Your Ad billboard in a cluttered Accra- Make it count!

In my few months in Accra, I have driven through the major streets and intersections. Love it mostly weekends because it gives me an opportunity to know the streets, it also gives me an opportunity to view our media investments on out of home and monitor clients’ billboards and visibility around town. Over and above all, it helps me appreciate the beauty and calmness of the city centre and the hinterlands.

In one of my weekend trips, I drove with a friend whom I had connected with after about 8 years. We drove through Spintex Road. At one of the roundabouts, at the traffic light stop, I paused my mind and looked around and my adman instinct came to me. Guess what, I saw over ten billboards and advertising messages around me. So, I asked my friend, how many ads would you remember at this round about. He looked and could not give me a spontaneous answer. Then I prompted; which ad is more appealing to you amongst these ones. He obviously pointed at the biggest billboard because it was the most dominating one on the road and was head on. This brings me to a big question; how do we deal with this clutter in an era when attention span for our consumers are limited?

What then is advertising clutter? I took my definition from Wikipedia which best explains the direction of my piece ‘advertising or marketing clutter refers to the large volume of advertising messages that the average consumer is exposed to daily (or at any given time). This phenomenon results from a market place that is overcrowded with products leading to huge competition for consumers”. There are key variables from this definition:

  1. The volume of advertising messages- this means that the number of messages is more than normal for a consumer to sync with or comprehend or appreciate at that given time or moment.
  2. The consumer is at the heart of the definition because that is the reason why the messages are being placed anyway.

Going back to my Spintex experience and the need to enhance value offering of our media in this case, out of home investment, I have recommended simple steps to ensure that we break through clutter in Accra. These are steps based on my experience and interaction with brands. I hope you find them useful as you optimize your out of home executions to enhance brand benefits:

  1. Make your creative stand out or Swim against the wave with your creative: In today’s world where our consumers are predominantly driven by digital and technology, our out of home creative needs to stand out to attract. I was in a session recently and this smart creative guy claims “most brands in Accra has a smiling model holding the brand” I smiled. For a brand to cut through the OOH clutter, the creative needs to standout. In the words of Stephen Vogal, “Nothing is more efficient than creative advertising. Creative advertising is more memorable, longer lasting, works with less media spending and builds a fan community…faster.”
  2. Make Your Message Simple, Short and Direct: Paul Suggett in his write up “10 steps to Making a Great Billboard Ad” recommends “Six Words or Less is Ideal”. “Considering we are on the move when we read billboards, we do not have a lot of time to take them. Six seconds have been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard”. Imagine our Spintex experience, consumers would rarely have six seconds. The simpler and shorter the message, the faster it is to comprehend. If you can make your billboard message one word, please do. You do not necessarily have to write an essay on a billboard because there is no time.
  3. Explore Use of OOH during Trigger Moments: Nothing stops us from exploring non-conventional out of home formats. Outdoor advertising is not all about street bill boards alone. I will give some poser questions: After a night-out event, what are you thinking about? How to get home right? If you see an Uber “Call to Action” ad at the entrance of each hangout place you go to, you are more likely to remember that I can go home in a safe and convenient Uber ride after having fun hanging out late. If you are a frequent traveller and has been disappointed by your driver several times for airport pickups, an Uber ad is likely to remind you of a better experience. Let’s not get stuck with only billboards because there are series of trigger moments to reach out to our consumers if we really dig deep to understand their consumer journey for greater insights.
  4. Avoid Wall Papers: There are billboards in Accra that have become wall papers. It means that they have one creative on the billboard from January to December and in some cases for years. How many times do you refresh your billboard in a year? If you do not refresh your material, your billboard becomes a wall paper. Ensure you refresh your billboard at least every quarter.
  5. Get Your Strategy Right: With the right OOH strategy, you do not have to wait for competitors before acting. Some marketers select billboards out of sentiments or emotions “I love that billboard” maybe primarily because it is on their route to work, place of worship etc. There must be a strategy for OOH and a rationale for every billboard you select. In addition to this, the OOH selection must also befit the brand- I see some big brands in small format billboards in a premium environment and I ask why? As a market leader in your category or a premium brand, you should be able to express this with your billboard selection and be able to “Be There” for the consumer to feel good with your execution at every out of home touchpoint. A good live experience is one of the brief we got some years back as a Planning Executive where the brand wanted its creative on the biggest building in 3 cities across Africa. Part of the Strategy was to establish the brand as Big, Bold and Confident to achieve dreams to take the consumer to the next level. Hence, we had to travel or link up to contact to get the biggest building in each city to look out for executions that will enhance DOMINANCE as a strategy- Think about it, what is your brand’s Out of Home strategy?
See Also:  On your marks, Get set…SERVE!

In most local and global discourse, we agree that digital and technology have changed the consumer journey, but Out of Home is still a very important touchpoint in our media mix across segment, the more we take a critical look at the approach of differentiating ourselves as brands; the better we can optimize and achieve return on investment.

Stephen Onaivi is the Managing Director of mediaReachOMD Ghana, a leading media agency responsible for media strategy, planning and buying for Multinational and Local clients. Comments, suggestions, contributions and requests should be send to

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