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Political OOH: Why You Should do it and What You Need to Know

The 2022 midterm election cycle is well underway, with total political ad spending projected to hit a $9 billion record for midterm elections. According to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), Out-of-Home (OOH) political ad spending is seeing record highs. OOH Political ad spending is up 113% from Q'1 of last year and is 90% percent higher than the 2018 midterm elections.

Even now, as election day quickly approaches, there is still time for you to plan and execute an effective OOH campaign. In 2008, Former President Barack Obama executed a last-minute OOH campaign to reach voters in key battleground states, adapting and fine-tuning his strategy to fit each state’s unique situation. The use of media visible both day and night ensured maximum impact, expanded his voter pool and may have contributed to his initial presidential bid’s success.  

Whether you are raising awareness of your candidate and campaign, fundraising, promoting a campaign event or garnering support for your view on a political issue, OOH advertisements such as billboards are seen by millions of voters as they travel through the physical world in their day-to-day lives. 

In this article, we explain why OOH is an extremely effective medium for political advertising and give you the rundown on what rules you must follow.

Why is OOH an Effective Medium for Political Advertising?

Many constituents are bombarded with advertisements everywhere from digital ads playing on websites, to television and streaming ads to smartphone and social media ads. OOH advertising lives in the physical world and becomes part of the landscape, so viewers can passively view your message; taking in your ideas, without necessarily realizing that you have affected their moods, thoughts and subsequent actions that lead them to take action on your cause. 

OOH advertising is a perfect choice for political advertisers. Here are six reasons why from OAAA’s political advertising primer.

  1. Memorable Advertising: OOH produces the highest level of recall. Messages break through the clutter of other media channels and stand out from competitors who are not leveraging OOH. Using OOH for your advertising allows your audience to have constant exposure to your message between other media inserts. 
  2. Amplify Your Message and Maximize Your Reach: OOH builds awareness rapidly, with larger-than-life, bold impact. OOH can increase the reach of all of your media channels by 90% or more because of its strong potential to create a conversation that leads to free amplification of your message through other channels. News outlets and social media channels sharing images of your creative can significantly magnify your audience impressions. Additionally, because it is primarily pure ad play, without the disruption of programming or editorial content, it is not disrupted by audience fragmentation like other media. Studies have shown that OOH increases ROI for search advertising by 40% and is more efficient at driving online activation than all traditional media and digital banner ads, with 57% of adults reporting that OOH ads have recently prompted them to take an action such as visit an advertiser’s website, search for more information or share on social media. 
  3. Make More Cost-Efficient Campaigns: Free amplification of your message means that you can garner more impressions using fewer dollars. OOH often has lower CPMs and CPPs than other media channels and can deliver mass reach when other channels such as TV are sold out or too expensive. Its local demographic targets also mean that there are fewer wasted exposures than other media channels. 
  4. Build Audience Trust: According to OAAA, OOH advertising is tied for #1 with print media for consumer ad favorability and trust. 85% of US adult OOH ad viewers find OOH advertisements useful. 
  5. Target Your Key Voters: OOH allows you to target your audience where they work, play, and live. It also allows the targeting of high propensity voters, over-indexing with adults 25-54, HHI, $100k+, those with advanced degrees and Black and Hispanic  Americans. Additionally, OOH is most popular with those 18-34 which can help you to spread the youth vote. 
  6. Go to Market and Make Changes Quickly: Digital OOH offers instantaneous updating of messages and the ability to make changes as needed. Its vast variety of media products, schedules, and weights means that you can create a customized media plan that fits your budget objectives. Its ability to complement your other channels means media objectives are achieved effectively and efficiently. 

Though OOH is an effective medium for political campaigns, there are more stringent restrictions on where to post and what to post than many other advertising categories. The following are rules and regulations that must be followed to run your campaign.

What Regulations Must I Follow for Political Advertising?

There are many regulations for political advertising. It is important to have an understanding of the rules so that you can strategize for campaigns with the greatest effectiveness. Here are four rules you must follow for your political OOH campaigns:

  • Must pay published rate card price
    Media suppliers cannot provide discounts to politicians or other groups who want to create campaigns on behalf of candidates or ballot measures. Providing those discounts would be considered a political donation, which has its own set of rules. 
  • No Messaging on Government Property
    Though OOH has an endless variety of media and formats, only certain formats can be used for partisan messaging. Partisan messaging is completely prohibited on government property including public transit, airports, bike shares, bus shelters and most street furniture. 
  • Limited Place-based Ads
    Digital screens at places like retail shops, medical offices or bar/restaurant bathrooms may seem like a good option since much government inventory is off limits, but many of these establishments have broad customer bases from both sides of the political aisle and may not want to show bias that could alienate or dissuade their customers if their views do not align. Private media owners also have the right to say no to selling political ad space if they do not like the messaging.
  • Caution in Messaging
    Though get-out-the-vote messaging is usually allowed, it must be purchased by a 501-C3 non-profit organization. Political candidates and PACS are not allowed to post partisan “get-out-the-vote” messaging. Media owners may require a disclaimer at the bottom of the ad stating who paid for the ad.

Hit the Campaign Trail with Billups

Despite political advertising's many rules and regulations that may even be particular to your locale, there are ways to create innovative and effective outdoor political campaigns. Working with an OOH specialist, like Billups, can help you to navigate challenges and restrictions related to political advertising, while still strategically building out an effective, cost-efficient and memorable campaign. 

Our team can:

  • Strategize messaging and creatives that will reach your constituents
  • Target your audience with scalable campaigns of varying complexity that make use of the most effective placements
  • Measure campaign performance through advanced data and analytics
  • Automate your experience into a turnkey event

Ready to get started on your next political or issues campaign? Submit an RFP today!