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Call to Action (CTA) encourages the target of an advertisement to do something specific. But not every ad platform is conducive to calls to action. Will a CTA work for billboards and other out of home advertising? The answer is yes, but as you may have guessed, it’s not always simple to determine when to use a CTA.

Should you include a call to action on your billboard? How do you determine what the CTA will be? What types of CTAs are there?

Dash Two buys out of home inventory for clients, and our ads may or may not include CTAs. It really depends on what your aims are. Here’s a breakdown of when to use them and what types we recommend.

Does Every Billboard or Other OOH Ad Need a Call to Action?

You see out of home ads every day on your travels. But a lot of them don’t include CTAs. Advertisers often deploy OOH for branding purposes. They want people to learn what their brand is all about, and OOH, most forms of which offer blink-and-you-missed-it visuals, provides a great platform for those quick snapshots. Think of some of the most iconic billboards in history. Many don’t include a CTA, rather relying on intriguing creative to tell a story.

And yet, billboards, posters, Wild Posting®, bus bench advertising and other formats can be incredibly effective at driving conversions. People remember them, and they find them compelling — 55 percent say they felt “highly engaged” by a billboard over the past month. Taking this into consideration, including a CTA seems like a smart move when you want the consumer to take a specific action vs. when you just want them to remember your brand.

So the short answer is: Not every billboard needs a call to action, but it benefits many to include one. Now onto the next natural question.

What Kinds of Calls to Action Can You Use on Out of Home Ads?

A call to action encompasses anything that gets a consumer to act upon what they see in an advertisement. It could include:

  • QR codes.
  • Promo codes.
  • Website URLs.
  • Physical addresses for a store.
  • Phone numbers for a store or service center.
  • Social media handles.

QR Code for Afterpay
Puma Phone Number
Mad Decent url
Flower QR Code
BET Snapcode

Most out of home ads don’t have enough room to get specific about the CTA. It may not be spelled out to “go to this website” — the address just appears, and people can extrapolate what they’re supposed to do.

Of course, for a promo code, you may see more explanation. An example would be, “Use D2 at checkout to get 10% off!” which breaks down how and why to use the code.

Notice that a lot of these CTAs focus on taking digital action? That makes sense because these days, we’re essentially fused to our phones, and they offer the quickest way for anyone to take action. A passenger riding in a car can type in the URL of an advertiser or find their Twitter handle. Plus, a Nielsen study found that two-thirds of smartphone users took action after seeing an out of home ad, and 40% performed a digital search for information on the advertiser.

The Benefits of Including a CTA

Probably the best benefit of including a call to action? It provides a way to track actions taken based on your advertisement. You can set up a site just for out of home ads and count how many visitors go there. You can count how many people use the promo code. You can track the number of QR code users. With more nebulous calls to action, it can be difficult to calculate how much they contribute to return on investment, but with digital tracking of CTAs, it’s a lot easier.

Marketing managers appreciate the high-quality statistics they get from using a QR code because it becomes obvious if the code is driving traffic and response. Plus, using a QR code is free, so you get good insights without paying any more for them. Often, it can cost thousands of dollars to track effectiveness of other CTAs with fewer obvious ties to the action taken.

Other benefits of including a call to action on out of home advertising include:

  • Acting as a funnel for your audience: There’s less confusion over what an ad wants the consumer to do when you include a clear call to action — otherwise, someone may remember your poster, Wild Posting® or billboard but feel uncertain of what action to take. Say an ad depicts a new artist with a cover of their album. Should they buy an album or visit the artist’s website to learn more about them? Without a CTA, they may feel uncertain and not follow through with either.
  • Reducing decision fatigue: So many people feel exhausted from making decisions all the time two years into an often-divisive global pandemic. Having the advertiser essentially take you by the hand and say, “do this” simplifies the consumer journey.
  • Providing immediate connection to content: The longer someone waits to take action, the less likely they are to follow through. A QR code or promo code entices them to do something immediately, raising conversion rates.

Do Calls to Action Work?

Yes, CTAs work. They tend to do best when tied to promotions or for a fast food restaurant or clothing brand. We see strong results with these because of the quick payoff — you can order something at a discounted rate or buy a two-for-one burger. The immediacy of the CTA plays to its favor.

People are often surprised at how low the rate of success actually is. Anything above 5%, as in 5 out of 100 people act on the CTA, is great.

What Call to Action Is the Best One to Use for OOH?

We mentioned that we’d weigh in with our opinion on the best CTA to use for out of home ads. We like QR codes, which have made a comeback during COVID because they allow touchless interaction with an advertisement. We advise clients who want to use a promo code, which can also be extremely effective, to keep it simple, something people will remember. After all, you want them to be able to recall the code an hour later when they decide to order fast food or buy that cute tank top. “SAVE10” or “HALFOFF2022” are great examples.

Not sure if a CTA is right for your outdoor advertisement? Give us the details and let us weigh in. We can help you plan your entire campaign. Contact DASH TWO today.

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