Consider dabbling in these out-of-home advertising test markets first, before making bigger investments elsewhere.

As we’ve said many times before, out-of-home advertising is one of the most cost-effective traditional advertising mediums available to marketers today. But that doesn’t mean pricing is consistent across the board. A flashy billboard ad in New York City, for example, is definitely going to cost a lot more in terms of CPM than practically any OOH ad in Des Moines, Iowa. That’s to be expected because billboard ads in New York City (compared to other media markets) will always get more eyeballs on them by virtue of the city’s population density.

That, however, is just one factor causing OOH ad prices to fluctuate from one market to another. Other elements indicating a market’s potential and ability to perform in the out-of-home advertising space include: key demographics (age, gender, marital status, income, education, etc.), commuting patterns, predominant in-market business sectors, media (type) availability, and more. All of these factors combined can have a massive impact on OOH ad pricing.

Unfortunately, when people think about out-of-home advertising, their minds immediately go to New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as those markets are well-known for being saturated with OOH media. But not every advertiser has big budgets to spend on pricey OOH ads in top-tier media markets. Nor should they feel compelled to do so if those markets are not the right places to reach their target audiences. That would just be a waste of money!

So, whether you have limited budgets to work with or simply want to test the performance, effectiveness, and stickiness of your creative and messaging first, before doubling down in other (potentially more expensive) markets, it might be worth considering launching your campaigns in “test mode” as a starting point.

The good news for you: We’ve got three great recommendations for out-of-home test markets that are ripe for the taking. Continue reading on to learn more about these markets and why they should become an ongoing part of your OOH media plans from here on out.

1. Nashville, Tennessee

There are a lot of reasons why marketers should give Nashville a serious thought when it comes to planning OOH ad campaigns. For starters, the “Music City” is home to 2.3M residents (and quickly growing), over 180 recording studios, and 5,000 working musicians.

Add to that a bustling local economy, a below-average cost of living, a variety of sought after tourist attractions—including the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry—that welcome over 15M tourists each year, a lively academic culture, and a handful of popular sports teams. All of this makes Nashville an ideal test ground for a variety OOH ad campaigns.

And did we forget to mention that the market has tons of out-of-home options, from billboards to street furniture to wallscapes, all at low CPMs? Well, it certainly does.

It’s also worth noting that Nashville is quickly becoming more popular every single day. Based on the 2020 Barometer Report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (data reported before the COVID-19 pandemic), Nashville had eclipsed a number of top-tier metropolitan markets in the areas of economic growth (No. 1), entrepreneurship (No. 1), infrastructure capacity (No. 2), quality of life (No. 2), and private capital (No. 4).

This helps explain why U-Haul gave Tennessee the title of “top growth state” in 2020, as the state saw the largest net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks crossing its borders compared to all other states. This basically means that people are moving to Tennessee in droves—with Nashville counting 30,000 new residents in 2019 alone. And as this market becomes increasingly popular, its media prices will most certainly go up. So now’s the time to take advantage of it.

Learn more: Nashville Metro At-A-Glance

2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, known as the “City of Brotherly Love,” is home to 4.8M residents, including over 450K students, making it the second-largest university population in the country. It’s also the headquarters for 10 Fortune 500 companies (with almost 20 more just a short drive away), a bevy of biomedical and pharmaceutical companies, the nation’s sixth-largest workforce of 3M+ strong, a vibrant startup scene, and the third most populous downtown in the country. Needless to say, there’s a lot of economic and academic activity going on in and around Philadelphia.

But how could we forget the historical importance of the city that gave birth to the U.S. Constitution? From historical landmarks, like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, to cultural institutions, like the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia has become known as quite the destination for domestic and international visitors alike.

And, like Nashville, Philadelphia has a wide array of OOH ad options to choose from at low CPMs, too. Plus, with its close proximity to New York City—and the rest of the Northeastern seaboard—Philadelphia is a great test market for gauging how OOH ad campaigns might perform in other nearby markets within the region (just at a fraction of the cost).

3. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus is basically the go-to test market for the entire country. Why? As Business Insider reports, “Companies that can afford to test regionally often seek out cities with populations that are reflective of the greater U.S., or whose consumer habits match the broader market.”

In spite of Columbus being ranked one the fastest-growing markets in the Midwest, which has caused its demographics to become a little less reflective of “Middle America” in recent years, it still has remained one of the most cost-effective markets for advertising across the board. CPMs continue to stay low and, as with the other markets previewed in this article, there’s no shortage of OOH ad opportunities to test. It’s basically a marketer’s playground.

One important thing to note is that the city also has a massive young population, due in large part to being the home of the Ohio State University and another 60+ colleges and universities. This has positioned the city as a living focus group for millennial (and now younger) consumers.

This is why many quick-service restaurants (QSR) and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands—along with 150 other corporate headquarters in the region—tap into Columbus for gleaning useful and actionable insights around anything from campaign effectiveness to new product innovations (and beyond), knowing that whatever findings they make in Columbus can likely translate into other markets across the U.S. with ease.

Long story short: If you haven’t considered Columbus in the past, you should probably be experiencing a serious case of FOMO right about now. If you want to get a sense of how your campaigns might perform anywhere in the country, this is where you should definitely start.

Learn more: Columbus Metro At-A-Glance

It’s time to get into OOH ad “test mode” now

No two media markets are created equal. But that doesn’t mean a market that you may have never considered before won’t do your campaign any justice. The moral of this short story is that, while we all dream of placing splashy billboards in Times Square or Sunset Boulevard, those placements are not always the most realistic (in terms of budget) or effective (in terms of the audiences you’re trying to reach).

This is why we encourage you to think outside of the box and explore some of these perhaps lesser-known “test markets” to bullet-proof your campaigns, messaging, and creative before expanding into additional markets that may potentially come with a heftier price tag. After all, why waste your valuable marketing budgets when you can test and optimize first. With AdQuick, you now have a smarter and more effective way to plan and buy OOH ad media.

The OOH ad experts at AdQuick can help you get your first “test market” campaign up and running in no time flat. Schedule a demo today to get started.  


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