Billboards Help Advertising Get Off the Couch

We have come a long way since the first televisions were installed in nearly every home, and television ads were served up to millions of viewers from the comfort of their couches.

Savvy companies know that North America is also a mobile nation with both work and recreation activities. Advertising is moving with us, in the form of outdoor advertising mediums such as buildings, buses, and park benches. Billboard advertising has a long history dating back to the 1800’s, and today this advertising medium is still popular with outdoor advertisers from film studios to telecommunication empires to fortune five-hundred companies.

Marketing Executives such as Frank Mendicino of Alliance Films spends 25 per cent to 40 per cent of his ad budgets on out-of-home advertising in the summer months, when Canadians are out and about and watching less TV. As the company is preparing for the release of the film, The American, he knows his ads need to reach large groups of people on the move. Annette Warring, chief executive officer of Vizeum Canada, Alliance Films’ advertising agency echoes these thoughts, “We spend a lot of time working with Alliance deciding who we need to target for a particular film.”

Advertisers want billboards that are placed where large groups of their target markets are, but billboards also need to be highly visible for both pedestrians and vehicle traffic. This means a desirable location, size, position, and lack of competing ads make a billboard a more effective advertising medium. Billboards that possess these criteria will earn building owners top dollar. Randy Otto, president of Vancouver based Pattison, says proximity of ads is just one zoning issue that can determine where billboards can be erected, and looks to maximize his advertising dollars based on these essential criterias.

Digital billboards can enhance desirability and visibility of ads, by rotating ads every 15 seconds, or projecting media onto a retail window at night, or even use audio to enrich the viewer’s experience. Nick Barbuto, vice-president of digital solutions at advertising agency Cossette, points to a 2007 billboard ad for Paranormal State, a ghost-themed television show. The ad used directional audio that aimed a chilling sound at passers-by.

Margaret Burnside, vice-president of marketing at Alliance, likes digital billboards for this very reason. “As we get closer to a theatre opening, we can change that creative up so eyeballs viewing it will see something new and different every time,” she says, adding that live data can even be streamed into ads on digital billboards. Whether traditional or digital, every billboard can entice people to a website for an experience. “We want to drive people to the Web, where the intention is to get them to interact with the content and engage in the movie by doing things like watching the trailer,” says Ms. Warring.

Whether static, rotating, sound or animation enhanced, there is no doubt that billboard ads and other outdoor advertising are a popular and effective form of getting the message to market. In 2009, advertisers in Canada spent close to half a billion dollars on out-of-home advertising, including billboards, transit advertising and street furniture. In the United States, advertisers spent about $6-billion on these ad mediums.

Top 10 out-of-home advertisers in Canada in 2009

1. Telus Corp.
2. BCE Corp.
3. McDonald’s Corp.
4. Molson Coors Brewing Co.
5. Tim Hortons Inc.
6. Rogers Communications Inc.
7. Government of Canada
8. Provincial government lotteries
9. Labatt Breweries of Canada
10. Astral Media Inc.

Top 10 in the U.S.:

1. Verizon
2. McDonald’s Corp.
3. AT&T Corp.
4. Geico
5. Warner Bros Pictures
6. Coca-Cola Co.
7. PepsiCo. Inc.
8. State Farm Life Insurance Co.
9. Apple Inc.
10. MetroPCS Wireless Inc.

For more information on billboard advertising, visit our website: or call us toll free: 1-800-795-7525

by Jim Wannop

Sources: Nielsen Media Research, Outdoor Advertising Association of America



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