Do Billboards Work? Should Your Business Use Billboards?

Nov 9, 2017

How many billboards do you see on your drive to work? What about driving from your office to the grocery store, or to pick up the kids from school?

The 2016 Neilsen Out-of-Home Advertising Study found that nearly half of U.S. residents age 16 or older (of those surveyed) travel in a vehicle for two hours or more on an average weekday. And they are paying attention to billboards while they’re driving or riding in a car.

80% of U.S. adults age 16 or older (of those surveyed) noticed a billboard in the past month, with 62% noticing a billboard in the past week. Fewer survey participants noticed a digital billboard — only 59%; however, only an estimated 1.7% of all billboards are digital.

Perhaps your company already utilizes billboards — or maybe you’ve been considering the investment for a while. Do billboards work better for certain industries? Should your business use billboards?

Read on to learn more.


People Notice, but Do They Remember?

Noticing a billboard doesn’t mean that people necessarily engage with the billboard or remember the message. Even so, the data is in your favor. Neilson reports that “82% of those who noticed a roadside or digital billboard in the past month report looking at the advertising messages either all, most or some of the time.”

Over one in three billboard viewers are highly engaged with the ads. So, how can you utilize this data to reach new customers or clients?

It’s important to be strategic with your billboard (or billboards) — you need a specific call to action.


What Do You Want the Viewer to Do?

On a billboard, you have a limited amount of space to communicate with the viewer. CEO of InnerAction Media, Jim Matuga, lives by the rule “six words or less”. When people are driving, or briefly stopped in traffic, they don’t have time to process a long message. You’re working with five-10 seconds, and that’s the maximum.

You can’t share your business’s email, phone number, physical address and website and expect people to remember all four pieces of information. Billboards are the place for quick information. If you own a restaurant located off the next exit, a simple “turn here” would be more effective than the physical address.

Could you remember a ten-digit phone number after driving by it once? Probably not — Neilson’s research shows that only 8% of all viewers called a phone number after seeing any type of out-of-home ad (not just billboards).

Being strategic and deliberate about the message on the billboard is the difference between it being successful — or a complete flop. Once you’ve established your message, it’s time to start thinking about the design of the billboard.


Designing Your Billboard: Stand Out for the Right Reasons

The first step is deciding what must be on your billboard. You’ll want your business name and/or logo. If you’re selling something tangible or edible, photos can be effective (as long as you can still read any text). Finally, your messaging needs to be included.

You then need to establish a hierarchy to the information. Clients often want the logo to take up the majority of the billboard real estate — but then it competes with the messaging. The logo should be visible and recognizable but needs to allow the message to be the primary takeaway for viewers.

Consider the following tips for designing your billboard:

  • If you’re using a photo or image, consider the quality. You can’t use an iPhone photo on a billboard — unless you’re okay with the image quality being on par with a 1980s television.
  • Pick easy to read fonts — script or handwritten fronts will be hard to read. Pick legible fonts, and ensure the kerning and leading enhance the visibility and don’t detract from it.
  • Be selective with color. You want to pick high-contrast colors to increase the visibility of the billboard. Think primary colors (red, blue, yellow) along with black and white.
  • Use your space. White space is great, for smaller scale print ads and magazines. Take advantage of the extra space on your billboard by making the message bigger.

You can't drive anywhere without seeing a billboard. But are they really effective? Click to learn more about billboards in Morgantown, WV.

Traditional Boards vs. Digital

Remember that a traditional vinyl billboard is a semi-permanent investment — most companies encourage long-term contracts (think six months to a year). You need to be confident in your design before sending the creative to production. And remember, the production fee is usually separate from the initial cost of the billboard. 

Digital billboards offer more flexibility, but your message can be fleeting. Digital boards have multiple designs on rotation, showing each message for a set period of time (usually six to eight seconds).

Some companies cap the number of different messages that can be on each board, so your message is guaranteed to be seen a set number of times within a minute. But not all companies do this — it’s important you check with the company so you know how long your message will shown for along with the frequency.

Traditional Boards

  • Only your company’s message on the board, meaning more people will see it
  • Expensive production costs / have to wait for installation
  • Can’t change messaging without paying additional production fees

Digital Boards

  • Your message is part of a rotation, so some people may drive by the board and never see your ad
  • No production cost / message is up with the click of a button
  • Depending on the billboard company’s policy, you can change the messaging free of charge

You’ll need to check availability with several different billboard companies. Establish your budget and start shopping around — see what’s available, and create a list of preferred locations for your business. Be open to traditional and digital boards — they both have advantages.

When you’re considering the locations, ask about the average viewership, look for any busy traffic areas and consider any competitors who may have a billboard nearby. A reputable and experienced billboard company will be able to help you through this process.


About InnerAction Media | Morgantown Marketing Agency | Surrounding Areas

InnerAction Media is a Telly award-winning advertising and digital marketing agency based in Morgantown, West Virginia. We are strategic partners with our clients and work to convert strangers into customers and customers into raving fans of their business. 

If you’re interested in adding billboards into your advertising mix, reach out today for a free consultation.


You should have a say in your story.

IAM can help your business prosper by creating a personalized plan for growth throughout our various mediums of expertise.

Let's Do It