Out-of-home advertising is one of the oldest forms of marketing and has been used for centuries to reach consumers in public places. It’s a form of advertising that uses physical displays, such as billboards, posters, or signs, located outside a business establishment or on public property. The history and evolution of out-of-home advertising are fascinating and offer insight into how marketers have adapted their tactics over time to keep up with changing consumer behaviors. In this blog post, we will explore the various stages in the development of out-of-home advertising, from its humble beginnings to its current status as an important part of any comprehensive media plan.

  • Roman Empire

The origins of out-of-home advertising can be traced back to ancient Rome, where merchants used signs and chalk drawings on walls to promote their products. As the Roman Empire expanded across Europe, these methods spread alongside it. With the rise of more organized shopkeepers in the Middle Ages, outdoor displays became a common way for them to let customers know when they were open for business. This eventually developed into the familiar storefront signs that we still see today.


  • 18th Century

Out-of-home advertising has a long and rich history that dates back to the dawn of the industrial revolution in the 18th century. Pioneering advertisers found creative ways to spread the word about their products, and techniques included handbills, posters, booklets, flyers, and circulars that were distributed in shops and public places. This time period saw an explosion of new businesses and trades that required clever marketing strategies to draw attention to them. Some of these out-of-home tactics still remain in use today as a vibrant part of our eclectic landscape for contemporary brand advertising.


  • 20th Century

The 20th century saw the emergence of what we now think of as modern out-of-home advertising, with advances in technology leading to the creation of larger, more eye-catching displays. Billboards were first used in the United States in the 1920s, though they were slow to catch on. By the end of that decade, they had become a mainstay of storefronts and highways across the country. Meanwhile, transit advertising—ads placed on buses, trains, and subways—grew in popularity as cities around the world developed public transportation systems.


  • 21st Century

In the 21st century, out-of-home advertising has continued to evolve. Digital displays are becoming increasingly common and offer marketers more flexibility in terms of when and where they can run their ads. In addition, advances in technology have enabled marketers to target specific audiences with carefully targeted messages. Finally, thanks to the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices, marketers are now able to use location-based strategies to reach potential customers when they’re on the go.


Out-of-home advertising has come a long way since its humble beginnings in ancient Rome. As technology continues to evolve, so too will this form of marketing, allowing marketers new and creative ways to engage with their target audience. Whether it’s on a billboard, in the subway, or on your mobile device, out-of-home advertising will remain an important part of any comprehensive media plan.


Last Words

It is interesting to note that even though out-of-home advertising has been around for centuries, marketers have always found ways to keep up with changing consumer habits and create new, innovative ways to reach their target audiences. As technology continues to evolve, out-of-home advertising will remain an important part of any media plan—and a fascinating glimpse into the history and evolution of marketing.