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The Evolution of Outdoor Advertising: Our Top Favourite Ads

07th January 2020
Batman projection on senate house

Advertising has evolved significantly in the last fifty years. Brands have had to get increasingly more creative and intelligent in order to grab attention and ensure their messages land.

Starting from the original TV ads, where advertising became a compelling feature that people tuned in for, to personalised, tailored ads found across the internet where contextuality became key. This in turn led to interactive advertising, allowing brands to cleanly and efficiently communicate advertising and product messaging.  Outdoor advertising is a key part of that contemporary mix.

There are many forms of large-scale advertising across print, digital and TV which have provided the medium for large and successful ad campaigns over the years. Large-scale advertising has traditionally been a very valuable tool for brand awareness, lead generation and more importantly for driving strong sales and profit. We look at exactly what types of outdoor advertising there are and how effective they can be.

What is outdoor advertising? 

Outdoor advertising, otherwise known as out-of-home advertising (OOH), outdoor media describes advertising that reaches consumers whilst they outside of their home environment. This means it tends to be large scale, because it reaches people when they’re on the go and in public spaces, so needs to have a huge impact.

It can be in the form of the following:

  • Projections
  • Billboards
  • Interactive screens
  • PR stunts
  • Transit e.g. buses
  • Street furniture e.g. phone boxes

Why use outdoor advertising 

Extensive outdoor advertising campaigns have seen success because of the high level of impact this setting provides. It demands attention, with an instant mass audience reach and easy engagement.

Despite the initial outgoings in terms of cost, it tends to generate a huge ROI, upscaling dramatically with an increased budget. Read this blog by 360degree marketing for more information around the background of out of home advertising.

Why outdoor advertising is so effective

Large scale and outdoor advertising are so effective because of their cross-platform measurement and targeting as well as access to audience profiling. With ad fatigue ever more common as audiences are bombarded, outdoor advertising manages to have the wow factor. The scale of this type of advertising allows marketers to cut through the noise and grab consumer attention where other messages may struggle to get through.  Outdoor large-scale advertising is also particularly effective at influencing users at different stages of their buying journey. For example, people who see an OOH campaign are 17% more likely to engage with the brand on their mobile.

outdoor advertising

Top Ten Outdoor Ads 

We’ve collated our top 10 favourite large-scale ads of all time, distilling their ground-breaking traits, with tips and inspiration to give you guidance when planning your ads.

  1. Churchill Car Insurance drive-thru

    Built around a US diner theme, the brand’s bulldog mascot interacted with motorists as they waited at traffic lights. They displayed specifically targeted creatives on interactive billboards.

    This campaign was ground-breaking because it delivered live interaction, reflecting the car type as it approached the billboard and displaying personalised messaging. This campaign demonstrates a refreshing way to deliver offers to your customers and to push your USPs as well as the brand identity.

  1. Born-free world orca day ‘out of home’ advertising
    This was a stunning and impressive outdoor screen campaign organised by the Born-Free Foundation. An eye-catching digital out-of-home campaign, large outdoor screens showed full-motion images of orcas confined to virtual tanks.

    Via a range of digital devices, spectators and passers-by could ‘free’ the orcas by making a donation. An image of orcas swimming away to freedom would then be displayed. This was ground-breaking because it showed the real-time impact of a donation as a way of galvanising people into action and showing a tangible impact of their donation.

  2. 2020 Bond Film ‘No Time To Die’ DOOH advertising

    The viral OOH campaign to advertise the 2020 Bond film, devised by digital facilitator ‘Ocean Outdoor’ was incredibly successful and generated a lot of revenue. The key to its success was its simplicity. The beauty of this form of advertising is that it’s frictionless and fast. The ad was a world media first, as the full trailer of the anticipated 2020 film was broadcast on the iconic large screen, Piccadilly Lights in London. It was supported by furthers showings on Ocean’s portfolio of big screens nationwide.

    In recent years, we’ve seen substantially sized out-of-home advertising campaigns coming together and becoming bigger than ever. Data, technology and physical infrastructure are all in place to seamlessly connect and enable this new era of advertising. The results are efficiency and success for advertisers.

  1. Delta Airlines and Equinox Fitness real-time advertising collaboration

    This innovative partnership used real flight data to encourage international travellers to visit the gym after returning on a flight.  Interactive billboards displayed messaging, speaking to those people who had just landed on a specific flight number and encouraging them to book in refreshing gym class.

    This is pushed boundaries because it linked real-time data from another brand to target people in a personal way, tapping into their lifestyle and habits. Working collaboratively to achieve a mutual benefit, these two brands produced an effective campaign.

  1. Senate House as Gotham City.

    bat signal

    There are many ways to deliver outdoor immersive video experiences, for example from undulating tunnels of outdoor LED panels to 200ft wide LED boards in stadiums. Projection is the biggest and best of them all.

    Senate House was transformed into Gotham City recently, with a much-anticipated advertising campaign for Batman. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Batman franchise, iconic buildings and landmarks across the world were lit-up with the Bat signal as fans came together to celebrate.

    Senate House hosted the filming of both the 2005 film ‘Batman Begins’ and the 2012 film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and was the only venue in the UK and Ireland to be part of these historical celebrations. The simplicity of this campaign again shows how effective large-scale projection can be.

  1. Extinction Rebellion – Greta Thunberg’s ‘Emergency Queen’s Speech’.

    High brightness projectors are making it even more effective to enable video to appear on a large range of surfaces, for example cathedrals, skyscrapers and sports stadium floors where fixed displays cannot be placed.

    The Greta Thunberg projection onto the Houses of Parliament was hugely impactful. The protesters used the concept of the queen’s speech to parody the agenda of parliament, with the message that the environment crisis should be firmly at the top.

    There is a big future for big screen projection marketing and we’ll only see it go from strength to strength, whether in the form of ultimate guerrilla marketing as shown by Extinction Rebellion to further their cause or for brands with profit in mind. At University of London Events, we’ve been supporting brands by enabling large-scale projections at Senate House for nearly 10 years.

  1.  Guinness Arthur’s Day Video Mapping

    As part of the UK Arthur’s Day celebrations, Guinness launched a campaign to ‘Paint the Town Black’. This was a prelude to a secret gig, with a 3D video-mapping show. The courtyard of our very own striking Senate House was used to create a truly immersive experience with a projection that spanned 270 degrees.

    With over 800 guests wearing headphones in the courtyard, a shared silent disco video mapping experience was rolled out. With guests sharing the video through devices, the video was also later released online by Guinness.

    Guiness Video Mapping on Senate House

  2. London Bridge Movember Moustache

    This guerrilla marketing campaign devised by multimedia artist Rebecca Smith was created to raise awareness of Movember, with a giant image of a moustache projected onto London Bridge. This low-cost campaign is ideal for the experience driven generations like Gen-Z and millennials.

    This type of campaign allows a deeper connection to brands that people interact with. It’s also more affordable than LED screens, which makes this type of advertising more of an attractive proposition for advertising.

  1. Led By Donkeys Dover Projection

    Amidst Brexit controversy, the innovative creative team behind the guerrilla advertising group ‘Led By Donkeys’ created a large-scale projection campaign. Using a 3000sq metre projection, they displayed a powerful and hard-hitting ad campaign onto the white cliffs of Dover. Controversial and provocative, this campaign was led by anti-Brexit protesters and portrayed an SOS message calling for another vote.

    This shows how large-scale OOH advertising can be used for viral political advertising too, as well as for brand and more neutral campaigns.

  1. Beats By Dre from Pixel Artworks

    This project from one of our suppliers, Pixel Artworks - light and pixel technology specialists – was really impressive. Combining wirelessly integrated lighting on County Hall, the London Eye and a projection show with accompanying audio, this was part of an integrated campaign for Beats by Dre.

Consider Senate House for your large-scale advertising

Whether it’s out of home advertising on a big screen or large-scale projection, Senate House provides an ideal backdrop. Contact us for marketing advice and for more information on working with our supplier Pixel Artworks. Get in touch with our expert events team on 020 7862 8127 or drop our conference and events team an email on


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