Billboards may be one of the oldest forms of advertising, but their time in the sun is far from over. With brands facing increasingly fierce competition for eyeballs on desktop and mobile screens, there’s a case for integrating Out of Home (OOH) advertising with digital marketing campaigns now more than ever. Rohan Oza, arguably one of the most successful modern B2C marketers in the US, was asked at the International Franchise Expo’s keynote address what traditional channel is the most important to add to marketing media plan in this age of digital marketing, he was quick to answer, “That’s easy, Billboards…6 words or less!”
An abbreviated history of America’s billboards
It is nearly impossible to pinpoint when exactly the first billboard was created. In 1835, New Yorker Jared Bell began printing large-format posters of more than 50 square feet and plastering them around the city to advertise the “Great Wallace Show” circus, and in 1889, the world’s first 24-sheet billboard was showcased at the Paris Exposition. But we might have the Ford Motor Company to thank for the proliferation of billboards alongside major roadways across America beginning in 1980 —roadside real estate was suddenly quite the hot commodity with the majority of Americans clamoring to buy the actually-affordable Model T. By 1891, the Associated Bill Posters’ Association of the US and Canada was formed—later changed to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America—and a standard structure for billboards was established in America, catalyzing a boom in billboard campaigns across the nation.
Although billboards have fallen in and out of favor among the public (and some notable politicians, such as President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Highway Beautification Act in 1965), according to the Financial Times, spending on out-of-home advertising is expected to eclipse newspaper ad sales for the first time ever in 2020, and by 2024 it could exceed spending on both newspapers and magazines combined, as “other traditional media cede ground to Facebook and Google.” New data collection techniques are also taking the guesswork out of OOH’s effectiveness: location data on mobile phones provide advertisers the means to plan billboard locations better, and better measure how they affect buying in nearby locations.
The potential of a strategically-placed billboard
“Parallel Path is a digital-first marketing agency because the health, wellness, and lifestyle consumer seeks information and entertainment firstly through digital devices. That, said, a strategically-placed billboard with contextually relevant creative can make a great impression that in the end impacts consumer behavior when coupled with other touchpoints along the consumer journey. That’s a bunch of marketing speak for billboards work when done right,” explains Parallel Path Chief Client Officer, Hardy Kalisher.
Parallel Path’s work with several organizations across health, wellness, and lifestyle, has seen first-hand the benefits of adding billboards to an integrated marketing campaign.
For client Argyle, an assisted and independent living residence in Denver, Colorado, Parallel Path crafted a digital-first marketing strategy to drive traffic to the Argyle website and help the residence serve more seniors in Denver. The integrated campaign, which included a series of billboards placed strategically around the Denver metro area, drove a 425% increase in organic traffic to the Argyle website, a 153% increase in tour requests, and a 370% increase in contact us form fills on the website.
For Parallel Path client Rocky Mountain Health Plans, billboards were leased in locations across Colorado’s Western Slope depicted compelling stories of fellow Western Slope residents, anchored around a short film series called “Life on the Western Slope.” OOH tactics augmented digital media, and helped to keep RMHP front-of-mind with its audience. The Life on the Western Slope campaign owes its (extraordinary, continued) success not only to the stunning quality and content of its films but also to the data-driven tactics that amplified the campaign’s reach and impact beyond the digital landscape. In addition to the billboard media mentioned above, Parallel Path measured real customer engagement data during the campaign to influence content, asset rotation, and distribution across more than 25 traditional and digital media channels.
An ever-evolving recipe for success
There will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to crafting effective marketing strategies and campaigns that drive real growth. Thank goodness for that. It keeps us marketers, creatives, and data analysts on our toes, and ensures things remain interesting for consumers. But it seems that there is often a case—now and in the foreseeable future—for integrating billboards with digital-first marketing campaigns in our efforts to bring brands to life, and sometimes even larger-than-life.
Have questions about how OOH advertising such as billboards can augment your digital marketing efforts? Reach out. We’d love to learn more about your goals for growth and impact.