Advertising Trends: Digital Billboards

Digital Display Billboards

UPDATE: See my more recent post – Using Digital Billboards

You’re going to see these outdoor advertising venues become very popular during the next couple of years. They are built and placed like traditional billboards with one big exception, digital billboards have a giant LCD display screen rather than a printed piece of vinyl. There are approximately 900 of these boards in the U.S. and growth is projected at a couple of hundred new locations per year. Billboard companies are very high on their new digital product. They can sell from 6-8 times the number of advertisers per location at sell them at double the price of conventional displays.


UPDATE: An update to this article is available here –Update: Using Digital Billboards

How They Work

Your digital ad is created and then loaded into the board’s electronic rotation. Your ad will display anywhere from 6-10 seconds at a time and it will rotate with other ads on that same board.


Flexibility – With digital billboards you are no longer hampered by pre-printed artwork. You can schedule different ads to run at different times and you can create several different ads to rotate. If your ad is not getting the response you want, simply pull it from the rotation and replace it with another.

Immediacy – Theoretically you can directly respond to a market conditions within minutes. For example: Your product is weather related and a big storm blows through town. You can create a new ad within minutes, send it to the outdoor company via email, they load it into the system and schedule it to run immediately. Some companies are also offering businesses their own control panel. Once your ads are approved and loaded into the system, you log in to your control panel and personally choose which ads to run and when to run them.

Production Savings – No longer do you have to pay $1.50-$2 per foot to have vinyl produced for your board. Nor do you have to watch your artwork fade or be ripped to shreds. The cost of your artwork is just the cost of layout and design. All you need is someone who knows PhotoShop and you can design your own ad. Some of the outdoor companies offer this service for free. If they don’t, negotiate for free artwork.


No Exclusivity – You no longer have the location all to yourself. Competitors may also be allowed on your same board. It’s tough to get exclusivity deals because companies like Lamar Outdoor sell national campaigns to companies. Ford does not want to be excluded from certain locations because a local Honda dealer is already advertising.

Cost – Contract rates can be more than double what it costs to run the same-size traditional billboard. Some of that cost is offset by the reduced production costs, but not much. Those higher rates make it tough for small businesses to afford digital billboards. However, because costs to construct these new boards are going down, and availability is increasing, there is hope rates will go down.

How to use Them

Like traditional boards, the new digital version is best used by businesses trying to reach mobile demographics: generally the younger, more affluent, working customers. Don’t use this medium to reach seniors, children, or the less affluent.

The best use of billboard advertising is for giving directions, name recognition and brand awareness. You should not use this medium for complicated messages. Because of it’s creative flexibility, certain price-based, sales-focused businesses may also consider running digital boards.

If you do use them, please be consistent with your brand promise and your messages in other media. Use contrasting colors in your artwork with readable fonts. Don’t use more than seven words per board.

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