OOH FAQ: An Introduction to Billboard Advertising

February 22, 2024

Here at Brand Central Station, we typically write about our clients’ most innovative, noteworthy, and exceptional out of home campaigns. These deep dives and case studies are intended to be aspirational, to get gears in motion for the brands that buy billboards, to help marketers and media buyers step up their game to the next level.

But even Don Draper had a first day on the job.

So today, we’re going back to the basics and putting together all the questions about billboard advertising we wish someone had answered for us when we were getting started. So, without any further ado please enjoy our latest OOH FAQ: An Introduction to Billboard Advertising!

DraftKings digital billboard in Philadelphia
What is billboard advertising?

It’s literally the oldest form of marketing on earth. But we’ll skip the history lesson and just say that billboards are the best-known form of out of home advertising (OOH). These massive in-real-life canvases are strategically placed in locations large numbers of people pass through as they work, play, and live their lives beyond the four walls they call home. Other forms of OOH include transit advertising on subways, buses, and commuter rail systems, kiosks in shopping malls/lifestyle centers, and even experiential things like brand activations and sponsorships.

How much does a billboard cost?

This is always one of the first questions we get, and the answer is – it depends. The most significant variables include location, media format/size, and whether it’s digital or traditional static. Fortunately, all these options to choose from mean there’s an OOH campaign for every budget level.

What sizes do billboards come in?

The most iconic billboard format – the long, thin one you see along highways – is called a bulletin. These come in three sizes – 14’x48’, 10’x40’, and 10’6”x36’. Posters are another common format, more frequently seen in dense urban areas and along secondary roads. These also come in several sizes, ranging from 6’x12’ 8-sheets to 30-sheets measuring 12’3”x24’6”. In addition to these standard formats, there are also spectaculars, which are one-of-a-kind billboards with unique dimensions bespoke to their location, and wallscapes, which are hand-painted murals or vinyl clings that can cover the entire side of a building.

KFC billboard in Atlanta
How long does it take to put up a billboard?

While the production process for the printed vinyl used in traditional billboards can take several weeks, campaigns on digital billboards can go live pretty much immediately.

Where should I advertise on a billboard?

The short answer: where your customers are! The slightly longer one: our smartSCOUT™ proprietary data platform can help identify the specific units that index the highest for whomever you’re trying to reach. From football fans to fashionistas, we deliver audiences by delivering you to them.

Do I have to do the billboard design myself?

Rest easy – you do not. In fact, working with OUTFRONT gives you access to STUDIOS, our award-winning in-house creative agency, with 50 talented minds from coast to coast ready to help you bring your vision to life, bringing with them the understanding of local nuance that only members of your community can provide.

But maybe I want to? What are some billboard design best practices?

Keep it clean, keep it simple, and make it memorable. A good rule of thumb is seven words or fewer, and no more than one call to action or contact method. The key is to impact the audience, whether from a witty copy line or contextually relevant creative. Once you get them to care, they will find a way to find you.

Is billboard advertising effective?

It certainly is! Whether the goal is building brand awareness or driving foot traffic into a physical location – or anything in between – billboard advertising gets the job done. Out of home drives unmatched rates of social posts, Google searches, website visits, and overall digital activation (SOURCE: Comscore, 2022). It also increases the likelihood of a mobile ad click by 48% (SOURCE: Ocean Neuro Insights) and improves the ROAS of search by 40% (SOURCE: Benchmarketing). Perhaps most importantly, out of home is the most trusted medium in all of advertising (SOURCE: MFour).

Porsche wallscape billboard in Dallas
How can I measure a billboard’s performance?

Out of home has an old-school reputation, but that doesn’t mean it lags behind. In fact, OOH offers measurement and attribution capabilities that stand toe-to-toe with other digital channels. We can measure everything from brand lift to online purchases, and even things like how many people exposed to a billboard then visited the advertiser. This is not your grandfather’s out of home!

What’s the difference between digital OOH and traditional static billboards?

There are a few differences actually! Here are some of the most important:
  • With traditional static billboards, a single brand has 100% share of voice, while on digital billboards, advertisers rotate in a loop.
  • Traditional billboards require production time for vinyl printing, meaning a longer lead time requirement than digital OOH as well as additional cost.
  • Digital OOH campaigns can be set to run only at certain times, or during certain days, while the standard flight length for a traditional billboard campaign is four weeks.
  • Digital OOH allows advertisers access to advanced capabilities like 3D XScape creative and dynamic, data-driven XPress campaigns.
  • Static billboards allow the use of extensions, pop-outs, 3D props, and practical effects like special lighting or smoke/fog.
  • Unlike traditional billboards, digital OOH campaigns can change copy or other elements mid-flight simply by swapping out the file.
Okay, so which one should I choose? Digital OOH or a traditional billboard?

Different use cases have different answers – that’s why you have us to lean on. And we make it easy, because at OUTFRONT we treat every campaign like a partnership. That means we really take the time to dive deep into discovery and learn about your business, your brand, your customers, and your objectives. Then together we can develop a campaign that moves the metrics that matter most to you.

How do I buy a billboard?

Our favorite question of all. Contact us. We’re very friendly!


Author: Jay Fenster, Marketing Manager @ OUTFRONT

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