Must-Know Info for Out of Home (OOH) Advertising in Illinois

What advertisers, brands, and billboard companies should know when running Outdoor/OOH campaigns in Chicago and Illinois.

Out of Home (OOH) advertising, also known as Outdoor Advertising, has been around for centuries, and doesn’t show any signs (pun INtended) of slowing down. In fact, the OOH industry has seen steady growth for 32 consecutive quarters. While there are some aspects of OOH campaigns that are critical in any state or location, Illinois specifically has several limitations and regulations that advertisers, brands, and 3rd party billboard companies must all adhere to when delivering effective and successful OOH ads.

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 (Nationwide)

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 (and later, the Highway Advertising Control Act of 1971)’s purpose is to protect residential (home) and agricultural (farm) areas from the intrusion of outdoor advertising signs, and to control the sizing, lighting, and overall spacing of all signs in commercial or industrial areas.

This act also protects the U.S.A.’s highways and roads in more specific ways. For example, this act prevents scenic bypasses, commercial areas, and overall what we see when we get into a vehicle from getting crowded, distracting, and ‘ugly’ from too many ads.

Different types of businesses and signage are subject to different laws. For example, a sign for a business that is located on that business’s property is subject to a certain set of laws, while a sign for a business that is not located on that business’s property is subject to other laws.

The main thing to remember: all local and state laws do still apply to all federal regulations. Federal laws mostly make intuitive sense, while state laws may be dependant on specific rules and regulations for specific areas. Most states break up their counties into “districts”, which allows for smaller regulation regions.

What are “Controlled Routes” in Illinois?

What is a Controlled Route? For the state of Illinois, there are several highways (“routes”) on which advertisements are limited for beautification purposes. This “control” of the routes and its impact on OOH advertisements varies in a number of ways. Some variables include the size, spacing, and surrounding ads of the billboards themselves. Others variables include commercial versus industrial routes, the age of billboard (some old billboards get ‘grandfathered’ in when they may not qualify for current regulations), and the layout of the roads surrounding the billboards.

Controlled routes have their own rules and regulations that apply to OOH ads in Illinois, in addition to local, state, and federal laws. Usually, controlled routes mean that fewer ads are allowed, with a tighter restriction on subject matter. See the map below for Illinois Highway routes that are currently controlled.

Illinois Highway Routes that Are Along Controlled Routes

  • Great River Road
  • Historic National Road
  • Historic Route 66
  • Illinois River Road
  • Lincoln Highway, National Scenic Byway
  • Meeting of the Great Rivers Road, National Scenic Byway
  • Ohio River Scenic Byway
  • GAP
  • View Full Map

Which Illinois District Does My County Fall Under?

When applying for a billboard or OOH sign permit, or when learning more about which laws and regulations your OOH ad must adhere to, the state of Illinois is divided up into 9 districts. To begin an application for signage approval, you’ll first need to figure out which district your billboard will be located in. If you plan to place a highway billboard advertisement, you’ll need to check to see if your sign is placed in a controlled route.

If you know the county in which your ad will be placed, you can find out which district that location belongs to. See below for a list of counties and which districts they fall under.

Illinois District 1

  • Cook
  • DuPage
  • Kane
  • Lake
  • McHenry
  • Will

Illinois District 2

  • Boone
  • Carroll
  • Henry
  • JoDaviess
  • Lee
  • Ogle
  • Rock Island
  • Stephenson
  • Winnebago
  • Whiteside

Illinois District 3

  • Bureau
  • DeKalb
  • Ford
  • Grundy
  • Iroquois
  • Kankakee
  • Kendall
  • LaSalle
  • Livingston

Illinois District 4

  • Fulton
  • Henderson
  • Knox
  • Marshall
  • McDonough
  • Mercer
  • Peoria
  • Putman
  • Stark
  • Tazewell
  • Warren
  • Woodford

Illinois District 5

  • Champaign
  • DeWitt
  • Douglas
  • Edgar
  • McLean
  • Piatt
  • Vermilion

Illinois District 6

  • Adams
  • Brown
  • Cass
  • Christian
  • Hancock
  • Logan
  • Macoupin
  • Mason
  • Menard
  • Montgomery
  • Morgan
  • Pike
  • Sangamon
  • Schuyler
  • Scott

Illinois District 7

  • Clark
  • Clay
  • Coles
  • Crawford
  • Cumberland
  • Edwards
  • Effingham
  • Fayette
  • Jasper
  • Lawrence
  • Macon
  • Moultrie
  • Richland
  • Shelby
  • Wabash
  • Wayne

Illinois District 8

  • Bond
  • Calhoun
  • Clinton
  • Greene
  • Jersey
  • Madison
  • Marion
  • Monroe
  • Randolph
  • St. Clair
  • Washington

Illinois District 9

  • Alexander
  • Franklin
  • Gallatin
  • Hamilton
  • Hardin
  • Jackson
  • Jefferson
  • Johnson
  • Massac
  • Perry
  • Pope
  • Pulaski
  • Saline
  • Union
  • White
  • Williamson

Below are some main takeaways regarding the rules and regulations of OOH advertising in Illinois. These are just a few of the most important things to keep in mind when running Outdoor Ad campaigns in Illinois.

To view the full administrative code, please visit Part 522 Control of Outdoor Advertising Adjacent to Primary and Interstate Highways, or IDOT’s Illinois Outdoor Advertising Guidelines.

Rule/Regulation Mandate # Takeaway
Section 522.150  Signs that may not be Erected or Maintained SECTION 522.150, Section 9-112.2 No Arrows, Maps, Or images that otherwise imply influence on the direction or movement of traffic
Section 522.150  Signs that may not be Erected or Maintained SECTION 522.150, Section 9-112.2 No rotating, flashing, intermittent or moving light or lights
No such sign may be erected along the same side of an interstate highway or expressway within five hundred feet of another such sign structure or location where another such sign has been permitted but not yet erected. Section 522.200  Standards for Signs in Business Areas Billboards can only be on one side of the road
Billboards must be 500ft (as the crow flies) apart from other OOH ads. Section 522.200  Standards for Signs in Business Areas Billboards must be 500ft (as the crow flies) apartment
Spacing requirements mean that billboards must be a certain distance away from each other, can’t distract from one another, and cannot draw the viewer’s eye too far off of the road. Section 522.200  Standards for Signs in Business Areas Signs are limited by other signs around them.
Rules and Regulations Can Differ Greatly Between Districts Section 522.200  Standards for Signs in Business Areas Rules and Regulations Can Differ Greatly Between Districts
Controlled Routes mean restrictions on Outdoor advertisements Section 522.200  Standards for Signs in Business Areas Controlled Routes mean restrictions on Outdoor advertisements

Top 5 Rules for OOH Advertisements in Illinois

Chances are, if you’re putting up a billboard OOH advertisement somewhere in the Chicago area (or anywhere in Illinois), you’re working with a third party vendor that owns the physical  billboards themselves. They’ll likely help you with the specifics of your ads, but it’s still good to know a thing or two going into the conversation. It’ll make placing and running your ads that much easier.

Billboard OOH Ads Should Have Less Than 10 Words

The average viewer looks at a billboard for less than six seconds, and one of the main weaknesses with billboard and outdoor advertisements is the fact that the viewer is nearly always on the move when viewing your ad. This means that your billboards should be short, to the point, and easy to read in just a few seconds. Keep your messaging clear and concise.

Don’t Distract The Viewer

One of the main reasons for highway beautification acts and regulations surrounding what can and cannot be displayed on highway advertisements is to prevent distractions. Too many ads, extra eye-catching ads, or ads that are too close together can result in distracted, unsafe driving. It should go without saying that your outdoor ad and/or billboard needs to deliver your messaging – without distracting your viewer.

Illinois drivers are no strangers to distracted driving causing traffic, dangerous driving conditions, or worse, accidents. You can bet that if your ad is distracting, it will have a negative impact on your brand sentiment, if your ad is allowed to run at all.

Make Sense Immediately

Another aspect of OOH in IL that should go without saying – your billboard needs to make sense with very little extra thought from the viewer. Viewers are on the move when viewing your ad – whether they’re driving, commuting, biking, etc., your ad needs to make complete sense immediately.

Especially in the more densely populated areas of Illinois, people see hundreds if not thousands of ads every single day. It’s more important than ever to create a branded experience that differentiates you from your competitors and jumps out at viewers (without distracting them).

Don’t Expect an Immediate ROI

No one should expect a direct 1:1 return on their investments from any type of outdoor ad. Outdoor advertising is a part of a strong branding campaign. Chances are, your billboard or outdoor ad will not result in immediate traffic or KPIs the same way that PPC or even SEO campaigns will.

Current impression-based advertising remains lacking in trackable, accurate metrics. It’s important to keep in mind that your ads help to support who your brand is and what you offer. It keeps your brand top of mind for your audience. Because impression-based ad campaigns don’t provide the same type of tracking and feedback that clickable, web based campaigns do, it’s recommended to run multiple outdoor ads in various locations for full marketing power.

More Ads Leads to Higher Success

While tracking for billboards and other OOH ads can be difficult to measure, branding-based ad campaigns are shown to perform better when there are multiple instances of your brand across a city, state, or region. The more eyes that see your brand and receive your messaging, the more successful your branding power will be.

Illinois has thousands of billboard location options throughout the most populated areas and on the most trafficked routes. It’s recommended that when running outdoor ad campaigns, 10-15+ billboards is a great starting number to get your brand noticed and remembered.

What is the Standard Billboard Size Dimensions?

When creating an out of home ad, you’ll need to know the dimensions of the different types of billboards. See below for a full reference.

Bulletin Standard Billboard Size

A Bulletin is the largest standard-sized billboard that delivers the max amount of exposure to viewers on expressways, highways and primary roads and routes. Bulletins are generally 14 ft x 48 ft, with half of an inch bleed on all sides.

Image source

Retrofit Poster Panel Standard Billboard Size

Retrofit and Poster Out oh Home ads are generally smaller (and thus less costly) than traditional highway bulletin billboards. Poster billboards can be found in residential communities, commercial areas, and near gyms, restaurants, and main streets. Posters are often preferred to billboards when a business is new, launching a new line or product, or looking to advertise on billboards for a lower cost.

Image Source

What are Gross Rating Points, and Why Do They Matter in Out Of Home Advertising?

Gross Rating Points (GRP) are the combined amount of impressions within a desired market or demographic an Outdoor/OOH campaign will see. This number is expressed as a percentage; one rating point represents that ad’s impressions equal to 1% of the market population.

To calculate GRP for billboards, take the total number of people within a demographic, and determine how many of those people fall into your target market. Next, you’ll calculate the percentage of how many people in your newly defined target market are likely to come across your ad. Finally, you’ll multiple that percentage by the number of ads found in the target market. For example, if you advertise to 30% of the target market and have 4 ads or “exposures”, your campaign would have 120 GRP.

This metric can be useful in gauging how likely to it that your ad will 1. Get seen by those in your target audience at least once, and 2. Get seen enough times to have the message be effective.

Other Useful OOH Links

In addition to the links included in the narrative section the following links are provided for your convenience:

Commoot Competes with OOH Ads in Illinois – and Wins

apple OOH Illinois advertising mockup commoot

Since Commoot ads can be found on the backs of vehicles that are also moving and are directly in front of the viewer, common frustrations and regulations within the OOH space simply do not apply to Commoot ads. Commoot ads result in 7x longer impression times, or “dwell times”, than billboards and other outdoor ads. Since the ad messaging is found on the truck itself, Commoot ads aren’t restricted in controlled highway areas, on scenic bypass routes, or in residential and commercial areas the way that billboards are.

commoot ads in illinois chicago traffic

Ready to learn more about Commoot? Let’s go!

Why CPG Brands Should Be Utilizing OOH Marketing

In an industry so dominated by digital marketing, one could be forgiven for thinking the out of home marketing is following the same road as the infamous Dodo. However, recent studies suggest the OOH marketing is still necessary for the success of CPG marketing. The Out of Home industry is one of the only media channels that has not seen a decline in spend year over year, and what’s more, OOH has seen a slow-n-steady growth rate of about 3% each year. 

For CPG brands, “act global, think local” is the center of branding strategies. CPG brands need to showcase their expansive reach, providing to consumers that others just like them love their products. CPG brands also have to target the consumer at the individual level, which means that CPC ads, digital display ads, and other online sources can get costly quickly when dealing with a Cost Per Click strategy. Lastly, the continual advancement of ad blockers and ad-free streaming options means that reaching individual consumers digitally is getting more costly, more difficult, and more inefficient than ever.

Why CPG Brands Should Absolutely Utilize OOH Marketing

It doesn’t take a marketing expert to see that the worlds advertising spaces are quickly turning digital. One need simply glance out the window and see the plethora of empty billboards and dilapidated signage that dot the nation’s highways.

CPG Brands are Spending More on Digital

Recent studies have shown that CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brands have begun to shift their marketing focus away from OOH (Out of Home) marketing to digital and online advertising. As they continue to spend more and more digitally, the strategy to turn viewers into customers gets more and more complicated (and less profitable). Though this shift cannot be considered a negative for brands and marketers in the OOH space, it is not a surprising move considering the development of technologies that connect the world. 

Americans spend nearly 70% of their lives outside of the homes, and digital devices ride shot gun to nearly every single trip outside of the home. Because of this, it makes marketing sense to target consumers and grab their attention immediately, then deliver related branded content right onto that consumer’s device in their pockets. OOH amplifies nearly every digital form of advertising and targeting, and reaches more audiences than just single forms of targeting.

OAAA reports that when you combine digital with OOH, you achieve 300% greater reach than with just one channel alone. CPG brands can provide their consumers with a campaign that is cross-channel, has continuity for a great User Experience, and engages audiences on deeper psychological levels than digital ads can.

CPG brands have a unique advantage in the “middle ground” between physical marketing and digital marketing. It’s been proven that when OOH media is combined with digital ads, both marketing tactics can have stronger results. By shifting the mindset to a partnership between digital + OOH, CPG brands can captivate and wow consumers with big, bold, memorable OOH ads, then retarget those same viewers online with promotions, coupons, promo codes, and other conversion tactics right on their own devices. This not only helps strengthen brand recall and exposure, but it also helps the viewer trust the brand because they (consumers) have encountered the brand before.

OOH Marketing Works for CPG Brands

OOH marketing example times square Commoot CPG

Out of home marketing regularly outperforms nearly every other form of advertising. In fact, studies show that advertising has its most significant effect when conducted out of the home, citing 82% of respondents who were able to recall OOH ads at a later date.

Why is OOH marketing so effective?

It’s simple; consumers can’t turn off, block, or avoid OOH marketing. What’s more, OOH marketing retains its effectiveness over time, having been shown to resist audience erosion longer than other channels. OOH marketing is a mass reach medium, meaning it reaches more than half of all consumers in most markets, and over 90% in others.

OOH Marketing is Easy to Measure

Innovations in OOH marketing have made measuring the effectiveness of OOH ads easy and comprehensive. Geo-fencing and location tracking data are often utilized in understanding where and when consumers frequent specific areas. The data from which is used to determine the best places and times to run specific advertising. Consumer retargeting is also made easier as consumer attendance date can be used to re-engage with consumers through other forms of OOH marketing and digital OOH marketing.

CPG tracking measure data commoot OOH

Digital OOH (DOOH) marketing is an emerging marketing strategy that incorporates digital marketing tactics and mediums in conjunction with OOH ads and marketing strategy, which is only one of many new capabilities reaching the OOH industry.

New Capabilities in the OOH Industry

When CPG brands fully embrace the innovations that are emerging in OOH marketing, they benefit from the range of new capabilities that such innovations make possible. New technology in OOH marketing such as digital screens, facial & vehicle recognition, geo-targeting, temperature triggers, and social media feeds enable CPG brands to:

  • Accurately measure the success of their advertising
  • Actively target consumers using real data
  • Make changes to ads and marketing strategy in real-time

Multi-Channel Presence with Digital and OOH

CPG brands will benefit most from OOH marketing when the integrate it into a multichannel strategy.  Today’s consumer is not strictly digital, nor are can they only be reached by traditional marketing.

CPG brands who embrace OOH marketing as a key part of their overall advertising strategy will have reaped the rewards of the worlds most effective form of marketing, with the ability to reach consumers on every platform with which they interact.

Are you interested in learning how Bold, Eye-Catching OOH ads can support your current marketing initiatives? Reach New Audiences with Commoot >>

The Growth of the OOH Marketing Industry Over the Last 3 Years

Despite uncertain economic prospects and a drastic decrease in ad spend across all sectors, the Out of Home marketing industry has grown exponentially for more than eight consecutive years.

According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, the astounding growth can largely be attributed to OOH marketings effectiveness, willingness to embrace innovation, and its “larger-than-life” impact on the consumer.

growth of OOH market image1

OOH Meets Experiential Marketing

Before the digital revolution, consumers were seemingly content with a static billboard advertisement or a commercial jingle. The 1990’s brought social media and Internet-connected mobile devices, which made traditional marketing nearly obsolete. Then something happened that marketers had been dreading, but were none-the-less expecting. Ad-blockers grew in popularity, and the results left Out of Home marketing as the only form of advertising still immune to ad-blockers and ad-blindness.

Thus, OOH marketing emerged as one of the few media platforms still positioned to create a positive marketing experience. Moreover, any marketer will tell you that the key to effective advertising is creating a positive emotional experience for the consumer.

There is only one problem. The static signage of traditional marketing simply does not compel today’s consumer like it used to. 

Luckily, OOH marketers have embraced innovations in data, tech, and mobile integration to enable a truly interconnected and positive marketing experience for the consumer.

OOH & Tech Tie the Knot

The technology and digital sectors continue to invest heavily in Out of Home marketing. According to the OAAA, “a quarter of the top OOH advertisers are major tech brands”.

So why have the biggest tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, Verizon, and Netflix started investing heavily in Out of Home marketing? “OOH is growing at such a rate because it encourages a higher percentage of online activity per ad spend than any other form of marketing.” the OAAA report finds.

The same OAAA report also shows that OOH ads that are connected to social media channels and integrated with mobile technologies drive more sales and brand awareness than without this connection.

Digital Leads the Way

Marketers have discovered new ways to utilize data to develop targeted brand messaging that is more relevant to the consumer than ever before. OOH marketers are moving away from static 2D signage and providing the target audience with a multi-channel consumer experience.

Seamless Mobile Experience

Mobile and Out of Home marketing have converged and offer new ways of measuring metrics, like viewability, by connecting mobile campaigns to in-store sales. The seamless mobile experience offered by OOH marketing enables marketers to quantify the smartphones have been exposed to their ads and retarget specifically those devices.

As OOH marketers continue to embrace mobile integration, it will become easier for brands get their offers in front of the right consumers at the right time.

Predicted Ad Spend Growth

Experts agree that the economic uncertainty of 2017 is what ultimately lead to a decrease in ad spending across all sectors. As ad spend again begins to rise once again, Out of Home marketing remains poised to receive a large portion of that expected growth.

Even during economic downturn of 2017 and predicted decreases in CAD (computer aided drawings, i.e. animation) and radio broadcasting spend, experts still predicts a 3% growth in Out of Home marketing overall, driven by a whopping 13% YoY growth in digital Out of Home MarketingAccording to Magna Global, OOH marketing is expected to grow by an average of nearly 15% in 2018 alone, and a steady growth trend is likely to continue in 2019.

The growth of the OOH marketing industry over previous years has been impressive to say the least, and has proven that Out of Home marketing is the best way to create brand awareness and foster engagement with the largest target audience possible.

Interested in Learning More about Out of Home Marketing? Contact Commoot today!