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In an age of increased engagement with technology, you might assume that billboards are an old-fashioned marketing tool. Are billboards really still effective in the digital age?
Billboards, a key out of home (OOH) advertising method, are evolving along with their target audiences.1 Current data indicates that billboards don’t just work—they work tremendously well.2
But an effective billboard campaign isn’t created overnight. To increase billboard advertising effectiveness, business owners need to stay educated on the evolution of billboards, consider whether or not billboard advertising is right for their business, and create an eye-catching, focused, and impactful campaign.
In other words, good billboards are effective. But what makes a good billboard? Let us explain.
OOH Advertising: Not Your Mother’s BillBoard
One of many OOH advertising methods, today’s billboards are transcending the roadside advertisements of yore. Consumers see billboards:
- Along the sides of highways while driving
- In public transit hubs and vehicles (like buses and trains)
- In airports
- As murals or banners on the sides of buildings
Another recent and integral element of OOH advertising is the digital billboard, like the LED billboard. As a result, there are way more different types of billboards today than back then. Providing businesses with a more dynamic and visible way to advertise, digital billboards present a whole new world of potential for billboard design and installation.
Recent innovations in billboard advertising are one of the reasons the medium continues to succeed. In the current consumer environment—a world in which we’re bombarded by visual stimuli and advertising imagery during most of the day— the challenge of achieving attention breeds enhanced billboard design methods and, as a result, effective products.
Do billboards work? Yes, as long as your billboard evolves at the same pace as your business, your products and services, and the attention span of your target market.
The Data on Billboards
How do we know that billboard advertising is effective? Luckily, industry experts like the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) have collected valuable data regarding OOH advertising in general, and this data suggests that billboard advertising is still useful.3
Two 2020 surveys conducted by the OAAA indicate that billboard advertising should still be a significant consideration for your business’s marketing plan:
- A survey results publication dubbed “COVID Impact: OOH’s Proximity Marketing Power Greater Than Ever” reported that 45% more consumers are noticing OOH marketing materials than before the COVID-19 outbreak.4
- Another publication of survey results asserts that 69% of viewers of a digital street level ad immediately took an action related to that ad: looking it up in a search engine, visiting a brick-and-mortar store, or purchasing a product, for instance.
So, not only are consumers taking note of OOH ads more than ever before, but they’re also taking direct actions upon seeing those ads. The latter survey also reported that 65% of viewers visited a brick-and-mortar store or restaurant after seeing an OOH ad that provided directions to the nearest store location.
When it comes to the consideration of billboard advertising effectiveness, the data is irrefutable. Consumers are seeing ads and responding to them, rendering billboard advertising methods as relevant as ever.
What About ROI?
When considering the return on investment (ROI) compared to the cost of a billboard, business owners need to know which elements of billboard advertising impact ROI:
- Billboard location
- Billboard medium (digital, print, mural)
- Billboard design
- Branding effectiveness
All of these factors can make or break the profitability of a billboard marketing campaign, so it’s crucial for business owners to make smart choices while developing their advertising strategy.
Pros and Cons of Billboard Advertising
Seasoned advertising professionals know that no ad method is perfect, OOH or otherwise. Are billboards effective for your type of business, product, or service? Consider the following benefits:
- Billboards are highly visible to consumers when placed in high-traffic areas.
- Billboards can be easily updated to reflect changes in branding or pricing.
- Billboards present unique opportunities for calls to action like QR codes and URLs.
- Large-format advertising is always memorable, and a billboard is quite a large canvas.
All of that said, billboards are neither perfect nor too good to be true. Billboard advertising has drawbacks:
- Billboard design requires a significant time investment to ensure effectiveness.
- Digital billboards, in particular, are sometimes accused of posing a safety hazard.5
- Commuters are unlikely to alter their immediate route after seeing a billboard.
Billboards should be used in conjunction with refined, finalized branding for optimal effectiveness. So, for new or small businesses where branding may be incomplete or a lower priority compared to initial sales, billboards may not be as effective.
But, despite their drawbacks, the proof is in the pudding: consumers respond to billboards with direct actions.
How Do I Use BillBoard Advertising Effectively?
For optimal consumer engagement and the best possible ROI, billboards need to be perfectly placed, well-designed, and thoroughly tested. To help create an effective billboard campaign, it helps to research effective billboard advertising examples and the bad ones. You should also research what the ideal billboard size for your campaign is, and from there, you can determine how to get a billboard right for your campaign and how much does that billboard cost.
We’ve all seen questionable billboards, and you want your OOH ad to be memorable for all of the right reasons.
Choose an Outstanding Location
Effective billboard advertising is well-placed. Location can also make or break your billboard campaign budget.
First, come up with a reasonable spending limit for your ad. While that budget might not secure the “perfect location,” you’ll set yourself up for success if you follow these guidelines:
- Pick a high-traffic location, like a busy freeway exit or subway stop.
- Pick a location that can accommodate your ideal billboard size.
- Ideally, pick a spot where your billboard is one of a few in the vicinity.
You should also consider your target market. Where are they commuting? Where do they live? Where do they shop and go to restaurants? If you’re targeting middle-class millennials, place your billboard near high-occupancy office buildings or a strip of affordable restaurants and bars.
Your products or services should also impact your shortlist of locations. For instance, if you sell athletic apparel, place your billboard in the vicinity of a gym.
Most importantly, be flexible. If there’s no more highway real estate available for your restaurant chain billboard, a local route could entice nearby (and potentially repeat) customers. Keep an open mind, and choose the best location you can find for your budget.
Hone in on Your Branding
Before you begin designing your billboard, make sure that your business’s branding is high-quality and air-tight. If you don’t like your logo on your letterhead, you’re definitely not going to like it when it’s blown up on a billboard.
If you’re using any copy on your billboard, take the time to create brand guidelines for your advertising materials if you haven’t already. If your business doesn’t have a slogan, this would be the perfect time to create one. Even if most of the copy doesn’t make it to the billboard, document your efforts for use in future ad campaigns.
Looking at examples of other billboards and identifying elements you like or don’t like can be helpful during the design process. How is your competition using their branded imagery in their billboards? Do you think it’s effective? Stand on the shoulders of giants, and take inspiration from impactful billboards in your area.
Finally, find the right balance between logos, images, and text. Most drivers, for instance, only have a second or two to glance at your billboard, so keep text brief, logos big and recognizable, and images simple. Send the message you want in as few words as possible.
Test Your Design in Your Target Market
Focus groups are your friend.
While you don’t have to organize a formal focus group to evaluate the effectiveness of your billboard design, you should seek feedback from your target market. Consider the following tactics:
- Invite a few past or repeat customers to comment on your ad design. Be sure to offer a free product, service, or another reward in return for their time.
- Send mock-ups to employees in different departments throughout the business—people who aren’t well-versed in advertising work can often provide insightful suggestions.
- Create social media polls to seek feedback from customers connected to your business. An Instagram poll is a valuable tool, and consumers will feel more connected to your ad content.
Finding a great spot, refining your branding and ad design ideas, and seeking feedback from consumers will help you hit the ground running with your billboard campaign.
Take Your OOH Advertising to the Next Level
Are you ready to start your billboard advertising campaign?
OOH, advertising is an excellent opportunity to widen your customer base, increase sales, and make your business visible.
At True Impact Media, we’re all about OOH advertising. Our database of OOH availability, state-of-the-art planning tools, and powerful campaign analytics can take your billboard campaign to the next level.
There’s no need to be overwhelmed by the OOH advertising process. Simply send us a Request for Proposal, browse our interactive availability map, and let us handle the logistics, including printing, delivery, and installation.
We know that the billboards that work are high-quality, well-placed, and impactful, and we know how to help your business run a stellar and successful ad campaign. Reach out to us today, and get your business in front of more consumers than ever.
- Out of Home Advertising Association of America. Planning for OOH Media. https://oaaa.org/Portals/0/Planning%20for%20OOH_08_20.pdf
- Out of Home Advertising Association of America. Digital Street Level OOH Engages Consumers and Drives Action. https://oaaa.org/Portals/0/Digital%20Street%20Level%20Nielsen%20FINAL.pdf
- Out of Home Advertising Association of America. Proof OOH Works. https://oaaa.org/ProofOOHWorks.aspx
- Out of Home Advertising Association of America. COVID Impact: OOH’s Proximity Marketing Power Greater Than Ever. http://oaaa.org/Portals/0/Public%20PDFs/Marketing/HarrisPollInfographics.pdf?ver=2020-10-22
- The United States Supreme Court. Amici Curiae in Support of Reagan National Advertising of Austin, LLC. https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/20/20-1029/194075/20210929130826779_OAAA%20et%20al.%20Amicus%20ISO%20Respondents.pdf