By Joshua Daniels
July 7, 2017
Let's start with a simple assertion; billboard advertising remains an exceptionally effective way of targeting consumers in the modern age.
When it comes to investing in billboards, you will need to compare the variable propositions of traditional and digital platforms. In this article, we will compare digital and traditional billboards, by highlighting the main factors that you should consider before making a decision.
This has to be the single most important factor to consider, as your options may be limited and your decision shaped by your total budget.
Digital billboard space is known to be vastly more expensive than traditional ads, while the price that you pay will also vary depending on your choice of location (adverts in prime or high-traffic areas tend to cost considerably more).
This means that digital placements can cost in excess of £1,300 over the course of a two-week period, even though production fees can be reduced marginally through this medium.
This makes for a significant price difference, although it is important to note that you can reduce your costs by negotiating longer-term contracts. This applies to both traditional and digital billboard providers, and it is crucial and securing a 52-week deal could have a significant influence on your final choice.
Exclusivity and Your Marketing Reach
The value that you receive for your money is another important consideration, as this is crucial if your marketing investment is to deliver an optimized ROI.
It is arguable that traditional billboards hold a significant advantage in this respect, as they offer an exclusive advertising space that offers the maximum exposure to your brand.
Conversely, digital suppliers sell space to multiple advertisers on their billboards, meaning that you will be required to share the spotlight with either five or seven brands on average. This means that could own as little as 12.5% of the billboard that you feature on, while in most instances your message will receive between eight and 10 seconds advertising time per minute.
Even if you are not sharing the space with direct competitors (which you should ensure is prohibited by the terms of your contract), this can impact your ability to reach customers and reinforce your core messaging.
While you can look to negotiate total exclusivity on a digital board for your brand, this is likely to come at a premium and will carry considerable cost implications. It is an achievable goal, however, so it is worth discussing with potential suppliers when comparing the market.
Your Impression Share
This leads us seamlessly onto impression shares, which are likely to be impacted directly by whether you select a digital or traditional billboard. The term 'impression shares' refers to the number of times an advert is displayed, and while it is commonly used in digital marketing it can also be loosely applied offline.
So, if we assume that you are only likely to earn eight seconds of air-time and a 12.5% exposure share through a digital billboard, you are restricting your brands' reach and overall impression share.
You are also minimizing the potential impact of each impression, as customers will have a limited time-frame in which to view, process and react to your message.
Of course, you can negate this with a long-term contract, which allows you to target core customer segments more effectively and over a sustained period of time. It is still an important factor to bear in mind, however, and you will need to determine whether a long-term digital placement offers greater value and exposure than a traditional alternative.
We have already touched on the engaging nature of billboard advertising, and there is no doubt that this can resonate considerably with customers. On average, more than one-in-three (or 37%) of consumers will take in the messaging on a billboard advertisement, distinguishing it as one of the most engaging marketing channels available to brands.
In this respect, presenting a concise, engaging and optimized message is crucial, making your choice of platform particularly important.
Digital billboards certainly allow for the use of crisp and stylish imagery, while they also allow messaging to be tailored and seamlessly changed during the course of a campaign. This type of flexibility has other advantages too, as brands can use alternative messages at different times of the day or year with the minimum of fuss.
This process can be a little more challenging with traditional billboards, as you are unable to execute changes in real-time while individual alterations will be charged. These may be included as part of the standard production fee in your contract, with some providers charging a fixed amount that is inclusive of reprints.
You should also note that you can enhance the visual quality of your traditional billboard ad and message by hiring a designer or utilizing an in-house team, so this is something to keep in mind when issuing a creative brief.
Finally, we come to location, which remains an extremely important focus when commissioning a billboard campaign.
We have already discussed how your choice of location impacts on the cost of both digital and traditional billboards, but availability is another important factor.
An estimated 24% of customers say that they have been motivated to visit a store on the same day as viewing a relevant billboard ad, and digital boards are usually located in prime, high-traffic locations, so if you're looking to drive footfall to local premises, this may cause your brand to miss out on real-time marketing opportunities.
The same cannot be said for traditional billboards, which can be secured in a wide diversity of locations at competitive prices. This includes high-traffic regions, and this is likely to have a significant influence on local advertisers who are looking to drive location-based promotions.
The Final Word
As you can see, there are unique advantages to both digital and traditional billboard advertising, and your ultimate decision must be driven by the unique conditions, needs and demands of your business.
These five factors can help you to make an informed decision, and one that has been taken with the complexities of the industry firmly in mind.