The Comprehensive Guide to Billboard Advertising in 2024

In our increasingly digital world, billboard advertising remains a powerful and effective way for brands to reach massive audiences. As you drive down the highway or walk through a bustling city center, it‘s hard to miss the larger-than-life ads plastered across billboards competing for your attention.

Far from becoming outdated, billboard advertising is thriving in the 2020s. The global digital out-of-home (DOOH) market is projected to soar to USD $32 billion by 2027, growing at an 11% compound annual growth rate. As technology advances, digital billboards are enabling unprecedented creativity, interactivity, and audience targeting possibilities.

For marketers, billboards offer unique advantages. They help build brand awareness on a massive scale, reaching people as they go about their daily lives. Well-executed billboards can leave a lasting impression and spark word-of-mouth buzz. When combined with other channels like TV, radio, digital and social media ads, billboards multiply the impact and help surround the consumer through an integrated 360-degree campaign.

In this guide, we‘ll dive deep into the world of modern billboard advertising. You‘ll learn the keys to creating billboards that can‘t be ignored, see examples of the most impactful campaigns, understand how much billboards cost and how to measure their effectiveness. Whether you‘re a brand marketer, business owner, designer or just fascinated by advertising, read on to master the art and science of advertising in the big leagues.

The State of Billboard Advertising in 2024

Billboard advertising has staying power. A 2023 Nielson study found that 81% of U.S. consumers noticed an out-of-home ad in the past month, and over 40% engaged with a brand as a result of seeing an ad. The same study showed out-of-home ads like billboards drive more online activations than print and radio ads.

Billboards are especially effective at reaching young, affluent consumers who are otherwise hard to engage through other channels. Gen Z and Millenial consumers are 66% more likely to engage with out-of-home ads compared to older generations.

Digital billboards are driving much of the industry‘s growth. There are over 12,000 digital billboards now active in the U.S. – triple the number just 5 years ago. These high-definition displays allow ads to rotate, include full motion video and animation, display real-time data, and even respond to viewer interactions. For example, a digital billboard for McDonalds prompted viewers to use a QR code to vote for their favorite sandwich, with the results displayed on the billboard.

With an average CPM of $5.00, billboard advertising delivers strong ROI compared to other media. One case study by the OAAA showed that adding billboards to a mobile advertising campaign increased ad recall by 47% and purchase intent by 23%. Billboard ads also spur impressive digital activations, with over half of viewers taking actions like searching for a brand online, visiting their website, or engaging on social media after seeing an out-of-home ad.

As the advertising landscape continues to evolve, it‘s clear that billboards will remain a powerful tool for brands to reach the masses, raise awareness, and amplify their messaging as part of an integrated strategy.

What You‘ll Pay for Billboard Advertising

The cost of billboard advertising varies widely depending on the format, location, and duration of the campaign. Here‘s a snapshot of average billboard costs in 2024:

  • Traditional static billboard (per 4 weeks): $1,500-$30,000
  • Digital billboard (per 4 weeks): $3,500-$50,000
  • Mobile billboard (per day): $800-$1,500
  • Wallscapes / murals (per 4 weeks): $25,000-$150,000

At the top end, a premium digital billboard in Times Square can command $3 million for a 4-week run. For a more typical billboard on a major highway, you might pay $10,000-$20,000 per month.

Billboard pricing is based on circulation, impressions, and demographics. Circulation refers to the total number of vehicles or pedestrians that pass the billboard each day. Impressions factor in the size of the billboard, visibility, and speed at which people are passing by to estimate how many people actually see the ad.

Location is one of the biggest factors in billboard costs. Ads in large cities, high-traffic commuter routes, and popular destinations like Times Square or the Sunset Strip command significantly higher prices than those in rural areas. Billboards that appear in high-income zip codes or have a high concentration of business traffic can also cost a premium.

The price also includes production costs for designing and printing the ad, which can run from $500-$1,500 depending on the size and complexity. For digital billboards, there are additional costs to format the creative for the digital specs.

Most billboard campaigns run for at least 4 weeks, since it requires high frequency for the message to sink in with commuters. Longer campaigns can often secure discounts.

The key to maximizing your billboard investment is carefully selecting locations that reach your target audience and compliment your broader marketing strategy. An experienced out-of-home agency can help you find the optimal placements to reach your goals within your budget.

Tips for Eye-Catching, Effective Billboard Creative

You have just a split second to make an impression with a billboard. On average, people view a billboard for 4-6 seconds, so the message needs to be communicated at a glance. Here are some tips for designing billboards that demand attention:

1. Keep it simple.

Use a maximum of 7 words and focus on a single message or call-to-action. Avoid small text, paragraphs, or complex visuals that can‘t be processed quickly. Opt for bold imagery, colors and text that create contrast with the environment.

2. Make it visual.

Since people view billboards at a distance, strong visuals are essential to grab attention. The most effective billboards rely on an arresting central visual, whether it‘s a compelling photo, humorous illustration, or unexpected visual metaphor.

3. Be memorable with wordplay, humor, and intrigue.

Clever wordplay and humor help billboards stick in viewers‘ minds. The best billboards don‘t just sell something; they entertain and delight. Thought-provoking taglines or intriguing cliffhangers can compel people to engage further with a brand or campaign.

4. Focus on benefits.

What‘s in it for the consumer? Billboards need to communicate the key benefit or unique selling proposition that matters to the target audience – whether it‘s saving money, feeling good, making life easier, etc.

5. Take advantage of context.

Great billboards take interact with their real-world environment in clever ways. Think a steaming pizza billboard placed near a freeway exit, or a casino ad with chips stacked to mimic a nearby skyline. The more a billboard fits into its context, the more memorable it becomes.

6. Leverage extensions and embellishments.

Three-dimensional props, moving parts, lighting effects, and even live stunts help billboards stand out. An innovative example: the BBC placed a smoking billboard in a London subway station to promote a Dracula TV show.

With digital billboards, even more creative possibilities open up – from live social media feeds to dynamic content tailored to weather and traffic conditions. Norwegian airlines ran a digital billboard campaign in Times Square that pulled in transient airfare prices. IBM‘s award-winning digital billboard responded to people‘s gestures and movements.

The key is to think of the billboard not just as an ad, but an experience that adds value to the viewer. The most effective billboards provide utility, entertainment, or a novel perspective that rewards a moment of attention.

Measuring Billboard Effectiveness and ROI

Compared to digital campaigns, measuring the effectiveness of billboard advertising poses some unique challenges. There‘s no way to directly track views, clicks or conversions. But that doesn‘t mean billboards‘ impact can‘t be quantified.

Here are some ways to gauge the effectiveness of a billboard campaign:

  • Use a unique URL, QR code, hashtag, or SMS code on the billboard to track direct response
  • Monitor lifts in website traffic, brand search volume, and social media mentions after the campaign launch
  • Use marketing mix modeling to correlate sales lifts in markets targeted by the campaign
  • Include the billboard campaign in brand tracking studies to measure changes in awareness, favorability, purchase intent, etc.
  • Track earned media coverage and PR value generated by the campaign
  • For local campaigns, track redemptions of any special billboard offer or coupon code

While they may require some estimations and correlations, these measures help give a directional indication of the billboard campaign‘s impact and ROI. As a general rule of thumb, if a campaign generates a 20-25% lift in awareness, engagement or sales, billboards are making a strong contribution.

The most sophisticated brands use advanced marketing mix modeling and experiments to isolate the impact of out-of-home media. A major CPG brand tested the impact of billboards by comparing sales in geographic zones exposed to the campaign vs. control regions. The result: a 21% increase in sales volume in the billboard markets.

Billboard Advertising Best Practices

To make the most of your billboard campaign investment, follow these tried-and-true best practices:

  1. Set clear objectives upfront. Are you aiming to boost brand awareness and recall, drive a specific call-to-action, or support a product launch? Your goals will guide the creative strategy and media choices.
  2. Understand your audience. Who are you trying to reach, and what matters to them? What are their commuting patterns and behaviors? Pinpoint the optimal billboard locations and creative approaches to connect with your target.
  3. Integrate billboards into a larger media mix. Billboards should be one component of a multi-channel campaign to surround your audience. Align the messaging and visuals across billboards, digital, social, print, and other media to maximize impact.
  4. Design for the real world. When developing billboard creative, go beyond the computer screen. Test it at small scale and at a distance to ensure it delivers high visual impact at a glance.
  5. Take advantage of digital capabilities. If your budget allows, tap into the dynamic possibilities of digital billboards to deliver more timely, relevant, and interactive content tailored to the audience and environment.
  6. Plan your campaign flights strategically. Billboard effectiveness depends on high frequency and reach. Plan for the campaign to run at least 4 weeks to start generating strong awareness. If possible, book multiple billboards in proximity to create a saturation effect.
  7. Give it time to work. Even after the billboards come down, the effects continue to build over time. A Nielsen study showed the impact of out-of-home ads peaks around 38 days after first exposure. Continue to monitor key metrics in the weeks following your campaign.
  8. Learn and optimize. As you track your campaign results, look for opportunities to optimize performance. Consider A/B testing different creative, locations, and flight timings to continually refine your approach.

Inspiring Billboard Advertising Examples

Need some inspiration for your next billboard campaign? Here are a few examples of brands that used the medium in clever, captivating, and effective ways:

  • Spotify‘s meme-inspired billboards turned user data into funny headlines like "Dear person who played ‘Sorry‘ 42 times on Valentine‘s Day – What did you do?"
  • Apple‘s "Shot on iPhone" campaign showcased stunning photos taken by customers, emphasizing the camera quality while celebrating their creativity.
  • BMW‘s digital billboards in Moscow used real-time traffic data to display the estimated drive time to the nearest dealership, demonstrating the speed of their vehicles.
  • Netflix built hype for the latest season of Stranger Things with enigmatic billboards showing only a single nose bleed – a nod to the show‘s mysterious plot.
  • Adidas turned an entire building facade into a gigantic billboard featuring soccer star Paul Pogba, creating an unmistakable landmark in downtown Warsaw.

These examples illustrate the enormous creative potential of billboards. When brands think beyond a simple sales pitch and find surprising ways to grab attention, spark conversations, and enrich everyday moments, that‘s when billboard magic happens.

Conclusion

Far from fading away in the digital age, billboard advertising remains a relevant, vibrant and effective medium for brands to reach the masses in 2024 and beyond. As technology advances, billboards offer more dynamic and interactive possibilities than ever.

To master the medium, brands must be strategic in their placements, disciplined in their creative approach, and diligent in measuring the results. The most impactful campaigns treat billboards not simply as extra-large print ads, but as canvases for storytelling, utility, and consumer experiences.

When executed well, billboards continue to captivate consumers, generate buzz, and drive bottom-line results. In a fragmented media landscape, that‘s a combination that will always command a premium.