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7 Fundamentals —Best Creative Practices Which Make Billboards Better

Clear Channel's McGraw on OOH Creative Success

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7 Ways to Create Billboards that Spark Joy

Mike McGrawMike McGraw, SVP of Marketing Solutions,  Clear Channel Outdoor



Having worked in the #OOH industry for over 20 years, many of them spent right in the heart of Times Square, I have seen it all. Experiential events, augmented reality, 3D props that move and steam, characters in furry costumes, naked cowboys with guitars…you name it. The most memorable executions all have something in common — great creative.

Whether I am in a city walking by transit shelters, traveling through airports scanning baggage claim screens or driving around town passing bulletins and #posters, my eyes always gravitate up, looking for the best examples. It’s natural for me to scan the landscape for these larger-than-life canvases promoting new brands, products or services that are relevant along my journey. Over the years I have seen countless examples and the best ones always have something in common. They stick to a set of tried and true best practices.

“What can we do to make our billboards better?”

As I help lead teams of designers across the country, working with myriad brands and ad agencies, I have developed 7 fundamental ways any of them can have success when asked: “What can we do to make our billboards better?” I hope you find these easy to apply, and effective when developing your next out-of-home campaign to create impact, leave a lasting impression and drive consumer action.

#1: USE BOLD SANS SERIF FONTS: Maximize size and contrast

This font is the easiest to view from the road and from a distance. If a passerby or driver can’t comprehend your message in a few seconds, the opportunity is lost.

Coca-Cola Digital Bullboard Sans Serif Font

Nike Billboard and Wallscape Sans Serif Font


#2: CRANK UP THE VOLUME: Apply white text on vibrant backgrounds

Dunkin’ Donuts and GoPro know how to make it pop. Just look at the examples below to see how a consumer’s eye would be drawn to the sharp color contrast.

GoPro Premiere Panel

Dunkin Donuts Fries Digital Billboard

#3: IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: Use the full height of the billboard

The cliché, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is a cliché for a reason, it’s true. Images make instant emotional connections. When less is more, have your image say what you can’t fit on the #billboard.

Uber Digital Billboard

Facebook Messenger Billboard


#4: STICK TO ONE IDEA: Communicate as rapidly as possible

You only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression. The best billboards do not stack the canvas with competing messages. They’re clear and want the reader to hone in on one key element that they’ll remember (or one key mystery they’ll question).

Dead Pool 2 Movie Billboard

Chicago Bar Company Billboard


#5: USE SEVEN WORDS OR LESS: Make it contextually relevant

Less is more. Be concise and your campaign will stick. Be witty and it will be even stickier.

Chiquita Banana Billboards

Toyota Roads Schmoads Billboard


#6: LOCALIZE YOUR MESSAGE: Consumers engage and recall increases

Localization provides instant recognition, like the billboard is talking to you personally, it knows you, knows what you like to eat, where you like to go…knows how your hometown outrocks your neighbors. This builds instant rapport and favorability.

McDonalds Texas Billboard

T-Mobile Local Billboard


#7: CREATE A STRONG SILHOUETTE: Forget about the negative space

Silhouettes are art in themselves. The eye is naturally drawn to work out the shape, producing captivating creative.

Atomic Blonde Sunset Strip Billboard

Universal Pictures Glass Billboard


Originally posted to the Look Up blog.





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  1. […] some visuals, check out OOH Today’s guide to the creative process of standout billboards. Font, colors and size all […]