They seem so wrong, but they are so right
You’ve just started a new business – congrats! Time to get the word out to the world about your super-sleek, helpful, necessary product. Oh, I know! You should print a massive ad on a 14x48 foot sheet of vinyl and slap it on a giant piece of wood affixed to a pole beside a highway. It worked for Aunt Doris when she started baking the World’s Tallest Rhubarb Pies, right? Besides, it’s what advertisers have been doing since the 1830s, and we all know that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Actually, I’m being serious. Static, as opposed to digital, billboards may seem quaint and outdated and, yes, there are oodles of modern, digitally based tactics you should also implement. However, static billboards are still quite relevant with a great deal of potential to impact today’s consumer. In fact, some of the most frequent billboard users are the top tech companies – Apple, Google, Netflix – with Netflix recently dropping $150 million on a billboard campaign in Hollywood. Why are the biggest tech companies loving on billboards so hard? Because they work. Take a look:
1. You can’t skip, mute or turn off billboards
What’s the longest five seconds of anyone’s day? The five seconds you spend waiting to click “Skip Ad” on the preroll spot that plays before that phenomenal baby sloths supercut you can’t wait to watch on YouTube, amirite? Modern Americans are exposed to up to 10,000 ads every day. One marketer, Ron Marshall, tried to track how many brand messages he encountered in a given day… and gave up when he counted 487 exposures before he finished his breakfast. As consumers, we’re trained to look for the “skip,” the “close ad,” the little “x” on the screen. Unlike the digital ad space, billboards offer a quick, simple message that can’t be skipped.
2. Repetition is powerful
Billboards are useful. Billboards are useful. Billboards are useful. If you retain one piece of information from this post, remember this: billboards are useful. See? Repetition. In terms of out of home (OOH) advertising, consider the fact that people are creatures of habit, and most of us travel the same few routes every week. That means that we are seeing the same billboards again and again, creating a much greater opportunity for recall. The average American commutes 26.9 minutes to work, and 14 million Americans spend more than an hour commuting one way to work. Placing billboards along high-traffic commuter areas is a no-brainer.
3. Billboards are basically low-key geofencing
Speaking of placement, billboards represent a beautifully simplistic form of hyperlocal marketing – put your message where your audience is. From a digital standpoint, super smart tech people have developed geofencing, the voodoo that allows you to put a virtual “fence” around a location and display mobile ads to people who enter that fenced-in area. It’s a very sophisticated way of doing what billboards inherently do anyway. Is a new restaurant opening in town? Place billboards close-by where hungry people in the vicinity of the restaurant might see them.
4. Multiple marketing touches matter
Remember those 487 brand exposures before breakfast? That’s a lot of clutter for the human brain to sift through and prioritize. Enter multi-touch marketing. It’s not enough to run digital ads or develop a few TV spots or send a direct mailer. You need all of those things (or whichever combination of things makes sense for your brand and audience.) You want to talk to your consumer through a variety of channels at different points along their buying journey. Integrated campaigns can yield up to 20 percent more ROI, just by utilizing multiple channels, and a recent Nielson study showed that combining billboards and digital ads can result in four times the online activation.
5. They are more affordable than you think
There’s a common misconception that billboards cost a lot of money. And they certainly can, depending on location, visibility, population density and other factors. A billboard in Times Square or on Sunset Boulevard is going to cost tens of thousands, but you could place a strategic billboard in a more average setting for less than $1,000. What really matters when looking at billboard pricing is the cost per number of impressions. According to research, billboards are a lot more cost-efficient by that measure than most tactics, including TV, Facebook, Youtube and others.
As a marketer, billboards make sense to me. Of course, as a writer, they are a huge challenge. How do you grab someone’s attention (who’s likely traveling between 35 and 75 mph), get a clear message across and make it memorable – in seven words or less? Yeah, it’s more of a love-hate relationship.
Interested in adding OOH to your marketing efforts? Let’s talk!
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