As trends and technology evolve and fall in and out of favor, sometimes the simplest, most basic ideas endure and prove to be pure enough, in their original form, to mesh with all forms that follow. Such is the case with out-of-home advertising (OOH).

I recently came across an intriguing data-and-info graphics compiled by SumAll and Buffersocial, as well as some very interesting research done by Pew Research on text usage, and had a revelation concerning OOH advertising’s place in the digital age.

According to the Buffersocial research:

• The ideal domain name length is 8 characters.

• The ideal length of a tweet is no more than 100 characters.

• The ideal length of an email subject line is 28-39 characters.

• The ideal length of a Facebook post is 50 characters.

• The ideal length of an online headline is 6 words.

Now, consider these numbers, from Pew, which speak to consumers’ connections to their mobile devices:

• The average amount of texts young adult Americans aged 18-29 send or receive daily is 87.7.

• The average American teen sends and receives 3,000-4,000 texts per month.

What does this all add up to? Where does OOH fit into all of this?

SMS-based text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and abbreviated online news stories have become the dominant forms of communication and information gathering. Their formats and patterns have become ingrained in people’s day-to-day lives. As focus and attention is diverted further and information moves faster, one thing is evident: Assimilating brief, to-the-point messages has become second nature in today’s digital-based society. This evolution, paired with the research quoted above, builds an incredible case for OOH as the ideal form of advertising for today’s marketplace. The case is especially strong when targeting the coveted 18-29 demographic group who, through greater connection to their mobile devices and online communication, have been trained to rapidly consume brief bits of information and to-the-point messaging.

We are now a “soundbite society.”

The best of OOH advertising utilizes brief, to-the-point messaging … always has, always will. It has long been taught that the ideal billboard contains a maximum of 7 words, which on the high end averages 40 characters. This structure mirrors the trends noted above and has proven to be the golden formula for OOH design since it’s inception.

I studied a sampling of 2013 OBIE Best of Show and Gold Award winning OOH designs, and what I found confirms my thinking. The average word count was 6.5; the average character count was 27.5. The best of the best in the industry offered more proof that OOH is and has always been a medium that understands the power of being minimal and direct.

I looked back further through the decades (OAAA.org has great archival resources) and it is clear that those who have effectively utilized and designed for the OOH medium have always understood the importance of being succinct or teasing to pique the viewers interest and leave them wanting more.

OOH has endured and continues to flourish because, from its beginnings, it has been created using the model that has now been adopted by modern communication trends. Direct, to-the-point and easily consumed. In a world where brief bits of information are the norm, the model has come full circle. To its advantage, OOH commands attention, it’s undeniable presence all but assures that important messages are not missed, as may be the case with the fleeting nature of texts, tweets, etc.

As a creative professional in the OOH industry, another important takeaway from the information put forth above is the importance of creating ads with a singular focus. Position your product or sell it; never attempt to do both. This has long been prescribed, but current trends now point to this being more important than ever. A well crafted, easy-to-consume message or singular story-telling image will resonate in ways it never has before.

I’m an artist, not a statistician, and the whole right brain/left brain thing usually causes me to just admire numbers for their form, rather than what they point to; but what the numbers above point to is undeniable. OOH advertising complements and adheres to trends being followed in the digital marketplace. That being said, when clients ask what’s new, tell them about what continues to endure: out of home advertising.

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