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Advertising on a Billboard 101: The Complete Guide for 2023

March 10, 2023

Outdoor media leads the way as one of the most effective and efficient forms of advertising. While many different mediums encompass the outdoor advertising landscape, Billboards are the most recognizable of them. Here are some of the top reasons for Billboard advertising popularity and effectiveness:

  • Brand recall: OOH including Billboards have up to an 86% recall rate, higher than all other forms of advertising, according to a 2023 study by Solomon Partners.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Billboards have one of the lowest cost per thousand impressions with average CPMs of $2 to $7, making them much more efficient than other high impact forms of advertising such as television and print.
  • Reach: 89% of US adults notice OOH and Billboard advertising, according to a 2022 poll by OAAA.
  • Brand recognition: Billboards increase brand recognition and awareness and can encourage your audiences to take action. A 2022 poll by OAAA found that 80% of those who noticed OOH advertising are inspired to take action based on the advertisement. 

To ensure the effectiveness of your Billboard advertising you need to consider multiple factors including location, audience, message, design and exposure frequency.  

Billboard Location and Demographics are Key

Similar to real estate, the mantra “location, location, location” is essential for Billboard success. Billboards that are strategically placed on busy roads and highways or in high-traffic pedestrian areas are able to reach a larger number of audiences. The demographics of the area surrounding the Billboard and the composition of the traffic passing through (these are not always the same) are the first factors to consider.

How QSRs can use OOH to Drive Sales 1

Billboard Design is Critical for Success

Both the message and design of the Billboard are critical for success. You have just seconds to make an impact with your audience. A Billboard with a clear and concise message as well as a visually appealing and easy to read design will increase recall and desired actions.

Consider Frequency in Your Planning

The importance of frequency cannot be overlooked. Audiences are more likely to remember your message if they see it at least 3 times, unless the location is extremely specific. Consider how highly trafficked a route is by the same audience on a daily basis. Is it seen every morning by the same person or only on a Friday night? Both are valuable applications with their own pros and cons.

Billboards are one of the strongest advertising mediums and by considering the factors above you will optimize the effectiveness of your campaign.

Billboard Advertising Costs & Value

Billboards are one of the most efficient mass market media vehicles but costs can differ significantly depending on several market factors. The most important factors, include but are not limited to:

  • Location: One of the most important factors is the Billboard’s location, with Billboards in high-traffic areas commanding higher prices. High-density urban areas and busy highways generally have more expensive costs. However just because a certain Billboard is expensive that doesn’t mean it’s right for your brand.
  • Size: In many cases, larger units tend to cost more. To get the most value out of your outdoor media consider viewing distance. While the larger the unit the better you want to think about how close an individual will need to be to optimally see the unit. A 10’x30’ that has a strong viewing angle is going to be more effective than a 14’x48’ with a suboptimal read. 
  • Unit type: Newer unit builds, such as high pixel density digital screens, will sometimes incur higher costs. Digital units on a time-per-view basis will often be more expensive per impression than static counterparts. Still, that cost comes with the benefits of more flexible media schedules and longer view distances in inclement weather.
  • Competition: Areas with strong demand will have higher costs such as fashion-heavy neighborhoods like West Hollywood in LA and SoHo in New York as well as bottlenecked highways and bridges where frequency is high and view-times are long.
  • Scarcity: Units that have exclusive access to an area will command higher prices. This is especially relevant in markets where OOH is heavily permitted and difficult to access.

While more expensive units tend to have the best locations and the largest sizes, there are multiple options that will present the best value opportunity for your brand. More expensive does not always mean better. It is best to plan for a mix of unit types and frequency levels to ensure the most impactful outdoor strategy. At Billups, we help brands globally to create the most effective outdoor strategy integrated into their overall media mix that will also deliver optimal value.

Types of Billboard Advertising and When to Use Them

The right Billboard format for your brand can make or break your strategy. Choosing the right format for your campaign can effectively reach your target audience or help you break into new audiences.

Below are some of the most inventory-rich Billboard formats, but there are many others we plan for.

  • Bulletins: The most commonly recognized Billboard format, these units are typically 14’ x 48’ in size and are located along highways and busy roadways. Often these are the backbone of a brand’s Billboard strategy but note that not all markets support this size, and smaller markets tend to have differing sizes.
    Advertising on a Billboard 101- The Complete Guide for 2023 BULLETIN (1)
  • Posters: These units are smaller in size than a Billboard but have more placement flexibility and are effective at reaching local slower speed traffic. The most effective outdoor campaigns often blend a combination of larger units for mass reach and smaller units that get down to the street leave.
    Advertising on a Billboard 101- The Complete Guide for 2023 POSTER
  • Mobile: These “Billboards” are typically large format digital screens on trucks and buses. These are highly effective for dominating specific locations or events for short periods of time. They are also excellent for getting a message out in areas with limited traditional Billboard inventory.
Advertising on a Billboard 101- The Complete Guide for 2023 MOBILE BILLBOARD
  • Wallscapes: While not necessarily a "Billboard" per se, Wallscapes are large-scale displays that can cover entire building walls or other structures. They are typically located in high-traffic urban areas and are often used to make a big impact in densely populated areas.
Advertising on a Billboard 101- The Complete Guide for 2023 2 WALLSCAPE

  • Digital: The latest innovations in Billboard media are around digital Billboard formats. Digital Billboards can allow for innovative 3D projections, and targeting based on when your target audience is most likely to respond to your advertisement. It is also much easier to switch out messaging and creative on a digital Billboard.

Advertising on a Billboard 101- The Complete Guide for 2023 DIGITAL

Each type of Billboard has its own pros and cons. The best format for a particular advertising campaign will depend on the campaign's goals and target audience. Here are a few considerations to help you choose a Billboard format:

  • Target audience: Think about the demographics and daily patterns of your target audience and where they are located. For example, if your audience is a daily mass transit commuter but lives in the suburbs, you’ll want to consider utilizing transit units while diversifying with Billboards along routes where this audience will run errands on nights and weekends such as local roads. Most audiences are best reached with a combination of different Billboard formats in conjunction with other outdoor units as part of a larger campaign. For example, a Billboard campaign with supporting transit OOH units could include platform posters, transit shelters interior car cards or train or bus wraps. 
  • Campaign goals: Consider the goals of your media campaign. If your goal is to generate awareness and make a big impact, you may want to consider utilizing a combination of large format Bulletins and Spectaculars in high-density locations. If your goal is to generate attention with an audience that is less familiar with your brand in the space, you’ll want to choose formats that are strategically placed in areas that disrupt other brands.
  • Budget: Consider your budget for the Billboard advertising campaign. Different Billboard formats have different costs and those costs are higher or lower based on the factors we talked about above.
  • Creative: Consider the message. Different Billboard formats have strengths and limitations regarding what information is conveyed. Digital Billboards are often capable of displaying dynamic and interactive messages based on real-time factors such as weather, sports scores and news. Creative on digital Billboards can also be swapped quickly and inexpensively whereas with static Billboards, reprinting and installing the message can be more time-consuming and expensive.

Billboard Placement

Finding the ideal Billboard placement is crucial to the success of your Billboard advertising campaign. You can have the standout creative and the right unit types but if the placements are not ideal your campaign will not be nearly as effective as it can be. 

Advertising on a Billboard 101- The Complete Guide for 2023 last photo (1)

Here are some factors that can affect whether the Billboard placement is ideal for your campaign:

  • Target audience: Identify your target audience and determine where they are most likely to be during the day and parts of the week. This will help you determine the ideal mapping for your Billboard strategy. Consider a holistic audience approach to Billboard placements, using information on how your audience travels throughout the day.
  • Traffic flow: Consider the flow of traffic and choose a location that will receive high visibility from your target audience. This might be on a busy road, near a highway or in a high-traffic pedestrian area.
  • Competition: Look for a location that is not surrounded by competing Billboards. A location with less competition will help your Billboard stand out and receive more attention from your target audience. Though there are exceptions, generally in high-profile locations in major cities such as New York or Los Angeles.
  • Billboard size and viewing distance: Consider the size and format of your Billboard and select locations that will ensure excellent viewing distances and angles which lead to longer view times.
  • Regulations: Research local regulations and restrictions to ensure that your Billboard placement complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

Measuring Billboard Effectiveness & ROI

Audience impressions, reach and frequency continue to be some of the most widely used metrics for evaluating the performance of a Billboard campaign. However, some of the most exciting innovations in Billboard advertising are in media measurement and attribution. In the past measuring the true impact of a Billboard was very much an educated guess. Brands knew Billboards were effective. We did pre and post-campaign analysis of important KPIs and knew that Billboard exposure had an extremely positive impact on campaign performance, but we didn’t truly know how impactful individual Boards were. No longer do we need to report on campaigns solely based on audience impressions. 

At Billups, we’re leading the way in measurable outdoor media through our validated OOH attribution technology and data science, giving brands true performance insight into their Billboard placements.

Billups Leads The Way

For 20 years we’ve been helping the world’s largest and most impactful companies execute award-winning, performance-focused OOH campaigns that move the needle forward. We continue to be an industry leader in OOH strategy, execution and measurement, with innovation as our driving principle. 

Reach out to us today and let’s have a conversation about making your OOH media more effective than ever before.

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