From an advertising perspective, there’s no doubt that we live in a digitally dominated age. This is certainly borne out by the statistics, which suggest that last years’ digital ad spend of $83 billion will increase to a staggering $129 billion during the next three years.
While digital media is often associated with social media and online marketing, however, it’s even becoming an influential player in the out-of-home (OOH) advertising market. In fact, a 2010 study by Arbitron suggested that digital signage reached approximately 70% of potential customers, while just 41% Facebook users engaged with paid ads through the site.
Then there are digital billboards, which come in variable sizes and can host an eye-catching advertisement for your brand. In this article, we’ll tell you everything that you need to know about digital billboards, while asking whether or not they’re right for your current business needs.
An Introduction to Digital Billboards – The Pros and the Cons
Before we determine whether or not your business should use digital billboards and what viable alternatives are available, we need to consider the universal benefits and disadvantages associated with the channel.
This type of understanding is crucial, particularly if you’re to make the most of this medium and realise its full potential. So let’s get started with the pros of digital billboard advertising!
They’re Often Built in the Prime Locations
The demand for digital billboard advertising has increased significantly in recent times, and this trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future at least.
In fact, the global DOOH market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.6% over the course of the next six years, by which time it will be worth an impressive $8 billion.
As a result of this, digital billboards are increasingly being built in the busiest locations, meaning that customers are able to access more traffic and engage a larger audience within a relatively short space of time.
This may not always translate into the desired ROI on your marketing spend, but it certainly helps brands to raise awareness and increase recognition among their consumer base.
Better Chronological Targeting
If you are to optimise the reach and the engagement levels associated with your billboard, you’ll need to target specific demographics as effectively as possible. Digital billboards can help in this respect, particularly when it comes to capturing the attention of customers at different times of the day.
Suppliers often allow you to air your advert as specific times, for example, as they usually host up to six different marketing messages at any one time.
Let’s say that you own a bar, and are looking to promote a discount or a happy hour promotion. In this instance, there’s little point in targeting morning commuters, as people are likely to be far more interested in this proposition once they’re at the end of a long, gruelling day.
This enables you to optimise your spend and your potential return, while ensuring that you engage your target customers at the best possible time.
Reduced Production Costs and Real-time Artwork Changes
We’ll touch on traditional billboard advertising later in the piece, but there’s no doubt that this is typically cheaper than creating a digital ad.
However, the cost of producing a digital billboard is far more competitive, as there are no posters or materials such as paper required. You’ll also save money by not having to print your ads, and this can help to optimise the profitability of your campaign.
It’s fair to say that digital billboards are also a flexible and fluid advertising channel, and one that enables customers to make real-time adjustments. They can alter the artwork if necessary, while the messaging can also be tweaked to ensure that target audiences are engaged effectively as possible.
Any promotional offers being advertised can also be updated, which helps you to analyse your campaigns and correct elements that are not working.
Promote Multiple Messages as Part of a Larger Campaign
On a similar note, you can also vary your messaging across different digital ads as and when required.
For example, you may have launched two different products or services at the same time, each of which will have a specified target market. You can then alternate between relevant messages that promote each of these, leveraging different time slots to achieve the best possible results.
At the same time, you can vary the address across different messages, in order to direct customers to different stores in various locations.
This type of flexibility may seem like a small detail, but it can play a pivotal role in complex or integrated marketing campaigns.
Shorter Lead Times and Punchier Campaigns
Timing is everything in the world of advertising, particularly when looking to increase your brand’s engagement levels or direct specific customer actions.
This is another tick in the box for digital billboards, as your finished ads can be sent directly to a screen and displayed within a matter of hours.
This mean that there are no print delays or design issues, which in some instances can create a two-week window between commissioning your advert and it’s being displayed.
Digital billboard campaigns also tend to be shorter and more impactful, meaning that you don’t necessarily need to book an advertising slot for two weeks. This is highly beneficial from a cost and profitability perspective, while it’s ideal if you need to promote time-sensitive or limited offers to a local audience.
This increases efficiency and reduces wastage, while the striking visual nature of digital billboards is also sure to have a greater impact in the minds of consumers.
While these factors make a compelling argument for digital billboards, this channel is not without its disadvantages. These include:
Counting the Cost of Digital Advertising
The most obvious downside of digital billboard advertising is its cost, with placements far more expensive than traditional paper ads or online messaging.
Even competitively priced DOOH placements can set you back £1,200, depending on the location that you choose and the size of the billboard (among other factors). This price will also increase significantly when looking to access prime locations, while increased demand may continue to drive prices upwards in the near-term.
For smaller firms, this could create a situation where the ad’s location is compromised in order to save money, which could render your campaign far less effective.
The Issue with Message Transfers
We’ve already said that the real-time flexibility of digital billboards offers some benefits to businesses, but it can also create issues when it comes to engagement.
This is because the messaging on these ads is constantly changing and rotating, while you may also make subtle changes to your wording or artwork.
This means that some customers may miss out on a specific message as they go about their daily business, and this remains a significant risk with prominent roadside billboards.
You also run the risk of diluting your messaging and creating a convoluted proposition, and one that discourages customers from interacting further with the brand.
The Lack of Exposure and Exclusivity
Digital billboards often feature up to six different adverts, which alternate during a single, 60-second period.
This means that your advert will be displayed for approximately 10 seconds every minute, minimising your long-term exposure and removing the sense of exclusivity associated with traditional billboard bookings.
This can also cause potential customers to miss out your messaging, while this lack of exposure also undermines the potential return on what is a significantly higher advertising spend.
You’ll also be required to compete with five other brands and adverts in this scenario, which can cause significant issues. Although you won’t be required to share advertising space with a direct competitor, it’s important to note that a more eye-catching or memorable design could well put your brand in the shade.
Who Should Use Digital Billboards, and What Alternatives are Available?
By now, you should have developed a basic insight into the benefits of digital billboard advertising, and the potential drawbacks of this channel.
Still, when choosing whether or not this medium is right for you, you’ll need to consider the unique needs of your business and the main objectives of advertising in in the first place.
Given the cost of digital billboards, they’re widely used for medium and larger-sized companies, particularly those with a more generous marketing spend. As we’ve touched on, they’re also ideal for businesses looking to advertise time-sensitive or limited period promotions, as they can tailor their messaging and artwork to achieve the best possible results.
If you’re promoting an aesthetically pleasing product or brand, you can also use the enhanced visuals of digital media to your advantage. The same principle applies if you’re looking to advertise a particular outlet at night, as bright, neon lighting can be used to garner the attention of passing traffic.
If you’re a smaller business or remain primarily focused on building brand awareness through increased exposure, however, you’ll need to find an alternative to digital billboards. One of the most viable options exists in the form of paper format billboards, which can reduce marketing costs, optimise returns and drive a higher rate of assisted conversions within integrated campaigns.
So let’s consider the primary benefits of traditional billboards and the ways in which they can be used most effectively:
They’re Extremely Affordable
While the production and print costs associated with traditional billboards can hit your pocket, this is offset by the competitive price of long-term bookings in busy locations.
Not only this, but suppliers often cap production costs and charge a standard fee to clients, creating a transparent and relatively low price that is extremely appealing to small or startup ventures (or firms that want to achieve superior value for money).
In simple terms, a two-week booking for a 48-sheet billboard can cost as little as £495 including production, making it more than 50% cheaper than a digital alternative. Many companies also heavily discount longer-term bookings, which is ideal if you’re looking to build awareness around your burgeoning brand.
Not only this, but you won’t want to share advertising space with other brands during this period, enabling your messaging to stand apart from the crowd and engage customers more effectively.
They Drive Assisted Conversions
If you’re looking to use OOH media or billboards as part of an integrated marketing campaign, you’ll need to be aware of assisted conversions.
This term refers to Google’s measure of brand interactions that take place before the final click, with each one given a specific value as part of the customer’s journey. With this type of data, businesses can measure the impact of each individual channel that they use, enabling to shape more effective and informed campaigns in the future.
Traditional billboards are great for driving assisted conversions, thanks to the levels of exposure, engagement and trust that they’re able to provide. So not only will they help your brand to reach a broad and motivated target market, but they also drive increased levels of brand interaction online and through mobile.
So whether you’re looking to drive local customers online or build traffic flows through a branded mobile app, traditional billboards are ideal for you.
They Drive Consistent Branding and Messaging
While having the ability to create flexible and changeable messaging is great, it can have negative connotations for burgeoning businesses.
New or startup firms must rely on consistent branding and messaging to build awareness, for example, and traditional billboards let them do this over a sustained period of time.
So long as your initial messaging is thought-through and concise, this will present a clearer proposition to your customers while also laying the foundations for increased brand recognition in the future.
The Last Word
Make no mistake; digital billboards are benefitting from increased demand and offer a huge array of business.
However, they’re not without their faults, while they may also represent poor marketing channels for small firms, businesses with a reduced marketing spend or objectives that extend beyond driving short-term promotions.
Fortunately, there are an array of OOH alternatives available, with traditional billboards far more cost-effective and arguably capable of offering greater value for money too.
These adverts can also serve as the heartbeat for integrated campaigns, and one that increases conversions across the board!