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Is Billboard Advertising Effective?

Anand Srivastava
Anand Srivastava

Interested in investing in billboard advertising? Here’s what you should know first.

Billboards are something we usually come across while driving on roads and freeways. However, these structures require attention and frequent gazes in order to make any form of advertising worth the effort. Interested in investing in billboard advertising? Here’s what you should know first.

What is billboard advertising?

Billboard advertising involves paying for ad space on a billboard to market your brand, its products and services, or a specific campaign. These billboards are typically placed in high-traffic areas to attract the highest amount of attention from drivers and pedestrians. Such locations include highways, trains and subways.

While many people assume billboards are ineffective in today’s climate, that’s actually far from true. In fact, they have an ROI of 497% and are expected to have a 10% annual growth rate throughout 2021.

What does billboard advertising cost?

The cost of billboard advertising depends on the location of the billboard you’re renting, the traffic in that area, its anticipated number of viewers and more. However, the average cost is a monthly price of $250 (i.e. in rural areas) to upwards of $22,000 (i.e. in locations like Times Square). Of course, as a small business owner, you’d likely shoot for spots like highways.

In addition to the renting costs, you’ll also have to pay for the designing, printing and construction of the billboard, which can cost you another $500 or so. And if you choose to outsource the work, you’re looking at anywhere from an additional $150 to $1,000.

When renting a billboard and calculating your anticipated costs, you’ll want to consider three factors: circulation (number of people who pass the billboard each week), demographics (age, gender, income level, etc.) and impressions (number of people who actually see the billboard). As mentioned above, the ROI for this investment is often well worth the associated costs.

What billboards really do

In simpler terms, billboards are like giant posters that are often mounted on select structures for public viewing. In comparison to online promotions and public relations, billboards are costlier and more conventional forms of marketing. Therefore, indulging in billboard advertising means that the business is willing to showcase the message or the main aim of the venture on a bigger space; precisely for attracting a wider audience base across a particular region.

For someone looking for more insights on the concept of a billboard, it is important to note that the largest one available is termed as the “bulletin.” However, the size of the advertising region also depends on the location and business preferences. Typically, a standard billboard measures around 14 feet in height and 48 feet in width, in usual cases.

What advertisers need to do while considering billboard advertising

Advertising products and services on billboards is a relative choice, as there might be individuals who gaze at the mounted structures while driving or quite a few who prefer keeping eyes just on the road. Moreover, there are regions where billboards are installed with such frequency that noticing the desired message becomes extremely difficult.

Based on an independent survey conducted by the AAA American Driving Survey, quite a few aspects determine the popularity of billboard advertising or thereof the lack of it:

  • An average American prefers spending about 20 hours on the freeway, often treading across 200 miles or more.
  • The fall months usually see an increase in driving frequency with an average of 31.5 miles on a daily basis.
  • The usual age group that prefers going out falls anywhere between the ages of 30 and 49, with an annual driving average of around 13,506 miles.

All these factors and more directly or indirectly determine the role of billboard advertising for businesses.

How to use billboards effectively

In most cases, advertising on billboards isn't an overly pricey affair. However, the effectiveness of price ratio is often determined by the way these advertising tools are used. While the factors like public resonance and location need to be looked at beforehand, billboards should be designed in a certain way to get the desired message across. Here are some ways to do it.

Make it short and simple.

A typical billboard must not contain a lot of text and should be able to provide clear information regarding the business and the offered set of products or services. For starters, a billboard must only feature six words at max, to communicate perfectly with the potential audience base. Additionally, the font should be large enough to see from a distance.

Use images.

In advertising, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Images capture attention and are easier to focus on while driving than words. Drivers or pedestrians are in a rush and only have a few seconds to quickly glance at the billboard before passing by. To accommodate them while making the most out of your ad space, use an attractive and captivating photo related to your brand with a few words. Additionally, always be sure to include your logo.

Keep your tone in mind.

Another important consideration is the tone of the billboards, as they are usually placed on freeways. Don’t use anything too alarming or distracting. Most importantly, businesses that thrive on the concept of branding and awareness are the most suited to using billboards as the desired form of advertising. Accurately represent your brand as simply as possibly.

Use emotional advertising.

Appeal to the emotions of your audience, whether that be through humor, anger, empathy or even sadness. If your advertising leans more on the lighthearted side, use a witty one-liner to make them laugh on their commute to work. If you’re trying to get a point across about an important topic, use an emotional photo as the backdrop. Keep your demographic in mind when designing your billboard to better elicit the response you intended.

Additionally, on every billboard, be sure to clearly print your logo and provide a CTA that encourages action right away.

Judging billboard advertising effectiveness

Now that we have acquired a fair idea of the nature and usage of billboards, it is time to address the actual elephant in the room: the effectiveness of billboard advertising. Here are some pros and cons of using this form of advertising.

Pros of billboard advertising

  1. The issue of attention captivity is sorted out by a billboard ad, as it is usually massive and graphic oriented.

  2. Billboards mounted on busy streets make sure that the audience is engaged during periods of traffic jams and monotonous halts.

  3. Billboard ads are more like tools for continuously bombarding the senses with an impact. Therefore, if and when installed on a particularly busy route, this form of advertisement is expected to make inroads into the users' minds.

  4. Most importantly, billboards have the ability to reach a massive audience base compared to other forms of advertising.

  5. For a business planning on improving the geographical targeting in regard to marketing, billboard advertisements are great alternatives for a marketing package.

  6. Billboards aren't too costly and are perfectly capable of delivering low-cost impressions, as they cater to a massive audience base.

  7. Three-dimensional billboards have the capability of portraying a static image as a moving entity that eventually displays different messages across different times. High-end billboards that aren't typical banners also have the ability to stream content, depending on the marketing plans.

Cons of billboard advertising

  1. Billboards aren't applicable to a targeted marketing approach, as they are seen by individuals who have different interests and requirements. This means billboards do not have the capability to taper targets on the basis of preferences.

  2. Most billboard spaces come with a rental arrangement, and it often becomes difficult for a startup to bear the costs for a longer period of time, especially if the company isn't making regular profits.

  3. Typical billboards are more like bulletins set in stone for a certain period of time. While they aim at bombarding thoughts with the business offerings, the ads can get monotonous after a day or two.

  4. Billboards are prone to damage if structured in areas that encounter heavy and frequent weather strikes. As they are mounted on top of towering structures, they are the first ones to get damaged.

  5. The previous point reveals that billboards should be considered as seasonal marketing options in certain regions which cripple the effectiveness of the same, by a sizable margin.

According to a study by Arbitron, almost 28% of the fabled billboard watchers do note down contact details of the service provider, mostly the website address. Moreover, 26% usually go for the direct contact number, displayed on the billboards. These statistics show that even though drivers were busy concentrating on the road, they were still willing to follow up on the concerned billboard message.

Additionally, 71% of the population ages 18 and older noticed the advertising message on a billboard. Billboard viewers have seen a ton of actionable info on billboards in the U.S., including stores and restaurants they then visited, radio and TV programs they then listened to, and events they later attended. More than two-thirds of Americans make their shopping decisions while in the car, and more than one-third make the decision to stop at the store while on their way home.

Using billboard advertising correctly

It wouldn't be wrong to state that billboards are exceptional marketing tools provided they are used correctly. By correct usage, however, we mean that targeting the specific area where the concerned service procurers are in excess. Traffic accumulation is an important factor in the effectiveness of billboard advertisements.

Moreover, the cost of billboards is on the lower side and the best thing about this form of advertisement is that it is virtually unavoidable, unlike radio or television. Therefore, to make the most of a billboard advertisement, the business must consider several aspects and ponder each with significant levels of attention. Billboards are cheap compared to other forms of advertisements, and the results can be exemplary if they are used with discretion and marketing intuition.

Additional reporting by Sammi Caramela.

Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen / Getty Images
Anand Srivastava
Anand Srivastava,
business.com Writer
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Anand Srivastava is an entrepreneur, internet marketing expert and a technocrat. After completing his Master’s in Business Administration, Anand took over the internet as one of the leading business leaders— across the country. He started off with many joint ventures— including news creation, digital marketing models, technical setups and even e-commerce. He is currently working on some of his individual projects and making giant strides when it comes to success and recognition.