Do Billboard Adverts Really Work?

With rise of social media and internet marketing it may seem like billboard adverts are becoming increasingly obsolete.  But if this is the case why do businesses still use them?  And it’s not just small companies who may be making a marketing mistake – huge companies still take advantage of the billboard from Channel 4 to Pepsi.  Indeed, some of the most famous landmarks in the world are, in essence, huge billboard structures.  Time square and Piccadilly Circus might have digitalised the billboard, but essentially pay homage to this form of advertising.  All of this indicates that the billboard must have some advertising power, but what is it and how does it compare to other avenues like online marketing, flyering, posters and the like?

The problems with billboard advertising

The most obvious problem with billboard advertising is that you can’t track conversions, unless you have a specific URL or phone number exclusive to the billboard, which adds cost.  If you can’t tell exactly how much business your billboard adverts are bringing in, then it’s really hard to assess whether they’re financially viable.  Of course, if you’re a service along the motorway and you want to let people know you’re just around the corner, then a billboard advert makes perfect sense, right?  But what about the boards you see which advertise something you can’t access whilst you’re travelling?  Have you ever gone home and investigated a business because of a billboard? You’d imagine the answer to be no, and yet the billboard adverts certainly doesn’t seem to be fading away, even with the rapidly developing world of social media targeted marketing.  So what is it about the billboard that works?

So why does it work? 

Billboards are huge structures which can have massive visual impact.  They’re normally very simple with minimal information.  The size of a billboard makes them eye-catching whilst the simplicity of the content makes them easy to take in.  A consumer also feels they have more choice when it comes to billboard advertising – if they don’t like something they can just look away, and this may make them more receptive than they might be to a particular TV advert which makes them switch channels or an annoying internet pop up which gets in their way whilst they’re browsing.  And this leads us to another idea.

Billboards capitalise on the state of mind of the traveller. If you’re browsing the internet then you are doing a specific task; an advert popping up interrupts you, and you therefore get rid of it immediately.  This kind of advertising is intrusive and because of this can be met with hostility and disregard.  But, when you’re sitting in the car as a passenger or in a traffic jam you’re unoccupied.  We look out the window on long drives and let our minds wonder, and it is this different state of mind which the billboard advert capitalises on.  It could be argued then that you’re way more likely to read a billboard advert than an advert on Facebook, even if the Facebook advert is meant to be targeted specifically at you.

What’s more a lot of people drive, which means a lot of people will see your billboard.  Billboards can’t be switched off; they are visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There are up to 34 million licensed vehicles on the road in the UK, and this number is increasing.  According to a study in America by the OAAA, 70% of people glance at billboards and 63% actually read them.  Put all these factors together and you start to understand why businesses still choose to use the billboard.

If you want to think of new marketing avenues and new ways to advertise then, a billboard, placed in a high traffic area might not be a bad idea.  It’s best to combine different types of advertising to reinforce brand identity and make yourself as visible as possible.

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