There’s no doubt that the popularity of out of home (OOH) advertising has continued to grow incrementally over the years, with OOH being the advertising channel of choice for local and national brands alike.
Despite a coronavirus-induced dip this year, the market will continue to rebound and recover in 2021, with a total OOH ad spend of £1.23 billion forecast for the next 12 months or so.
At the heart of this market’s success is the diverse range of channels and advertising materials available, from traditional and digital platforms to billboards and hoardings.
In this post, we’ll look at the key differences between hoardings and billboards, while asking which option you should use to advertise your business?
What is a Hoarding?
In simple terms, a ‘hoarding’ is defined as a temporary (and often rustic) boarded fence in a public place, typically erected around a construction site and used to advertise the firms working there.
However, the definition of hoardings has evolved over time, to include the type of boards that we see running around the outskirts of football pitches.
Here, a wider array of brands and sponsors can pay to display their logo or a specific product, with these visible both to fans at the game and those who are watching on television at home.
The physical nature of hoardings mean that individual boards are often relatively small and tend to sit beneath our eye level, while they also boast a relatively simplistic design due to the lack of advertising real estate available.
However, as we see at football grounds and construction sites, larger hoardings can be created to showcase a higher volume of adverts side-by-side, with each sponsored message featured on a single board.
Although this increases the visibility and reach of a particular hoarding, it may also force certain brands to compete directly with one another and cause some messages to become lost amongst the noise.
What is a Billboard?
Conversely, billboards are renowned as the most popular form of OOH advertising in the UK and internationally.
Of course, the sustained growth of billboards in the UK has been driven largely by the emergence of digital platforms, with DOOH ad spending peaking at an impressive £516 million at the end of 2019.
Interestingly, this trend has also triggered an increase in demand for traditional billboards, which tend to be more affordable and offer higher levels of brand exposure over time.
Billboards are also more diverse than hoardings, both in terms of their size and the number of locations in which you’ll find them.
For example, billboards come in an array of poster formats, which can combine a variable number of sheets to make up images of different sizes. At the upper end of this scale we have 48 and 96-sheet billboards, which allow room for clear primary messaging and are often placed prominently at busy roadside locations.
You’ll also see smaller billboards positioned on the sides of buildings and in close proximity to busy high streets and shopping centres, and in this respect, they’re often used strategically to share limited time promotions and drive traffic in-store.
In the case of digital billboards, these entities can utilise video and animations to create a more interactive advert that engages customers more effectively. These may be smaller and found at bus stops or train stations.
Certainly, both traditional and digital billboards offer greater flexibility and freedom to advertisers, especially in terms of the choice of placements and scope for creative expression and achieving visual impact.
Billboards also tend to benefit from a more sophisticated design, that may help to capture the attention of customers and successfully promote high quality products or services.
What are the Basics of Outdoor Advertising?
Before we delve into which option is best for you and your business, it’s important to understand that both billboards and hoardings enable you to leverage the innate benefits of OOH.
For example, both hoardings and billboards (particularly traditional options) represent relatively low-cost advertising channels, which is ideal for smaller or local businesses that operate limited budgets.
When you also consider that nearly 70% of consumers make active purchasing decisions while on the move, OOH enables brands to optimise their reach and achieve a viable return on their marketing investment.
Of course, traditional billboards arguably offer even greater value in this respect, as they feature single advertisers and provide the optimal level of exposure for brands.
Conversely, digital billboards in popular locations will often feature as many as six sponsored messages that are rotated over the course of second seconds, minimising exposure and reducing a brand’s capacity to drive widespread awareness.
With both billboards and hoardings, advertisers can also invest in non-intrusive mediums that blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings. As a result, these platforms are more likely to encourage interaction and further brand engagement, particularly through online, social and mobile channels.
This contrasts sharply with the intrusive and often aggressive nature of online advertisements, which have triggered a rise in the use of ad-blockers amongst millennials and created an innate sense of cynicism.
This trend is likely to continue in the near-term, so it’s arguable that there has never been a better time to invest in outdoor advertising.
What Can Hoarding Advertisers Learn from Billboard Ads?
With all of these points in mind, there’s no doubt that billboards represent a more popular choice than hoardings for advertisers of all descriptions.
Aside from the superior flexibility and freedom offered by both traditional and digital billboards, these entities have also benefited from consistent evolution in recent times.
Billboards, especially in larger sizes, offer increased choice and diversity, while allowing for more innovative messaging and greater interaction between customers and brands.
It’s interesting to note that you won’t find hoardings commonly used in areas where billboards are thriving, and this highlights how the former have been somewhat left behind.
However, hoardings still offer great value as a low-cost advertising medium, so incorporating greater levels of interactivity and the opportunity to embrace innovation would boost their appeal considerably.
Billboard placements are often secured on two-week bookings, so often you’ll see messages changed and refreshed on a regular basis. This type of advertising channel also benefits from more frequent and effective maintenance, creating a cleaner space that reflects well on the brands or products that are being marketed.
The same cannot be said for hoardings, which are often hindered by their location (usually construction sites) and feature the same messages for as long as the work continues.
Over time, the messaging may become stale and cause disinterest amongst regular passers-by, while also losing appeal it becomes increasingly dirty and debris-covered.
Ultimately, there’s a clear difference in how billboards and hoardings are perceived. More specifically, billboards are seen as purely creative and promotional vehicles, which are designed to engage customers and sell specific products (or services).
While hoardings may also be promotional, they’re also often seen as providing a form of barrier of fencing around a particular site, sometimes causing customers to overlook them as they pass on a regular basis.
Which Option is Best for You and Your Business?
As a result of the relatively restricted nature of hoardings (and the implementation of tighter regulations around construction advertising), this form of OOH is usually reserved for promoting an ongoing building project and the firms that are contributing towards its completion.
However, there are some instances in which hoardings can offer advertising opportunities to local brands, particularly those that are relevant to the project or in question or have an existing relationship with the site or operational companies involved.
Advertising on a local hoarding (either at a construction site or a regional football ground) is also relatively cost-effective, and particularly valuable for small or startup ventures that want to target customers within a specific geographical area.
However, for businesses that want to optimise exposure and drive brand awareness in their target areas, billboards are likely to be the more effective choice for your OOH advertising.
Billboards are a viable option for small and medium-sized businesses, whether they operate locally or on a national scale, and can be a valuable aspect of your ongoing marketing strategy.
They’re also more beneficial for businesses that want to optimise exposure and drive brand awareness within targeted areas, while you’ll often see them commonly utilised as part of larger and more integrated campaigns.
This is thanks largely to the more versatile nature of traditional and digital billboards, along with their superior quality of design and capacity for allowing far greater levels of creativity.
The Last Word
As we can see, there are some clear differences between billboards and hoardings, and there’s no doubt that the former offers a strategic advantage to brands.
So, although hoardings do offer advantages to advertisers in some instances, billboards are considerably more diverse and provide superior levels of exposure and engagement for brands overall.
Ultimately, you’ll need to consider your options carefully while factoring in the information above, before making an informed decision that can benefit your business.