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Unveiling the Truth Behind Hong Kong's Outdoor Advertising Challenges

Updated: Aug 10, 2023


In today's digital age, traditional forms of advertising have taken a backseat to the rise of digital channels. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of outdoor advertising. Hong Kong, a city known for its vibrant advertising landscape, is experiencing a significant underperformance in its outdoor advertising sector. A recent study conducted by Hong Kong Baptist University sheds light on the reasons behind this underperformance, revealing a lack of creativity as the key culprit.


The Problem with Hong Kong's Outdoor Advertising

Despite the ubiquity of outdoor ads in Hong Kong, they often fail to capture people's attention. They have become mere wallpaper, blending into the visual jungle that surrounds us on the streets, public transport, and buildings. The study conducted by Hong Kong Baptist University, under the supervision of Professor Kara Chan, highlights the lack of creativity as a major factor contributing to the underperformance of outdoor advertising campaigns. Most ads look the same, featuring happy customers, celebrities endorsing different brands, and an overload of bold words and colors. As a result, the public has become immune to these ads, rendering them ineffective.


Effectiveness and Consumer Response

The study also assessed the effectiveness of different ads and their ability to drive purchase decisions. Surprisingly, even though some ads managed to raise awareness, the intention to purchase was generally low. Interactive elements such as QR codes, which are commonly used in outdoor ads, were largely ignored, with 80% of respondents admitting to never scanning them. Furthermore, public service ads and non-profit organization ads faced challenges in influencing public behavior due to a lack of strategic thinking. Simply telling people what to do or not to do is insufficient; the ads need to present compelling arguments that make individuals reflect on their actions.


Key Factors for Standout Outdoor Campaigns

Not all outdoor advertising campaigns in Hong Kong are doomed to fail. The study highlights two key factors that can make a difference: simplicity and creativity. Ads with clean designs and fewer words have a better chance of capturing attention in the fast-paced outdoor environment. Additionally, creativity plays a crucial role in making an ad memorable and captivating. Unfortunately, most ads in Hong Kong lack originality and fail to stand out from the crowd.


Understanding the Role of Outdoor Advertising

Advertisers often misunderstand the role of outdoor advertising in their media mix. While outdoor ads are effective in raising brand awareness, they are not suitable for delivering detailed information. Posters cluttered with excessive words and small logos prove to be ineffective, especially in a constantly moving environment. It's worth noting that the underperformance of outdoor advertising is not unique to Hong Kong but a prevailing issue in many locations worldwide.


The Cost of Ineffective Outdoor Advertising

For advertisers and media vendors, ineffective outdoor advertising campaigns translate into wasted resources and poor results. Advertisers invest substantial amounts of money in outdoor ads, expecting a return on their investment. If the desired results are not achieved, they may question the effectiveness of the medium itself, holding media vendors accountable. This highlights the importance of making outdoor advertising work harder to achieve rewarding outcomes.



Despite the digital revolution, outdoor advertising remains a highly visible and relevant medium. Hong Kong's underperforming outdoor advertising sector can be attributed to a lack of creativity and originality in campaigns. Advertisers need to understand the role of outdoor advertising in their media mix and focus on simplicity and creativity to make their ads stand out. By addressing these challenges, the effectiveness of outdoor advertising in Hong Kong can be revitalized, leading to more impactful campaigns and better results for advertisers.



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