Four States Small Business Blog

Pros and Cons of Billboard Advertising

Posted by Kent Huff on March 29, 2017 at 10:00 AM

billboard advertisingIf you’ve driven for a significant length of time, whether that’s a road trip or your commute to work, you’ve seen digital and print billboards lining the side of roads and highways, especially close to urban centers. Billboards are suited to a variety of industries from entertainment and dining to local retailers. This may be an effective tactic for your business, but before you sign up for a strategy that takes advantage of this format, you should know the pros and cons of billboard advertising.

At Zimmer, we’ve seen how successful cross-platform marketing strategies can be and how they’ve helped our clients accomplish their goals. We’ve created this series to provide adequate research to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of each platform in order to make successful advertising campaigns. Today’s post is part two in a series focusing on the pros and cons of each of the additional platforms: Radio, TV, Newspaper, Direct Mail, and Yellow Page Advertising. To see our first post on the pros and cons of radio, click here.

Billboard Advertising Pros

Credibility and Trust

A 2016 survey from MarketingSherpa revealed that billboards and other out-of-home (OOH) ads are the fifth most trusted by consumers when they want to make a purchase decision, and that using this format can add credibility to your overall marketing campaign. That’s undoubtedly why billboards are responsible for 65% of all OOH advertising revenue, which was $7.3 billion in 2015, and a global ROI of $2.80 for each $1 spent. This is especially effective for telecom, retail and travel businesses, which see an ROI of $4.72, $3.79, and $3.55 per $1 spent, respectively.

Visibility and Reach

Some 96% of Americans are exposed to OOH while in a car every week, a quarter of which happens during the end-of-day commute (between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.). This isn’t just passing scenery for them, either: 71% of Americans actively look at the messages on billboards they pass and the same number remember what they see. When you consider the fact that most people will pass the same sign regularly, this also offers significant frequency.

Surprising Conversion Rates

Bearing in mind that 72% of the drivers exposed to billboards plan to shop on their way home and a majority of them (68%) will make important shopping decisions while in the car, it should be no surprise that 38% of them will stop at a business featured on a billboard at some point during that trip home. Another 32% will visit a business featured this way at some point during the following week, and 56% will tell others about a billboard ad if it’s funny. A similar number (58%) say they learned about events they wanted to attend or restaurants they would actually visit. Billboards are also a good reminder touchpoint for radio (44%) and TV programming (33%).

Directional Tool

Since there are message limitations for this format, it is an incredible way to direct drivers to your store. About half of the respondents to a survey from Arbitron said they got directions to a business location via the billboard ad. What’s more, billboards placed near your business (e.g., a few miles) are generally more likely to successfully convince drivers to head to your store — in fact, 24% of drivers may head to your location immediately. Similarly, with the right creative, a billboard near your competition may divert customers to your store instead.

Billboard Advertising Cons


Buying billboard space often requires that you engage more than one location for a minimum amount of time (e.g., 5 billboards for at least 4 weeks), so the cost can easily stack up. At its least expensive, a small sign may cost between $300 and $750 per location (thus a minimum of $1,500 per 4 week period). However, digital billboards can be much more expensive (between $3,500 and $25,000 per location, or up to $125,000). This doesn’t even account for highly coveted space; the Clear Channel 8-story sign in Times Square cost $2.5 million for 4 weeks in 2015. That being said, many times the cost of a billboard ad is 80% lower than a TV spot (even when considering digital billboards, which offer 8 seconds of a 64-second loop on average).


The most common distraction from billboards is probably the actual act of driving (both in watching traffic or following navigation tools). However, your ad may also be competing for attention against radio programming and ads, streaming audio, phone calls, and even other passengers. Of course, billboards may be seen by more than just those driving, yet that doesn’t mitigate the amount of distractions. For instance, a huge number of people are exposed to billboard advertising while on foot in Times Square, but those ads have to compete against the advertising noise from every other billboard, not to mention the bustle of crowded city streets and the carts and storefronts surrounding them.

Key Audience Is Moving

Distractions aren’t the only drawback associated with an audience that is largely exposed to the ad while driving — especially at high speeds, the audience has a short period to consume the marketing message (just 7 to 10 seconds) and cannot afford to read a lengthy amount of text. This limits the amount of information you can provide and, if relying heavily on images, can even muddle the message itself. Unless the driver regularly passes the billboard (e.g., commuters), it may be difficult for drivers to remember once they’ve reached their destination and can take actions like searching for your brand’s website.

Key Takeaways

Billboards are remarkably powerful despite their drawbacks. Consumers trust them at key points in their decision process, and because people see them on the road, it may even result in an immediate decision to head straight to your store. However, the limitations need to be taken into account early on to develop an appropriate budget and the right kind of creative. While the cost is much lower than other formats, it isn’t insignificant, and the format isn’t given to highly complex concepts or CTAs because of the space limitations and the brevity of exposure. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Budget in advance for billboard advertising. This will not only give you time to secure the spots you want, but it will ensure you have the time and budget to print the ad if you don’t get a digital sign.
  • Marketing is an investment, and that may mean you need to spend to get the right location and format for your industry to see the best success. Don’t undermine your campaign in a quest to find the cheapest option.
  • The adage “keep it simple, stupid” definitely applies to billboard advertising. Your audience is probably driving, which means they need to keep more attention on the traffic around them than your sign. Something that can attract attention quickly and is easy to consume and remember will be most successful.

Billboard advertising can benefit an advertising campaign when you fully understand the pros and cons of the format and carefully determine the best time to take advantage of it. We hope our tips have helped to illuminate just that. Don’t forget to check back soon for the fourth part of our Advertising Format Pros and Cons series focusing on newspaper advertising. At Zimmer, we’re proud to be able to help our clients develop winning marketing strategies across any platform. Contact us today to discover how we can take your advertising to the next level.

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Topics: Small Business Resources, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Strategy

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