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What Billboard Advertising Means in an Evolving Marketplace

May 4, 2021

Across America’s highways and cityscapes, large visual media helps brands to capture the attention of consumers and spread brand awareness. Billboard advertising can be fun, too. As part of a holistic marketing effort, billboards tell a brand story in a way that is entertaining and engaging. With the right mix of imagery and action-oriented text, billboards can inspire consumers to take the next step in the buyer’s journey.

The Importance of Billboard Advertising
The term ‘billboard’ can be a little confusing because it’s more of a colloquialism than an advertising term. Brand marketers should understand that the term usually refers to a bulletin, the most common out-of-home (OOH) advertising format. It could also refer to a digital bulletin, which can also be purchased programmatically. We’ll discuss these in more detail further down. For now, you should just remember that the term billboard can refer to multiple large-format OOH media formats.

Bulletins, and outdoor advertising formats in general, are an increasingly important part of a holistic marketing strategy for several reasons, including:

  • Ad-Blocking: In 2020, more than a quarter (26.4%) of internet users blocked digital advertisements on their devices. Trends indicate that this number will continue to grow into the foreseeable future. Furthermore, people have gotten into the habit of skipping over online ads when they do see them. This potential blindness to online ads makes physical ads a much more useful and effective channel for reaching large consumer segments.
  • Brand Awareness: Positioned in highly trafficked areas, bulletins are effective at keeping brands top of mind. Consumers see the messages repeatedly as they travel to and from work, school, and shopping excursions. Unlike online ads, this repetition doesn’t get in the way of a consumer’s daily habits. While a pop-up advertisement blocks the user’s experience, a billboard doesn’t stop anyone from traveling down the roadway.
  • Customer Trust: Between social media ads and traditional advertising formats like billboards, consumers place more trust in the latter, according to Nielsen research. Physical formats show consumers that brands have a real investment in getting the word out about their products and services. A presence in outdoor environments lends credibility to brand messages that might otherwise seem ephemeral in an online environment.
  • Creative Outlet: Large formats enable brands to flex their creative muscles. With a literal blank canvas, creative teams have the space to develop engaging visuals and contextual copy that capture the attention of an intended audience. Digital billboards take this a step further, enabling brands to A/B test multiple versions of an ad to see which performs best. This unlocks faster growth, speed-to-market efficiency and flexibility for short-term contracts and cost-saving opportunities.
  • Impulse: Billboards support impulse buying decisions in physical and digital environments. That’s right — billboards actually support online conversions. When consumers see a call to action on a bulletin, they can use their smartphone to take the next step immediately. In addition, well-placed ads can help steer traffic to physical store locations.

OOH advertising campaigns can leverage many different formats, but large bulletins have a special role to play. They offer the largest physical space for displaying brand messages, with the exception of wallscapes. No matter the size, billboards can complement online marketing strategies, enabling inbound leads to find brand websites and social media pages much more easily to extend the life of the message.

What Makes an Effective Billboard Advertisement?
Effective billboard design begins with a story. Eye-catching visuals and succinct, actionable copy should convey the story in a way that consumers can understand instantly.

Every Billboard Ad Tells a Story
Brand storytelling is one of the most important marketing trends in recent history because consumers see so many advertisements each day. Some estimates indicate that the average American sees upwards of 5,000 ads daily. In this crowded environment, brands can’t afford to sit back and passively attract customers. They need to get out and tell an engaging story that potential customers will remember after the ad leaves their line of sight.

But what does it mean to tell a story within a visual format? At a basic level, this means using facts, emotions, and calls to action to share a piece of the larger brand story. For example, a bulletin might help consumers understand why the company exists and what it does for its customers. Alternatively, the story might help consumers understand the brand’s values and how it interacts with the world — such as explaining the brand’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The last thing your brand wants to be is forgettable. In an environment where consumers see hundreds if not thousands of ads daily, it’s all too easy to become a faint blur in the memory of your target audience. By connecting your brand with an emotional appeal, consumers will be more likely to remember your brand’s value proposition; and the more times they’re exposed to your OOH ads, the more reinforcement that message will have.

Storytelling also adds a human element to your brand. Faceless corporations don’t inspire action and they certainly don’t elicit emotions. Billboards and other visual media help your customers make a deeper connection with your brand message by becoming more relatable. Showing how your brand improves the lives of your customers is, for example, a great way to stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds.

Quick Tips for Designing an Engaging Bulletin
What makes for a creative billboard advertisement? Here are some quick tips you can use to improve your messaging:

  • Keep Your Audience in Mind: Always do your research before heading into the design phase. Buyer personas are an invaluable tool for understanding the language your customers use, what their needs are and what type of messages they respond to. Also, keep in mind that your OOH messages will need to compete for attention, so your message needs to get the point across quickly.
  • Entertain, if You Can: While it may not be appropriate for every brand to be humorous in its messaging, it’s important to keep in mind that your potential viewers may be bored when they encounter your billboard. For example, commuters sitting in rush hour traffic will likely respond well to ads that take some of the monotony out of their daily travel.
  • Consider Creative & Size: Large-format media is intended to be viewed from a great distance. Keep this in mind when designing your billboard layout based on format. Too much text or low-resolution images can make your message muddled and confusing. Large lettering and high-contrast images will help to increase consumer comprehension.
  • Use CTAs: The majority of your ad viewers aren’t going to spend a lot of time examining your billboards. This is especially true for billboards positioned along roadways where drivers may only see the message for a few seconds. This means your billboard needs to have an actionable next step. That could be encouraging your customers to go online and learn more about your company or take the next highway exit to visit your shop. So, when designing your billboard ads, always ask yourself, “what’s the next step for my customer?”
  • Make it Accessible: As a visual medium, billboards may be inaccessible to a portion of your audience. However, there are some things you can do to increase the accessibility of your messages. For example, high-contrast colors and bold fonts can help people with colorblindness to parse your messages at a glance or include contextual copy based on a unique location or language.

How Do You Measure Billboard ROI?
Another reason why billboards have only grown in popularity is the increasing ability to track and measure billboard performance digitally. By leveraging privacy-compliant mobile device IDs and geographic tagging technology, it’s now possible to understand which customers saw OOH ads and what actions they subsequently took. Thanks to the latest advances in data science, advertisers can gain deep insights into how customers react after an OOH ad exposure.

Ready to Start Your Next Billboard Campaign?
Traditional and digital billboards play a key role in modern advertising campaigns. Through strategic placement, creative design and a results-oriented approach, billboard advertising can help support your brand’s growth goals.

To learn more about how to get started with your next OOH advertising campaign, get in touch with the experts at Billups.