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Traditional vs. Digital Billboards: Pros and Cons

by Brian Colling - July 29, 2020

Even with today’s complex advertising landscape, our agency recommends omnichannel marketing. Many clients ask us whether they should use traditional vs. digital billboards. We’ve found clients using conventional and digital channels see better results. With so many digital-only choices, it may be easy to dismiss out-of-home (OOH) advertising. Traditional and digital billboards remain useful advertising tools for companies willing to include OOH in marketing budgets. 

Some marketers will argue that potential customers don’t see billboards. We doubt any of them would put their cellphone number, personal email, or social security number on a freeway billboard. Why? Because thousands of people will see it. Just ask LifeLock CEO, Todd Davis. According to Wired.com, during LifeLock’s marketing campaign, which put his social security number on rolling billboards, Mr. Davis’ identification was stolen at least thirteen times. 

The question shouldn’t be whether your company should use billboard advertising; it should be whether a traditional or digital billboard campaign is the right choice for your brand.

What is a Traditional Billboard?

Traditional or static billboards have been around for decades and have been utilized by businesses effectively to create brand awareness. Typically located along busy intersections, major roadways, or at other prominent locations, static billboards look to deliver maximum impact to consumers who pass them by every day. 

Why Use Traditional Billboard Advertising? 

The results from an Arbitron National In-Car Study revealed:

  • 71% of Americans consciously look at billboard messages while driving
  • 37% report looking at an outdoor ad each or most of the time they pass one
  • 58% learned about an event or restaurant they later attended
  • 56% of Americans mentioned a billboard they found interesting or funny in conversation
  • 26% noted a phone number written on a billboard and 28% noted a website address written on a billboard

Traditional Billboards: The Pros

  • Generally, less expensive production costs
  • Exclusive use of ad space, allowing 24/7 exposure
  • Supports long-term brand recognition
  • Increased creativity, as many billboards companies allow for designs and messaging to extend past hard dimensions
  • Locations are typically considered high-traffic areas 

Traditional Billboards: The Cons

  • Production fees associated with updating or changing ads
  • (If left up too long) Billboard material can peel, fade, weather or get dirty 
  • Wait time when changing messages or ads
  • Limited space and unusual dimensions limit information and call to action

What Is A Digital Billboard?

Digital billboards are typically made up of Light Emitting Diodes (LED) and controlled remotely via computers. Almost all digital billboards contain several ads from multiple businesses cycling on predetermined intervals. Indoor locations available for digital billboards include kiosks, airports, mall walkways, or indoor arenas. 

Why Use Digital Billboard Advertising?

A Nielsen survey on the power of digital billboards revealed:

  • 55% notice a message on the screen most or all of the time
  • 22% have changed plan to visit the store in the ad
  • 71% feel digital billboards stand out more than online ads
  • 61% agree digital billboards are a good way to learn about sales & events
  • 82% recalled advertising on digital boards

Digital Billboards: The Pros

  • Typically changing messaging is quick, making updates to prices, promotions, and new products easier
  • There is a shorter display period to reduce ad fatigue 
  • Many billboard companies do not charge or waive production fees
  • Moving effects, vivid color, or video ads can be eye-catching 
  • Customized schedules allow messages to target different audiences throughout the day or week
  • Ideal for short-term promotions or short-term ads
  • Factors such as weather, news alerts, or traffic patterns can serve as triggers to run specialed ads
  • Some digital billboards push social media posts

Digital Billboards: The Cons

  • Generally more expensive to purchase 
  • Most ads remain visible for only eight to ten seconds
  • Exposure time is shared among other advertisers, usually in a 64-second loop
  • High demand for ad space may limit or delay availability

Which Type of Billboard is Best for Your Marketing?

Billboards can be a secret marketing weapon for companies looking to increase brand awareness, deliver simple messaging, and deploy quick calls to action. We’ve found the marketing debate isn’t traditional vs. digital billboards, but rather traditional and digital billboards. Launching advertising campaigns using both options can determine which billboard option or combination is ideal for your brand. You may find a combination of both to help brand recognition and drive sales. One thing is for sure. Billboard advertising, whether traditional or digital, continues to support the marketing efforts of brands around the world. If billboard advertising didn’t work, then fast-food brands, theme parks, healthcare providers, and law firms would have stopped using them a long time ago.

For more on how Colling Media can help your company add billboard advertising to its marketing mix, visit our Capabilities page.

You may also enjoy this article: Top 10 Rules for Billboard Advertising

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