Our 10 Favorite OOH Advertising References in Pop Culture

Out-of-home is so fun, impactful, and memorable that it often gets its own plotline in movies, TV shows, and other popular entertainment. So, in the spirit of celebrating out-of-home advertising in all of its glory, here’s a quick rundown of our 10 favorite out-of-home references.

Our 10 Favorite OOH Advertising References in Pop Culture

We obviously love out-of-home advertising. For one, we know just how effective it can be for driving brand awareness, boosting offline-to-online conversions, and increasing foot traffic—just to name a few of its benefits. But we also know that, unlike many other ad formats floating around today, OOH ads actually live in the physical world and are able to create truly immersive brand experiences when executed flawlessly. That’s just one of the reasons why OOH ads often play “cameo roles” in movies, TV shows, and other pop culture. They make a bold, powerful, and visual statement that other ad formats simply can’t.

So, in the spirit of celebrating out-of-home advertising in all of its glory, here’s a quick rundown of our 10 favorite out-of-home references:

1. “Better Call Saul”

In this episode, the series’s main character (Saul) purchases and produces a billboard promoting his own lawyer—but he intentionally creates it in the near-exact likeness of a billboard for another lawyer that he’s trying to stick it to. Although copying is, more often than not, the highest form of flattery, in this case, it was done specifically to get under the other lawyer’s skin. And what better way to do it than to make a statement with a big, bold billboard ad?

Watch It Here: “Better Call Saul” (Season 1, Episode 4)

2. “A Star Is Born”

This is the moment where Lady Gaga’s character (Ally) officially “makes it big” as a pop music icon and sensation—as she’s now become famous enough to warrant a big, splashy billboard of her own on LA’s famed Sunset Boulevard. As she and co-star Bradley Cooper soak it in, we see out-of-home advertising elevated here as both a powerful and awe-inspiring status symbol.

Watch It Here: “A Star Is Born” (Billboard Scene)

3. “The Simpsons”

After causing a number of accidents on the highway to stop and look at the new billboards at the start of the month—deemed in this episode as “New Billboard Day”—Homer goes to work after stocking up on muffins and BBQ sauce (two products that were promoted on the month’s latest billboard installations). He then goes on to say that he’s “not going to enroll in that clown college, though” because “that advertisement had no effect on [him] whatsoever,” only to spend the rest of the day fantasizing about enrolling in Krusty’s Clown College. This is a great example as well as a nod to the impact that OOH ads can have on driving consumer behavior.

Watch It Here: “The Simpsons” (Clown College Billboard)

4. “Don’t Trust the B*tch in Apartment 23”

James Van der Beek’s eponymous character is so proud to have landed a massive out-of-home wallscape to promote his new jeans brand—along with his backside—only to soon realize of its less-than-ideal placement next to a billboard promoting a pizza shop that, let’s say, puts a lot of unwanted (and unflattering) attention on his crotch. This is a great reminder for anyone running OOH ads that context is key when developing ad creative, as the slightest misstep or oversight could quickly undermine a campaign’s success.

Watch It Here: “Don’t Trust the B*tch in Apartment 23” (Billboard Scene)

5. “I Love You, Man”

After lending $8K to “fast friend” Sydney, played by Jason Segal, Paul Rudd’s character (Peter), who also happens to be an LA-area real estate agent, realizes during his morning commute that Sydney used that money to purchase a series of ridiculous (aka, hilarious), yet prominently placed billboards throughout the city to promote Peter’s real estate business—of course, without him knowing it. Each billboard he passes gets worse and worse, leaving him with feelings of shock, embarrassment, frustration, and downright anger. This just goes to show that, when running OOH billboard ads, you must choose your creative wisely.

Watch It Here: “I Love You, Man” (Billboard Scene)

6. “An American Pickle”

In this over-the-top comedy, Seth Rogan plays two characters—one, a Russian-Jewish immigrant to the U.S. who somehow gets “pickled” at a pickle factory and ends up being preserved for 100 years—who takes offense to a billboard for Russian vodka being displayed over a cemetery in shambles where his family is buried. He sees this as a full-on attack, given that he was forced out of his homeland by Russian Cossacks, and decides to start a brawl with the unknowing workers in charge of putting up the new billboard for vanilla-flavored vodka. While this scene is ridiculous on a number of levels, it’s a great reminder that OOH billboard ads just don’t magically appear; they need to be installed by professional installation specialists.

Watch It Here: “An American Pickle” (Billboard Fight Scene)

7. “Boyz N the Hood”

This one’s a bit of a throwback but makes a powerful statement nonetheless. In this scene, a billboard, placed in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, for a Korean real estate company (to be assumed by the company’s name) leads with a straightforward message: “CASH FOR YOUR HOME.” One of the main characters, played by Laurence Fishburn, uses this as a learning moment for members of the local community, teaching them about the realities of gentrification and that this is essentially the first step in them getting kicked out of their homes and forced to move elsewhere—whether they like it or not. This shows that a strategically placed OOH ad can actually have a much greater impact than what’s simply on the surface.

Watch It Here: “Boyz N the Hood” (Gentrification Billboard Scene)

8. “The Office”

As a small business looking to drive awareness and boost sales, Dunder Mifflin’s Andy (Ed Helms) and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) decide to run an OOH billboard ad campaign showcasing the company’s recently lowered prices. But in typical goofy Andy form, he set himself up for failure by not only using himself as the “face” of the company but, during the ad campaign’s photoshoot, allowed himself to get captured in some, let’s say, compromising positions that could be easily taken advantage of a graffiti artist with a sense of humor. And that’s exactly what happened. Within hours of the campaign being posted throughout the city, all of the billboards were hilariously defaced in some way. Again, a reminder that you always need to be wise with your creative decisions. Pro-tip: Ask for a second set of eyes before starting production.  

Watch It Here: “The Office” (Andy & Dwight's Billboard)

9. “Cobra Kai”

A great strategy for any OOH ad campaign is to post billboards—or other OOH ad units—in your competitor’s turf. It’s a great way to flex your muscles and show potential customers, as well as your competitors, that you mean serious business. But this doesn’t mean your competitors won’t strike back with counter-marketing tactics. In this episode of “Cobra Kai,” however, this notion of making a counter-attack was taken to the extreme when a billboard ad placed by one of the main characters get crudely defaced. (For the record, while we support a competitive spirit when it comes to marketing, we don’t recommend taking this approach!)

Watch It Here: “Cobra Kai” (Billboard Scene)

10. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri”

Rounding out our list is a critically-acclaimed film for which the plot revolves around billboard ads (after all, the word “billboards” is in the movie’s title). The film’s main character Mildred, played by Frances McDormand, decides to purchase ads on a series of three billboards leading to the town of Ebbings, Missouri, all in an effort to launch a full-on battle with the town’s police chief and police department, following the unsolved rape and murder of her daughter. She uses these billboards to broadcast clear, pointed, and highly controversial (yet effective) messages around police brutality, rape, and racial discrimination. Of course, this film takes on a very serious tone, but we see the influence that clear messaging makes on OOH billboard ads. While the creative here is simple, no one can miss the message whatsoever.

Watch It Here: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri” (Official Trailer)

Impactful OOH ad campaigns start with AdQuick

All of these examples prove one thing: Out-of-home advertising campaigns can make a huge impact on consumers, whether B2B or B2C, in ways that other ad formats simply can’t. Part of this is because they’re big, bold, and immersive. Another part of this is because they live in the real world and feel, for all intents and purposes, more tangible and visceral by nature. But this is what makes out-of-home advertising so effective; it can leave a lasting impression that lingers well after people have either seen or experienced an ad.

We believe every marketer should add out-of-home advertising to their marketing arsenal. However, if you’re not sure about where to start or how to go about the OOH media planning and buying process more strategically, the good news is that the team at AdQuick can help.

Schedule a demo today to learn more about how AdQuick can help your brand or business deploy OOH advertising campaigns that drive real impact and incredible performance.