Creative outdoor campaigns can be a hugely powerful means of influencing consumer perceptions and attitudes, and ultimately the decision to buy products, says Gareth Grant. Designing outdoor campaigns, however, is a challenging task that requires rigid adherence to a number of basic principles, of which the foremost is the need for simplicity.
The latest Consumer Connection System (CCS) survey undertaken by Carat shows that between Mondays and Thursdays and an average of two hours and 16 minutes a day is spent travelling by car.
While these statistics highlight the potential importance of outdoor advertising, the potential viewing time of the audience is generally limited. It is essential, then, that advertisers should stick to some basic rules applying to the medium.
Outdoor design requires a highly disciplined and succinct creative approach. It is essential that advertisers communicate only one single idea, such as one single product benefit, as additional information will dilute the essence of the primary benefit and reduce the impact of the advertising. It’s equally important to limit the number of design elements, as too many will confuse viewers by making them work too hard to understand the meaning behind the message.
In the context of outdoor advertising, the ‘ABC’ stands for accuracy, boldness and clarity. Ideas need to be expressed concisely, messages should be dynamic and/or provocative and the number of words and pictures must be limited, ideally to fewer than three words and fewer than seven elements.
From a content perspective, humour and wit tend to arouse the most favourable response, but the elements of intrigue, surprise and aesthetic appeal will also make outdoor advertising stand out.
Intrigue – often a puzzle and solution relationship that requires some mental focus – works because it involves the viewer by using words and pictures that are not immediately comprehensible. The element of surprise, often in the form of unusual or unexpected design elements, causes the viewer to do the classic ‘double take’ and normally provokes an emotional response. Designs that focus purely on aesthetics can also work, where they convey pleasurable images and ideas to the viewer.”
While colour and contrast, font and font size and clear imagery are all important considerations for outdoor advertising, branding is probably the most important element on outdoor signage.
There’s no point in having an outdoor sign if nobody knows who the advertiser is or what brand is actually being promoted, and yet it’s amazing how many designs overlook this basic principle. The positioning of the brand, which is a function of whether we are dealing with portrait or horizontal units, is crucial in this regard as it will strongly affect brand recall.
Geography and demography are other important elements that need to be taken into account when designing for outdoor advertising. Thus a sign designed for an affluent shopping area will not necessarily work in a township, while cluttered environments demand that the visual is clear and uncomplicated if it is to stand out.
You have to take into account the time that is required for the viewer to fully understand the message as well as the distance from which it is viewed.
Ultimately, outdoor design amounts to visual story-telling in an environment quite different to any other media. Meeting the individual challenges associated with each opportunity and each location to ensure that the design stimulates the viewer’s imagination and solicits a response, requires an austere focus and specific expertise.
Gareth Grant is business unit head at leading media agency, Carat.
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