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Design principles of outrageously
outdoor advertising.

You’ve probably already seen some of these examples* on the Web before, since their very outrageous creativity compels commentary and sharing. And if you’re the advertiser, those are very good things!

What most people don’t realize is that the vast majority of these outstanding advertising billboards all follow or use one of Three Design Principles – principles that can easily be applied to your project to create equally eye-popping billboards. Of course, we also had to include the design strategy we love best. Option Four gives you maximum bang with minimum hassle and expense.

1) Breaking through the fourth wall

  Category: Consumer Goods & Services Agency: TBWA UK Advertiser: Bic Brand: Bic Shaver
We expect the outdoor advertising design to stay within the frame of the billboard. When it doesn’t - when some part of the design breaks out past the billboard and interacts with the surrounding environment - the design breaks our expectations, causing a “Wow!” moment. This goes beyond incorporating 3-D elements to having those elements affect the surrounding area, just as the razor blade has “shaven” the strip of grass leading up to the billboard.

The Pros: This one is guaranteed to draw attention, crowds, etc.

The Cons: You have to negotiate the rights to extend past the sign and affect the surrounding area. There may also be ordinances or local restrictions prohibiting your design, especially if the billboard is near a freeway.

Other examples: Click to enlarge
Mars chilled   Maker's Mark Bourbon   Kill Bill Vol.1
Category: Food & Restaurants  Agency: Colenso BBDO  Advertiser: Masterfoods NZ
Mars Chilled
  Category: Beverage  Agency: Doe Anderson Advertiser: Maker’s Mark
Maker’s Mark Bourbon
  Category: Entertainment  Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand  Advertiser: TVNZ
Kill Bill Vol. 1

2) Repurposing existing elements to create visual puns

Quit Plan
  Category: Public Service Agency: Clarity Coverdale Fury Advertiser: MPAAT Brand: Quit Plan
Clever designers can use a billboard’s support pole, lights and other existing structural elements to create visual puns.

In this instance the support pole becomes a crumpled cigarette butt. In the examples below, the billboard is “tipped up” as a pun for weight gain, parts of the billboard are removed to show their “natural” paint colors, and the support pole becomes a periscope.

The Pros: Almost as eye-catching as breaking the 4th wall, but significantly less production costs and hassle associated with the technique.

The Cons: You’re pretty much limited to the elements you have on hand; if your billboard designer can’t create a visual pun out of them, you’re out of luck..

Other examples: Click to enlarge
Silberman's Fitness Center   Natural Finish Colours   The Naval Museum of Alberta
Category: Consumer Goods & Services Agency: Silberman’s Advertiser: Silberman’s Fitness Center Brand: Silberman’s   Category: Special FX Agency: JWT Mumbai, India Advertiser: Berger Brand: Natural Finish Colours   Category: Amusement & Entertainment Agency: Trigger Advertiser: The Naval Museum of Alberta

3) Movement and interactivity

Hobby Razor Blade
  Category: Consumer Goods & Services Agency: Venividi Advertiser: Martor KG
Hobby Razor Blade
We’re hardwired to pay attention to movement - even when we only catch it out of the corner of our eye.

So advertising billboards and other outdoor advertising that changes or has moving parts or the ability to “light up” in reaction to passerby are sure to get an outrageous amount of attention. This huge razor blade (and hapless pigeons) certainly fits that description, as does the lingerie billboard below with the moving, “blow-able” skirt. The McDonald’s sundial is a bit more subtle, but would also garner more attention and recall than a ordinary billboard.

The Pros: Unbelievably attention grabbing outdoor advertising.

The Cons: Moving parts might fly off an advertising billboard or need replacing. Interactivity adds an additional layer of complexity to billboard execution

Other examples: Click to enlarge
McDonald’s   Bustop Lingerie   The Economist
Category: Food & Restaurants Agency: Leo Burnett USA Advertiser: McDonald’s Brand: McDonald’s   Category: Special FX Agency: Clemenger BBDO, NZ Advertiser: Bustop Lingerie Brand: Bustop   Category: Business & Technology Agency: BBDO Advertiser: The Economist Brand: The Economist

4) Simply superior design and messaging

The Detroiter Travel Center
  Category: Consumer Goods & Services Agency: Tony Godzik Advertiser: The Detroiter Travel Center
Yup, a great billboard design can get most of the benefit of “outrageous” techniques without incurring the added costs and difficulties that they represent.

Just take a look at the advertising billboard to the right. Eye-catching. Funny. Easily understood. And with an immediate “call to action” for its prime prospects!

And yet this billboard stays within the frame, employs no fancy gim-micks, and can be produced at no extra cost or hassle. That’s the power of great billboard design.

The Pros: As eye-catching and powerful as outrageous designs without the hassle, placement restrictions, or increased costs.

The Cons: Most outdoor agencies won’t provide you anywhere near this level of design excellence.

Other examples: (Check out a few DesignMyBillboard examples here)

Outrageous billboard designs may cost more, but they’re not anywhere close to your most expensive option. By far and away, the most expensive advertising billboard is the one that’s ignored and that generates no return on your investment.

If you’re looking to make your billboard and outdoor advertising profitably persuasive, you’ll want to ensure you have the best, most eye-catching, and memorable billboard possible within your constraints. And the best way to achieve that is through professional billboard design, regardless of whether you decide to stay within the billboard frame or to go outrageously outside the lines.

I offer a 5-day turnaround on initial designs and a money back guarantee on those initial proofs – if you’re not happy with them, I’ll refund your money 100% with no questions asked. You get to see my work on your project 100% risk free. Click here to get started.

The billboard designs on this page are explicitly NOT my work. The idea was to take much talked about billboard designs and use them to help billboard advertisers understand the principles behind successful outdoor advertising.

Many of these samples were culled off the Web and showcase some of the most creative minds in billboard design. If you are the creator/agency and prefer that we don’t display your work, simply email us and we’ll promptly remove your example.

All agencies are credited to the best of our knowledge. In case of error, please notify us for corrections. Got an excellent billboard design you’d like to share? Send it along with accurate agency information and you may see it here.
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