Why sustainable brands should use Google’s Out-Of-Home ads

A Google outdoor advert for ASOS sustainable
Google is an advertising behemoth, earning in excess of $150 billion per annum in advertising revenues, making one of the biggest movers and shakers in the industry. That’s why Google’s latest announcement – that it’s moving into the offline space with digital billboard advertising – is causing such a stir.
We’re not here to explore the shakeup this could have in advertising in general. Instead, we’ll explore what this means for brands, both big and small, and their marketing strategies. Importantly, we’ll explore why this is a massive win for sustainability in marketing, and great for planet-conscious brands.
asos google ad for out of home New York
Google's initial trials were with ASOS in the UK and US

Omnichannel approach

This had just added a major string to the bow of omnichannel marketing campaigns. Billboard advertising has traditionally been viewed as separate when it comes to media planning and buying, but by integrating directly with the Google Ads platform, marketeers are able to quickly and effectively build OOH advertising into their campaigns, and with low cost barriers to entry.

This is all integrated into the Display & Video 360 platform that Google already runs, meaning that marketers who are setting up ads to run across display networks and video ads on YouTube can now easily integrate OOH banner advertising within the same platform. This unlocks a whole new channel with just a few clicks.

Agility in Out-of-Home advertising

Until recently, the following scenarios were next-to-impossible to achieve:

  • A restaurant brand wants to fill the quiet hours between lunch and evening service, so runs a Happy Hour cocktails offer from 3pm until 6pm, advertising it across a city during those hours using billboards.
  • A food truck that drives around the UK wants to announce that it’s pitched up for the day in a city, and runs outdoor ads that point people their way.
  • A brick-and-mortar shop runs a special Earth Day flash sale, and plasters their hometown with outdoor ads to drive customers to their storefront.
  • A creative team wants to make a tweak to an OOH advertising campaign that’s already running, so can quickly do so with no disruption to delivery or reprinting of materials.


All of this and more is possible now with Google’s venture into OOH. Google has promised the ability to manage placements of your ads on specific outlets to ensure you can keep your targeting hyperlocal. As with its other ad platforms, you can also set timed limits to your ad displays, from specific days, to certain times of the day.

This unlocks a whole host of OOH marketing strategies that simply could not be performed in such a smart and agile manner before.

dominos human billboard
Well, there was always this option too... but it doesn't exactly scream 'premium'.

Outdoor done sustainably

For Morpho and our clients, however, the most significant shift is into a more sustainable way to do outdoor advertising.

Outdoor media has traditionally been extremely wasteful. Most billboards will be coated with either vinyl or paper advertisements.

Plastic promotions

The vinyl ones are impossible to recycle at present and contribute tonnes upon tonnes of plastic waste to our planet. They’re not printed to be reused in an effective manner (after all, no one wants to advertise their Christmas 2017 campaign in summer 2022), and thus it all goes to landfill. Whilst some savvy companies have looked at ways to upcycle and reuse vinyl from advertising, it’s a tiny dent on the overall negative impact it has upon the environment.

A paper-trail of problems

So, what about the paper ones? Sadly, we’re no better off there. Research by the EU has highlighted that in Europe alone, billboards create over 6 million square metres of waste paper every fortnight. That’s about 860 football pitches, made from cutdown trees.

But at least it’s recyclable, right? Sadly, wrong. They use non-ecological inks and toxic glues. In short, it’s not good.

In addition to this, they typically require lighting setups to enhance displays which means they’re burning through energy too.

landfill included billboard ads
The vast majority of OOH advertising ends up contributing to landfill.

A step forward

With a move to a digital-first advertising display platform for out-of-home, we can achieve more sustainable campaigns. The most egregiously non-environmental campaigns are those that are short-term in their nature, creating waste for what might amount to a few short weeks of communications, can now be programmed in and removed when completed with no waste whatsoever.

Google’s own infrastructure aims to be fully decarbonised by 2030, and is already one of the world’s biggest buyers of renewable energy. Their main UK partner for UK out-of-home advertising is JCDecaux, who currently get 37% of their energy from renewable sources. Whilst this could improve, it’s certainly better than its non-digital counterpart. It’s highly likely that Google will push these partners to do better as well.

The Good, The Bad, and the Googly

So is there any downside? Well, Google has highlighted that its OOH advertising doesn’t benefit from the same level of granular targeting and reporting that their online ads do for obvious reasons – how do track a conversion from someone seeing a billboard ad? There might be creative ways for brands to do this, such as QR codes or vouchers specific to OOH display, but for the most part this is more difficult to do.

However, for what this platform lacks in granularity and data, it makes up for in how efficient it is to add a whole new roster of marketing opportunities to your strategy.

We look forward to seeing the shake up this has upon the OOH industry at large, but for us at Morpho, anything that brings more potential for sustainability in marketing plans is only a good thing.