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Billboard Advertising

Billboard advertising remains one of the most cost-effective methods of generating interest.

Location is the most important factor in billboard advertising. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Location is the most important factor in billboard advertising.

Billboard Advertising

Billboards advertising is big business. According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, Inc., American advertisers spent $6.99 billion on outdoor advertising in 2008. Unlike other forms of advertising in which the market is more specific, billboards advertising reaches anyone who drives by.

Types of Billboard Advertising

Several kinds of billboards are used in outdoor advertising. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America, Inc. explains that the most common billboard is a 30-sheet poster. Posters measure 12 feet by 24 feet and are applied to the billboard in strips. Posters are often found in commercial or industrial areas.

The second most common billboard is called a bulletin. These cost more and are sometimes printed with machines. Bulletins are the largest and most effective billboards. They are sometimes embellished with creative extensions, and they often appear on freeways. Artwork for bulletins is prepared by supplying digital files with a printout. Two kinds of bulletin billboards are available: vinyls and paints. Vinyls are printed by machine, but paints are a type of bulletin that is painted with special outdoor paint.

Digital billboards present electronic messages that rotate on the board. As many as eight billboards may share the screen. The messages on the digital screen usually shift every eight seconds. Digital billboards offer companies more flexibility to alter their messages and may be cheaper to purchase because companies share the spot.
Spectaculars are rare billboards that are custom designed and contain video screens, fiber optics and other special effects used to gain attention. Spectaculars are located in prominent areas such as Times Square and are very expensive.

Costs of Billboard Advertising

Typically, a company pays for the billboards location and also for the media used to create its image on it. Billboards are given ratings called gross ratings points (GRPs), which are used to determine costs and effectiveness. The GRP is the traffic count divided by the population. Purchasers buy showings, which are the GRPs. A 30 percent showing means 30 percent of the population sees one of the company's billboards at least once per day. In reality, however, it usually takes several boards to get to that point; so many companies buy multiple billboards. Advertisers strive to reach a 100-percent showing, which can only be reached with multiple billboards. As of 2009, billboards cost $400 to $600 per month, although the cost varies depending on the market, according to the National Business Association. Sometimes billboards are stacked, and the price varies depending on top or bottom position.

Benefits of Billboard Advertising

Entrepreneur.com describes the benefits of billboard advertising:

  • Billboards can be targeted to specific geographic populations. 
  • Billboards can be purchased for low cost per the number of people they reach when compared with other forms of advertising.

However, the National Business Association recommends that billboard advertising not be used as a quick fix when a company is dealing with declining sales. Rather, billboards advertising is best used to build image and brand awareness over time. As a result, the billboards don't work as well for one-time sales or special events. They should be part of a long-term media campaign.

Tips for Billboard Advertising

Billboards generally should include a photo and a message that doesn't exceed eight words, explains Entrepreneur.com. Anything more and the message may become cluttered and less effective because people won't have time to read it. The best response to a billboard will be received in the first 30 days after this time people become used to the billboard and don't notice it as much. Thus, many billboards are changed after this time.

Purchasers of billboards advertising should consider whether the daily traffic count they are given is counting the same people each day. This is more likely if a billboard is placed in a neighborhood rather than on a freeway. Thus, considering location is as important as looking at straight numbers. Other considerations include:

  • Lower heights are more in line with drivers' gazes and right-hand billboards are usually more effective because they are seen by more drivers.
  • Bold elements and a simple design usually work best in billboards advertising. 
  • Focus the billboards message on a single, concise, simple idea. 
  • Pick a lighted location. 

Choose the locations, rather than allowing a salesperson to choose them for you.
The message should be about the customer business owners should avoid putting their own pictures on a billboard.

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