What is Billboard Advertising, and Why Should You Use It?

The Jewel In The Crown of Outdoor Advertising

Billboard Ad
Billboard Ad. Getty Images

 It is said that you see over 1000 ads per day, and yet remember only 7. These days, with the advent of digital advertising, that first number is probably higher. But if you drive a car daily, a large portion of the ads you wee will be billboard ads. Billboard ads come in many different shapes and sizes, and occupy those huge boards either side of the motorway. You will also see them in city centers, and to be honest, wherever a billboard manufacturer can place them to earn money.

 

Before diving into the types of billboards, and the pros and cons of using them, let's look at the basic definition of billboard advertising.
 

Basic Definition

The name billboard is derived from the term "billing board," and is a large outdoor advertising space designed to capture the attention of motorists and pedestrians. Typically placed around high traffic areas (both automotive and foot traffic), billboards are meant to be simple, striking, and creative. In fact, the creative department in any advertising agency still prizes the billboard space, as it is a golden opportunity to do groundbreaking, impactful work. 
 

Billboard Facts

  • The largest size of billboard available in any campaign is known as the "bulletin," but billboard sizes can vary greatly depending on location. However, the typical size of an advertising billboard is 14 feet high by 48 feet wide.
  • In the past, billboards were created using sections of paper posted together to form one image. Nowadays, digital printing on vinyl material allows the entire image to be printed on one sheet, and can be erected very quickly and easily. 
  • The typical length of time for a billboard buy is 12 weeks. For this reason, it's important that billboards have content that is somewhat evergreen. Billboards are the ideal place for long-term messaging, but anything more reactive should go somewhere else. 
  • Digital billboards allow creative executions that can be personalized, or swapped out with other creative ads. Sometimes, clients can choose to timeshare their ads with other companies, with the creative swapping out every few minutes. 
  • Billboards are part of the OOH marketing mix, which stands for Out Of Home. 

 

Billboard Usage

Billboard advertising can be relatively inexpensive depending on the size and location. However, this expense must be weighed against the kind of message you want to get across. As a general rule of thumb, billboards are a very quick read, and therefore should not contain a lot of information.

If your campaign is one of awareness and branding, billboard advertising is a great option. If you want to convey a lot of information about your product or service, billboards should be avoided. It is said that SIX WORDS is the ideal amount of copy on a billboard, and that can severely limit your ability to communicate with potential consumers.

You also need to consider the content and tone of the billboard creative, as this may have some negative side effects. In the past, sexually provocative billboards have caused accidents on roads and motorways (the Wonderbra ads were notorious for this), and you do not want the negative publicity of car accidents being directly linked to your ad campaign. 
 

Billboards The Go Beyond

There are regular billboards, and there are 3D billboards that really go above and beyond to attract the attention of the viewer (and the awards juries).

 

Although there are height and width restriction for billboards, and distraction rules, advertisers have the ability to really push the boundaries and create boards that are newsworthy. 

In the past, billboards have simulated car crashes, used smoke and special effects, and have even had real people living on them. This type of billboard is generally not much more expensive to produce, as the bulk of the cost comes from renting the space. Creativity like this is worth exploring, as it gives you a greater ROI, and offered earned media credit which can get many thousands more eyes on your messaging.