Is Billboard Advertising Still an Effective Strategy?

iPhone 11 Billboard over the Apple Store in the Meatpacking District DW labs Incorporated -

With digital innovation continuing to sweep the fields of marketing and advertising, traditional methods of promotion are increasingly being overlooked by budding businesses in favour of more exciting, experimental strategies. This can make it hard for entrepreneurs to identify the value of conventional marketing techniques, and evaluate whether they are still effective in helping brands meet their goals.

Despite the increased attention dedicated to online advertising, however, a well-rounded marketing mix featuring traditional methods is still considered to be significantly more effective in meeting the promotional aspirations of any company. This includes outdoor billboard advertising.

Therefore, we've compiled a breakdown of the effectiveness of billboard advertising in the modern marketing environment, why business owners should continue to invest in it, and what disadvantages they should be aware of.

What Is Billboard Advertising?

Billboards are prominent outdoor structures created specifically to house promotional vinyl banners that advertise your brand's products or services. They are placed in areas of high traffic or footfall, such as main roads, highways, and high streets, and allow businesses to reach a large, diverse audience, thereby raising valuable awareness.

In order to catch the eye of passers-by, billboard ads typically showcase creative, colourful designs, that feature short but memorable marketing messages. In fact, some of the most ingenious, effective, and indeed controversial adverts have been displayed on billboards. 

Billboard advertising is big money, too, accounting for $40bn of global advertising expenditure since 2000 – a figure that is expected to increase by at least 7.6% by 2022.

The Advantages of Billboards

There are many benefits to adopting billboard advertising. It offers business owners a unique reach that, if executed well, can complement and support the brand awareness raised by additional offline and online marketing activities. It is no wonder, then, that some 343,000 billboard displays have been utilised in the US in 2020 so far.

Here are some of the pros of billboard advertising:

High Visibility

Due to their positioning in areas of extremely high visibility, billboard ads gain a great deal of attention from a vast audience. A single ad may be seen by hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of individuals within a short space of time. Billboards also ensure that an advert is seen by viewers of varied demographics, and is a fantastic tool for raising awareness for your company, solidifying brand identity, and establishing brand reputation.

Flexible Customisation

Although billboards promote ad messages to a comprehensive, unspecified audience, a certain amount of targeting and customisation is still available to businesses that adopt this tactic. This means that you should carefully select the billboard location or locations that best match your needs. For example, ad space close to your company's brick and mortar stores may be purchased in order to influence greater in-store footfall (a tactic heavily leveraged by McDonald's), or areas of a particular socioeconomic status may be targeted for messages geared towards a particular category of customers. 

Billboard ads can also be used in conjunction with complementary marketing techniques in order to further enhance audience targeting, such as direct mail marketing and tailored online ads.

Hard to Ignore

Unlike TV adverts, online display ads and remarketing, billboards displays are difficult to ignore; they cannot be 'skipped' or turned off when they appear in front of a viewer. When placed in prominent locations and featuring eye-catching designs, passers-by cannot help but repeatedly notice billboard ads as they go about their daily routes and activities. In fact, some 71% of surveyed individuals in the US recently shared that they feel billboard ads stand out more in comparison to online advertisements, precisely for this reason.

This is especially helpful if you are seeking to capture the attention of Generation Z and millennial consumers who are notoriously ad-fatigued – a phenomenon that is becoming ever-more challenging to address. 


Billboard ads are displayed for days, weeks, or months at a time and, importantly, remain visible 24 hours a day. This makes them markedly dissimilar to radio or television adverts that run much less frequently and are often embedded between competitor adverts. 

The consistent visibility of billboard ads means that viewers may come across the same ad several times a day, significantly contributing to building a memorable impression on audiences. This satisfies the 'marketing Rule of Seven', a theory stipulating that prospects must be exposed to a brand's message a minimum of seven times before they are encouraged to take a purchasing decision.

Digital Integration 

Despite being a traditional marketing method, billboard advertising is highly adaptable and can easily be integrated within the digital realm. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. 

Digital billboards can be adopted, for example, instead of physical vinyl banners. These are large digital displays, placed in the same conspicuous locations as traditional billboards, offering the advantage of brighter, movable designs. Audiences report responding more frequently to digital billboards than vinyl banners. As a result, digital displays accounted for 18% of outdoor advertising spend globally in the US in 2018, a figure that is estimated to have grown significantly since then, and projected to continue to climb. 

Alternatively, non-digital billboard ads can be made digitally interactive by inviting viewers to scan a QR code included in the ad design, using their mobile devices. These QR codes may redirect audiences to your brand's website, unlock a limited-time special offer, or display real-time directions to your nearest physical store. This is most effective when used on ads placed in pedestrian areas, where viewers can safely stop what they are doing to take this action.

The Disadvantages of Billboards

However, as with any marketing method, there are several disadvantages to billboard advertising. These include:

Limited Objectives

The use of billboard ads tends to lend itself most to supporting general brand awareness among a varied audience. This promotional technique is not considered the most effective in driving high rates of engagement or calls-to-action, and therefore the number of marketing objectives that it can support is rather limited.

Uncontrollable Variables

As an outdoor advertising method, billboard ads are inevitably exposed to variables out of your control that may decrease the effectiveness of the placed ads in certain cases. These include extreme weather conditions, which can either damage the billboard vinyl or cause poor visibility from the ground, and vandalism that may conceal or alter the banner's messaging. 

These factors are often difficult to monitor and may go unnoticed if you do not have the time to physically check the ad locations on a frequent basis.

Metrics and Reporting

Although detailed information is available regarding the audience traffic any billboard location is exposed to (typically in the format of daily effective circulation (DEC)), specific campaign performance metrics are not captured. You cannot know, for example, how many viewers visited your website, stepped into your store, or completed a purchase as a result of viewing your billboard ad.

For this reason, the ROI of a singular billboard ad is almost impossible to track. This can make it challenging for marketers to justify the cost of proposed billboard campaigns in 2020 and beyond, particularly as businesses adopt more and more digital advertising strategies that do offer this information.


On the whole, billboard advertising is a valuable marketing technique that offers you the chance to convey powerful brand messages to a large audience through banners placed in prominent areas. To catch viewer attention, they must be creatively designed, centring on short, memorable messages that can be easily consumed by passers-by.

To negate the method's various disadvantages, you should include billboard advertising in a varied marketing mix, balancing online, offline, targeted and broad techniques to more effectively achieve your businesses' promotional objectives.

This method's ability to get marketing messages through to modern consumers who are increasingly rejecting advertorial content ensures its relevance will continue in 2020 and beyond, too. This is evidenced by some of the world's most prominent brands, who continue to adopt billboard advertising in their competitive promotional strategies, including industry giants such as Starbucks, Red Bull, and Nike.

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