate the ideal location for your ad and help you lease the space. The benefits to these forms of OOH advertising include:
- No time constraints for when you can advertise, your ad remains visible throughout the term of your lease contract.
- Enough background information exists around traffic patterns and demographics, which is accessible to your outdoor advertising agent, to help you reach your ideal target audience.
- With options like billboards or posters the size of a city bus, the average size of ads in this category often make them easier to see.
- Many of the free options use more traditional mediums, but paid outdoor advertising can take you digital with billboards that let you update your message in real-time.
- While we may disregard a flyer handed out as you’re on your way, most people naturally glance at billboards, especially when stopped in traffic, or transit posters while waiting for the bus or subway
Lastly, paid OOH advertising is often displayed in places where people are naturally looking for advertising. When stuck in traffic, most eyes wander across all the visible billboards for information and distraction. When waiting for a bus or train, reading the posters on the wall can make the time go by faster. This access alone may make paid OOH advertising worth the expense.
What do the numbers say?
It’s hard to evaluate the number of impressions free OOH advertising makes since there hasn’t been too much research done on how much follow-through those types of advertising get, even if they gather a large number of impressions.
On the other hand, paid OOH advertising has considerable data to reflect the effectiveness of use. According to a recent Nielsen study, 40% of people surveyed said they’d visited an advertiser because they passed their billboard. Additionally, 47% of people who were shown a poster from within their area could recall seeing that specific ad. Statistics like these not only back up the effectiveness of paid outdoor advertising, but can help prove why the cost is worth adding to the marketing budget.
Making the best choice for your business
With an extensive variety of advertising options simply within the category of OOH advertising, it’s possible to find the right combination of choices to best suit the needs of your business. What’s important is ensuring that strategies you do select give you the best return for your investment.