4 ways out-of-home advertising can amplify social media campaigns

When you think about the marketing channels pushing brand messages and campaigns to ‘go viral,’ it wouldn’t be a surprise if your mind wandered toward social media first. After all, social media is, in large part, to thank for what we call viral marketing today.

Knowing that marketing channels are more interconnected than ever before, traditional media, like out-of-home, is now being used to amplify social media campaigns, and the social movements they inspire, in ways the industry never thought possible.

Admittedly, this OOH-driven approach to social media amplification is relatively new territory for many marketers. So, we thought we’d provide some tips for putting this strategy into action...

The value of social media as a marketing channel

There are now 4.2 billion people around the world using social media today, representing about 53% of the world’s total population. The sheer prevalence and reach of social media is just one reason why it has become such an important asset in a marketer’s toolkit in recent years.

Social media, therefore, enables brands to get in front of large audiences in a targeted and efficient way. It’s added value is its unique ability to create interactive marketing spaces where consumers can engage with brands directly. This drives brand loyalty in a big way.

The channel is also responsible for the rise of "social media influencers." Having gained their notoriety—and large social media following—as a result of subject matter expertise or perceived social status, these people have become a dominant force for marketers of all kinds. In fact, nearly half of consumers look to social media influencers to get recommendations on purchases, which has further amplified social media’s role as a conversion-driving channel.

For these reasons, social media is unquestionably a highly effective advertising channel, both in terms of cost and engagement. In Q2 2020, for example, the average CPM (cost per thousand impressions) for social media ads hovered around $4.33 while the average CTR (click-through rate) grew to 1.3%.  

And that’s really just scratching the surface. But this only looks at social media as an isolated marketing channel. What happens when you add out-of-home advertising into the mix?

OOH ads can fuel social media effectiveness

In 2017, Nielsen proved that out-of-home advertising can secure more social activations by a factor of four per every ad dollar spent, compared to all other media types. This alone should make you think twice about the role that OOH can play in your multi-channel marketing efforts.

Nielsen also found that around 38% of adults in the US have visited or posted on a Facebook page after seeing an OOH ad. Twenty-five percent have done the same on Instagram.

The key takeaway here is that out-of-home is the perfect media for bridging the real world with the digital world. It has the power to create a ‘halo effect’ that influences consumer digital behaviors, even if completely subconscious, long after seeing an OOH ad.

This is especially true for younger, digitally-minded consumers who spend a lot more time on their phones and other mobile devices than older generations. As a matter of fact, Facebook’s marketing team revealed that the combination of Facebook and OOH ads has a much greater likelihood of reaching younger audiences versus when Facebook ads were combined with TV ads or print ads. This isn’t a big surprise. Younger consumers simply don’t spend as much time in front of traditional TV or print compared to other demographics.

However, like all other humans, they live in the real world, albeit tethered to their digital devices, and are equally exposed to OOH ads like everyone else. When they see something that leaves a lasting impression, they flock to the digital world to take action on it. And therein lies OOH’s ability to turn ‘real world’ marketing into a social media viral sensation.


“Facebook and OOH advertising are particularly effective in driving new product awareness and consideration with younger audiences.”  

Source: Maximize Reach with OOH and Facebook Campaigns in EMEA, Facebook


4 ideas for bridging the OOH and social media worlds creatively

Obviously, there’s a lot of (still untapped) potential around what out-of-home can do to amplify social media campaigns and even spark social movements. For starters, here are a few ideas for developing effective multichannel marketing campaigns fueled by out-of-home advertising.

1. Let yourself be really creative

Out-of-home lends itself to a lot more creative freedom than most other formats, especially when developing large billboard ads or wallscapes. These massive ad units give brands tremendous flexibility in creating stunning visuals that add an immersive element of “pop” to the surrounding area while being able to broadcast a bold and clear marketing message.

Because OOH ads serve multiple purposes beyond conversion alone, brands can use out-of-home in playful and provocative ways to grab a consumer’s attention and leave a lasting impression. In fact, many brands now factor in the potential “shareability” of their OOH ads during the creative development process because they know that making the creative “Instagram-worthy” can help the ads take on a life of their own across social media. Do not reign in creativity here; “show-stopping” ads are much more likely to go viral.

2. Go ahead, ruffle some feathers

With added creative freedom comes the potential for ads to be more provocative and conversation-worthy. We saw this play out beautifully in a strategic OOH ad campaign we developed in collaboration with the Miami Mayor, Francis Suarez.  

In the past year, many Silicon Valley companies decided to flee the Bay Area, in lieu of more affordable places like Austin, Denver, and Miami. Seeing this real-time “exodus” as an opportunity, the City of Miami didn’t waste any time harnessing the zeitgeist. They were willing to "play ball" when local investors decided to launch a series of strategically-placed ads across San Francisco, inviting area businesses to reach out to Suarez directly to learn more about why Miami is an ideal relocation city.

Obviously, this got people talking, and the campaign went viral, fast. Not only did a number of tech influencers share photos of the billboards across social media, but the campaign got covered extensively by the Miami Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other media outlets. When all was said and done, a campaign that was geo-targeted to San Francisco ended up being seen by 44.7 million people across the country (and beyond).

3. Capture it in all its glory

A great OOH ad always deserves its time in the spotlight, especially when placed in a supremely photo-worthy context. So don’t miss out on any opportunity to extend the life, reach, and total impact of your OOH campaigns by snapping beautiful “glamour” shots of your work and then using those high-quality photos for sharing across social media.

Typically, the folks who install your OOH ads will snap a photo as proof that the work has been completed successfully. But those people are just crossing something off of their to-do list and not necessarily thinking about your extended marketing needs. So don’t rely solely on this “free” photography to give shareable fodder for social media.

We recently worked with the Smalls cat food company to ensure they locked in the right ad units to get some great photo opps once the ads were installed. And we sent out top-notch photographers to capture some amazing photos for the brand to share on social. Once again, this took the campaign viral. Their post on Instagram showing off the billboard received over 1,700 likes and 133 comments—more than any other previous post in 2020.

4. Speak directly to your most loyal followers

One of the most effective ways to make any campaign go viral is to give a ‘wink’ or a shout-out to your most devout superfans. When your customers or followers see that you are making a point to speak directly to them, they’ll have even more reason to spread the word. In fact, this is the bread and butter of viral marketing: Give people something that’s not only shareable but also aligns with their likes, beliefs, values, and beyond.


To celebrate the 500th episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, we helped Tim place a massive billboard in the most random place in Ohio—a nod to the show’s nickname, “The Random Show”—to thank his followers for joining him on his journey. The creative also featured an inside joke from his very first episode, meaning only his most loyal and dedicated followers would be “in the know.”

It took less than 24 hours for this campaign to go viral on social media, quickly earning 2,000+ engagements on Twitter and 14,000+ engagements on Instagram, three and a half times the engagement received on his social posts around the “official” 500th episode announcement.

5. Raise funds for a good cause

The country has been through a lot in the past year. Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Movement, a heated Presidential election, and so much more, there has never been a time when grass-roots efforts have been more critical.

Unfortunately, “grass-roots” doesn’t always equate to “big budgets.” And small budgets can sometimes make it hard for organizations to influence real and meaningful change. So, to play our part in this, the team at AdQuick decided to help support incredible causes by building a crowdfunding tool directly into our SMB platform. It has been a game-changer.

In the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death, we collaborated with Lorelei HoJay to raise awareness for her Change.org petition supporting the “Justice for Breonna Taylor Act,” by launching a 20-billboard crowdfunding campaign across Kentucky. The effort raised $80k in donations, garnered 20 million impressions, and reached 95% of Lexington residents and 99.99% of Louisville residents. In the end, it put pressure on local Louisville lawmakers to enact “Breonna’s Law,” an ordinance passed unanimously to ban no-knock search warrants.

Don’t forget to measure your impact

Although it’s a lot of fun planning, building, and deploying creative OOH ad campaigns with a decided nod towards social media, you can’t forget the final step in this process: making sure that the creative makes a positive impact and is successful in getting your message across.

So don’t let the “fun” of the campaign overshadow measuring its effectiveness. To get a sense of how well your OOH ad campaigns perform, consider these metrics:

  • Increase in hashtag usage: Whether you include a hashtag on your OOH ad creative or only in your social media posts, one easy—and non-technical—way to see just how much traction a campaign has received across digital channels is to measure the spike in hashtag use during a campaign’s flight (versus during non-campaign times). The major drawback here, however, is that a lot of people will inadvertently type in hashtags incorrectly, meaning that the data you see won’t reflect actual sharing volume.
  • Track via image recognition software: To help overcome the “user error” hashtag measurement issues above, AdQuick has developed the industry’s first image recognition software to measure how often specific OOH ad creative is shared across Instagram and other social media channels. This can capture all sharing instances, whether or not someone included the (correct) hashtag in their post.
  • Lift in digital ad performance: Although OOH ads can take on a viral life of their own across social media, your OOH ad campaigns can actually improve the effectiveness of your other marketing channels, too. Until recently, there hasn’t been an easy way to measure this. At AdQuick, we’ve pioneered an entirely new approach for measuring this "halo effect" by looking at the geo-located lift in the click-through rate and conversion rate of digital ads. For the first time marketers can now connect the dots more accurately between offline out-of-home campaigns and online conversions.

As you can see, out-of-home advertising has so much potential, when working in lockstep with all social media channels, to bring brand messages and social movements to life with greater reach and impact. It's something you may have not credited to the out-of-home in the past.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to be an "early adopter" before everyone catches on. To learn more about how to plan, build, execute, and measure OOH ad campaigns that spark social amplification, reach out to our OOH experts to schedule a demo today!