Do billboards even work?

Do you need more proof that outdoor advertising is effective? Here are some interesting stats and facts about the travel habits of Americans – conducted by Arbitron.

Arbitron, a media research company, recently conducted an Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising study. The study provides a detailed examination of America’s travel habits and its exposure to outdoor advertising including billboards, digital signage, bus shelters, taxi cabs, kiosks and more. The study also examines the shopping and purchase decisions of America’s on-the-go consumers.

  • The vast majority of U.S. adults have the opportunity to be exposed to out-of-home advertising each month. Close to 9 in 10 Americans aged 18 or older have traveled the roads or rails in a vehicle in the past month including cars, trucks, buses, taxis, commuter rails and subways.
  •  Time spent potentially exposed to Out of Home (OOH) media is significant. The average time spent traveling is over 20 hours per week and covers 169 miles. Mega-Milers, the heaviest travelers, average 363 miles per week.
  • OOH media viewership is high. Three-quarters of total U.S. adults have noticed advertising on static billboards, digital billboards, sides of public buses, bus shelters, taxi cabs, commuter rails, subways or any street level advertising such as kiosks or newspaper stands in the past month; viewership among travelers is 84%.
  • Billboards are the most viewed OOH media. Roughly two-thirds of travelers have seen a billboard advertisement in the past month and over 4 in 10 have viewed a digital billboard.
  • Engagement with billboards is considerably high. Over 8 in 10 billboard viewers make a point to look at the advertising message at least some of the time; nearly half look at the billboard ad each time or almost each time they noticed one.
  • OOH media delivers more affluent consumers. OOH media viewers overall are more likely to live in upper-income households and Mega-Milers, the heaviest travelers who account for the majority of OOH ad impressions, are three times as likely to live in an upper-income household compared to light travelers.
  • Purchasing decisions are often made away from home. Over two-thirds of travelers make their purchasing decisions at some location outside of their home over the course of a typical week; over half report making their purchasing decisions most frequently when they a not home.
  • Out-of-home ads generate buzz. Roughly 4 in 10 OOH media viewers have talked about products they saw advertised with others and 8% have blogged or posted to a social network.
  • Out-of-home ads motivate action. OOH media has prompted 4 in 10 viewers to visit a store or restaurant they saw advertised or watching a TV show.

Source: Muscle

How often should you change your message?

Studies have shown the length of time a campaign remains effective is not necessarily
the result of too much frequency but rather the creative treatment. Some of the many
factors which may shorten or lengthen the effective life of an ad are:

Advertising Message

The complexity and relevance of the message, as well as the style used to
communicate to a consumer have an impact on the length of effectiveness. While
intriguing executions gain the most attention in the short term, if the solution is too
difficult to grasp or too obvious, the “life” of the execution may be much shorter.

Product or Product Category

Some product groups are more sensitive to consumer apathy than others.

Target Audience

The composition of the target audience has a bearing on the duration of an ad’s
usefulness. An ad aimed mainly at adults might have a quick wearout factor among

Number of Creative Executions

Multiple executions can be effective during a sustained advertising period. Multiple
executions of the strategy and relatively short posting times can be used to prolong the
ad’s “life.”

Timing and Flighting of Campaign

Mediacom’s What Works study has shown that outdoor can sustain awareness even
after the campaign has ended. Up to six weeks after the campaign has ended there is
no significant drop in awareness.


Competition pressures can affect an ad’s longevity. Where there is little differentiation
in the creative style of two competing products, strong media pressure can result in
category overkill and accelerate decay of both ads.

Media Weight Levels

The weight level plays a major role in determining the rate at which consumers learn of tire of a specific execution. Campaigns with heavy weight levels can extend awareness by using multiple executions through the advertising period.
Source: University of Alberta Study
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Source: Muscle

7 Billboard Design Tips

We have all seem them. The busy billboards, jam-packed with information. It’s easy to make the mistake of wanting to fill a billboard that is 300+ square feet with information about your business. In the case of billboards, however, the old adage “Less is More” rings true.

Here are 7 tips to help you maximize your billboard design:

1. Keep it simple. 7-10 words of copy, maximum.
2. Use 1 point of contact, maximum. A website, phone number, street address, etc are not ALL needed in your ad. Choose one, or even none.
3. Focus on 1 message. Too many messages creates confusion.
4. Be bold, using high contrasting colors.
5. Use big fonts.
6. Use simple crisp fonts. The fancier the font, the less likely it will be legible.
7. Include these 4 components:

  1. A compelling image or photograph
  2. A catchy headline
  3. Logo/Name
  4. One form of contact info (if any)

Lastly, after implementing these 7 tips, give your design the “billboard test”. Print off a copy of your billboard proof or mock-up that was prepared for you by either your graphic designer or the billboard company. This can be on a regular 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. Now, take that print out and tape it to a wall. Once taped to the wall, step back 10 feet. Can you read it? What is the main message that you take away from that billboard design? Next, get another opinion – preferably somebody that isn’t already familiar with your business or message. What do they take-away from the design? If you both take-away a positive message, chances are you billboard design is ready to go live! If you have conflicting thoughts on the main take-away, chances are good that you need to go back to the drawing board.

Here is a great example of the “Less is More” approach with billboard designs.


Far too much going on here.


Simple is better. This is a perfect branding style billboard.

If you need help crafting your perfect billboard design, please contact us!

Source: Muscle