Is billboard advertising still relevant if commuters are fixated on their phones?

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May 31, 2017. This isn’t a new concept or train of thought, I first heard it from the legendary #GaryVaynerchuk months ago, but it’s been on my mind since and I thought I would flesh out my opinion on the matter purely from a property marketing perspective. It’s a difficult one and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts from the industry.

Billboard advertising has always been part of our traditional advertising mix for property marketing. It’s often been one of the most expensive advertising mediums and of course one of the hardest to prove ROI.  In saying that, it has also been one of the most obvious mediums to choose when you’re selling property because you can choose the exact physical location and advertise a message to those that pass it by.  Simple, right? Nooooo….

Now that everyone in the car is more likely to be taking a selfie, checking news or working on their phone and NOT watching what’s outside the car, is it as valuable as it once was? If the driver is the only person paying attention can we even guarantee that we can hold their focus long enough for them to act on the billboard message when they stop the car? 

Here are the questions I ask myself and my team when contemplating billboard advertising? 

1.      The obvious one, why this location? Is it close to site? is it on the target market’s journey to work etc?

2.      Who will be driving by this billboard and how many? (not the passengers…but the drivers)

3.      What message are you wanting to convey?

4.      What action or outcome are you wanting to prompt the customer to make?

5.      Could you get the same ROI or better in a different medium?

Years ago before online and social media entered the media mix, billboard advertising was valuable but with such targeted, measurable and highly successful social and online campaigns now available, it becomes harder to argue the ROI of billboards.

In saying that, I think we should continue to assess each situation (and project marketing strategy) individually.  I firmly believe there is no across-the-board right or wrong answer and it will vary based on the size of the project marketing budget, message being communicated and location of the project.  

What is important, is to understand that the landscape has changed – there are not as many eyes on these billboards – I firmly believe that is fact.  However, if there is a prime billboard site close to the project that is perfectly positioned to attract the attention of your target market and it meets all of your requirements, go for it. 

It then comes down to the creative and the message and this is extremely important in a fast paced world where we are competing for peoples ATTENTION.  Here are some tips to drive the creative strategy of your billboard advertising.

1.      Ensure the creative is tailored to outdoor but the same theme as your social/online presence so people can link the two experiences together, drive stronger awareness.

2.      Ensure your creative is engaging enough that someone will remember it – here are some great examples –

3.      Drive a social result using social handles/prompters from your billboard and ensure your social channels are ready to engage LIVE.

4.      If the billboard allows for it, use SMART technology – perhaps live content. E.g Number of apartments sold, or live shots from inside display homes.

5.      AND of course, SHORT messages.

So, our advice at Channel Marketing is to assess each project individually and choose wisely and be mindful that the landscape has changed. If your budget is tight, don’t think that billboard advertising will get you the ROI it once did.

Author – Susan Duffy, Director Channel Marketing Group

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