It’s All Ad-ing Up: The Ins and Outs of Outdoor Advertising for the Food & Beverage Industry

At a time when emerging technologies and the proliferation of mobile devices has opened up a wide range of new channels to deliver targeted messaging to increasingly savvy consumers, one venerable format continues to maintain its position of importance on the advertising landscape: outdoor advertising. From traditional billboards and wallscapes, digital signage and interactive digital displays, transit advertising and mobile billboards, to storescapes and in-window displays, outdoor signage offers a unique canvas upon which to deliver eye-opening and attention-grabbing elements.

Outdoor advertising is prime real estate for creative and often groundbreaking displays, special events, promotions, and is the only media format that has continued to move forward and grow year after year. Unlike traditional ad platforms, where consumers can simply fast forward through television commercials or change the channel on the radio (and even newer ad space, where it’s usually possible to skip past YouTube ads or install an ad blocker on your phone or mobile device), outdoor advertising is one format that cannot be turned off or ignored. The subliminal power of outdoor advertising is formidable: studies have shown that even if you think you’re not paying attention to it, your brain is paying attention to it. 


Food & Beverage brands have long recognized the power of outdoor advertising, and the range of different concepts and categories that have developed over the years is a testament to that. But what does that diverse outdoor advertising market actually look like? What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities for Food & Beverage brands, and what are some of the defining characteristics that distinguish Food & Beverage advertising from other media formats?

Strategies, Categories and Concepts

When we talk about Food & Beverage advertising, we are really talking about two separate categories—both with different priorities and strategies with respect to outdoor advertising.

The first is consumer food products and beverages, which includes everything from grocery and convenience store purchases such as hot dogs and Twinkies, to coffee, soda, and sparkling water to alcoholic beverages. Food item advertising tends to be heavily focused to coincide with new product launches or rebranding initiatives. The beverage space tends to have more of a consistent presence, albeit one that is both very seasonal and very strategic with its advertising programming. From October to March in the colder climate areas, we see a lot of hot coffee drinks and other warming beverages, for example, including specialized liquors like brandies or cinnamon vodkas. Cold drinks have more of a year-round outdoor advertising presence, but their slogans and strategies tend to change seasonally. You will notice a definite celebratory, convivial vibe during the holidays, with a shift in emphasis to refreshing or thirst-quenching during the warmer months.


The second category includes restaurants, special events, and promotions. A lot of this messaging is highly targeted: characterized by directional signage and proximity-based ads. Large national chains typically have a discrete budgetary allotment set aside specifically for advertising and marketing, an acknowledgement of the importance of this unique category of messaging. McDonald’s has a national ad budget, for example, but they also have a co-op budget for a region or group of stores. In these co-op budgets, corporate funds match contributions by owners, who obviously have a vested interest in supporting advertising that targets consumers who will visit their particular store(s).

A significant portion of Food & Beverage advertising tends to be very practical and connected to spur-of-the-moment decision-making based on how you feel in the moment (hungry, thirsty), what the weather is like, what time of day it is, where you are when hunger pangs strike, etc. In that respect, at least, Food & Beverage advertising is very different from say, cell phones, for example. The industry has long recognized different spending patterns based on context and conditions, and has worked to capitalize on that. That is one of the reasons why companies like Anheuser Busch break up their advertising budget into national campaigns focused on big-picture aspirational brand messaging and outdoor ads—which tend to be more practical and strategic, focused on driving decision-making in the moment.


Food & Beverage has always occupied a prominent space (both literally and figuratively) on the outdoor advertising landscape, but it also tends to change more often than with other categories. Food & Beverage outdoor advertising is more seasonal, quarterly, and geographically targeted: the products rotate, and the messaging and visuals rotate along with it. It can also be part of a targeted initiative aimed at achieving a very specific goal. For example, stores might push a certain store-specific brand, and, on the flip side, some Food & Beverage brands will target specific locations/stores that they want to get their product into, and will work to get ads into high visibility locations in that particular area. The impact of distributors and store managers walking or driving past your messaging and imagery every day can be a real game changer for brands.


Whether strategic or situational, billboard advertising also helps brands and businesses stay top of mind with consumers. Bringing brands together with the end clients—getting “liquid to lips” in industry parlance—has long been one of the primary challenges for Food & Beverage professionals. Industry decision-makers recognize that getting people in the door and trying the products is 90 percent of the battle, and making that happen—all while reaffirming positive thoughts, experiences, and affirmations about those products—is enormously valuable. Simply put, outdoor advertising presents opportunities to make that happen in ways that simply do not exist in other advertising platforms, helping Food & Beverage brands reach new markets and explore exciting new creative possibilities—all while delivering targeted and timely messaging to an audience of new and existing consumers.

Brooklyn Outdoor is a Detroit-based outdoor advertising company with satellite offices in New York and Los Angeles that specializes in national sales representation for independent out-of-home companies across the country.  The experienced sales reps of Brooklyn Outdoor cover the East and West coasts and everywhere in between and they solicit business from a diversified client base including media-buying services, advertising agencies, and clients direct. Brooklyn Outdoor specializes in relationships with these top out-of-home agencies and media buyers and focus on developing and maintaining the relationships to maximize business and thus sales.