Is Billboard Advertising Still Relevant?


Is billboard advertising still relevant?

It’s an interesting question that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Edward Boches, professor of advertising at Boston University, believes that although billboards may feel like a throwback, they are one of the few remaining shared public marketing experiences.

“Given the fragmentation of media (digital, social, on-demand TV),” argues Boches, “there are few opportunities remaining where we see something at the same time we know others are seeing it.”

There’s something comforting about being able to talk about a billboard you’ve seen with friends and coworkers. You may not watch the same things on Netflix, but at least you travel the same highway.

Traditional printed billboards, however, can be expensive, especially in high traffic areas. They can also be hard to target to a specific audience and almost impossible to accurately track success without a unique URL or phone number.

So can billboard advertising drive the same ROI as digital? Perhaps the answer lies in a marriage of the two: digital billboards.

How many billboards did you pass on your way into work? How many did you actually read? A recent digital outdoor study by Nielson reveals that 75% of respondents recalled seeing a digital billboard in the last month. More importantly, 55% could recall the message they saw on the billboard. Digital billboards definitely pop. The colors are vibrant. The images are sharp and crystal-clear.

The benefits of digital outdoor advertising are numerous. A big advantage is cost. Because these boards are displayed electronically, there are no printing expenses. But the most unique thing about these LED boards is the ability to modify and update the message by day of the week or time of day. Digital outdoor advertising allows advertisers to serve up real-time messaging. A television syndicate can easily remind you to tune in to their top-rated sitcom “tonight.” A restaurant can promote a breakfast item in the morning, a lunch special at noon and happy hour after four o’clock. Try doing that with a conventional outdoor board. Plus, you’re reaching those few who aren’t online.

Of course, pitting digital media against outdoor media—even digital billboards—isn’t all that constructive. After all, they work totally different and are meant to work in tandem. Outdoor often serves to provide brand awareness. Sometimes its role is to provide a direction call-to-action like “exit now.”

Digital, on the other hand, is intended to be interactive and create a direct relationship with the consumer. It can be used for branding, but more often is a direct call to action with an experiential component like “learn more” taking a prospect to a dedicated landing page.

Digital advertising and billboard advertising should never be viewed as competitors, but rather as colleagues—especially when you add digital outdoor into the mix.

Depending on the budget, product and target audience, a carefully integrated B2C marketing campaign should enlist a variety of media. Email, outdoor, television, radio [link to radio blog], print, social media – you name it – will work together and close any gaps to reach your entire audience and generate leads.

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