The future of outdoor advertising is in electronic billboards. Prognostications about the A/V industry are hit and miss, given the pace of technology, but one thing is certain – electronic billboards are an inevitability and will render print advertising obsolete in the very near future. There is practically no downside in shifting to a digital format and an incredible amount of potential. In many ways, the gulf between print and digital billboards is similar to the gulf between small scale print and digital advertising. And there are many reasons why digital is beating print by leaps and bounds.
It’s extremely tough to get drivers to pay attention to billboards. According to the best studies on the subject, drivers only scan a billboard for four seconds, on average, before moving on to something else. That means companies have precious little time to make an impact. And nothing makes an impact like the natural vibrancy and motion of digital advertising. The benefits of digital billboards don’t just exist on the front end, either, as the nature of digital is one of versatility. Why, exactly, should businesses throw out the print and bring in digital technology, though? Consider this brief list of reasons:
1. The visual advantage – Digital billboards are built with lighting sensors, so they always look their best. And because they are backlit, every color is vibrant and always holds its true hue. Contrast this with print, which looks different in the morning light than it does in the evening. During the day, print is lit too brightly, but at night, it’s practically impossible to see. Not a problem with digital billboards.
Also, the digital format has one huge advantage that even the most carefully crafted print billboard cannot match. Digital advertising can incorporate animation, and that is a huge show stopper regarding outdoor adverts. Nothing captures the attention like motion, and companies can flex their creative muscles with it. A neat trick is to run complementary layouts in sequence, which can be used to answer a question that consumers are likely to ask, or deliver a setup and punchline that stays with people.
2. The flexibility advantage – If print advertising was more convenient and responsive to work with on the backend, then it might still be a fair fight. It’s not a fair fight. Digital billboards are much easier to work with for advertisers and offer a spread of useful timing options.
Once an advertiser knows what the format is for the billboard, their designer just has to get to work and send the relevant files over. The lull between design completion and advert launch is just hours, so companies can be as responsive as they need to be in creating digital advertising. If changes need to be made to the layout (and they always do), it can be tweaked and updated, again, within a few hours. Try that with print. And what if those changes need to be made across an entire network of billboards instead of just one? No extra work needed. Try that with print.
It goes so much further than that, though. Digital billboards are programmed to display a variety of adverts throughout the day, so a company can match its messaging to what people are most likely to be receptive to at the time. In the morning? Advertise lunch specials. Rush hour? Tell people where they should be for that night’s big game. Friday? Show people what they could be doing this weekend, like a trip to an amusement park or a daycation in the next town over. School’s in? Museums are a good way to supplement that classwork. Rainy day? Bring them to the mall. Perfect weather? If there’s something going on at the park, here’s a chance to communicate it. Targeted advertising is one of the greatest strengths of the digital format. Even better, all of these layouts can be designed in advance and kept on hand for when those timing opportunities present themselves. There’s no need to scramble at the last minute to piece something together, so designers can take their time making something great.
3. The cost advantage – It’s amazing to think that digital advertising could be less expensive than print adverts, given their sizeable edges in versatility and effectiveness, but less expensive it is. Print advertising is static as it must be printed. And it has to be transported to the billboard’s location and manually installed. All of this takes labor and material – expensive labor and material. Digital billboards require little of either, so advertisers reap immediate cost savings just from the slimmer operations.
Cost savings are realized in other ways, though. Because digital layouts can be tweaked and edited with little effort, it doesn’t cost much to make alterations. Print, by contrast, has to be switched out when there is an issue. Digital advertising also gives companies more precision over when their advertising is displayed. This is not just a versatility advantage. Advertisers can pick the time and date slots for their layouts to be displayed, so companies only have to pay for the time they use. With careful planning, businesses can realize extremely impressive cost to benefit ratios with their digital billboards. This is particularly true when a company is aiming for a shorter advertising run. Although the standard wisdom is to run an advert for at least two weeks to gain maximum exposure, there are times when a brief campaign may be more appropriate. Advertisers have this option with digital billboards and can reduce their operating costs accordingly.
Finally, while print billboards can conceivably be installed anywhere, including desolate stretches of highway, digital billboards are almost universally placed in high traffic areas. The investment into a digital billboard is significant, so owners won’t settle for anything less than a high value spot. Although advertisers have the final word on where their messaging goes, they may have to settle for poor locations to get a reasonable price. With digital billboards, every location is a winner, so there is less doubt about whether or not a campaign will reach its intended audience.
Clearly, there is much to chew on with digital billboards. In capable, creative hands, they can transform the way a company approaches outdoor advertising, improving brand image, driving up consumer interest or just generating some useful chatter in the area. A digital billboard is the newest, and one of the most effective ways to make that happen.