eightbitmatt
eightbitbrand Design

Billboards are dying, long live the billboard.

Billboards are boring. They are ignorable and generic pieces of marketing that no one will ever pay attention to. As more people put marketing money into digital, is there anyway to make people look at billboards more, or are they a dying part of the marketing mix?

To me, they are useful for one thing: getting your brand reinforced. Which does mean that it doesn’t have ROI and that then begs the question, is it really worth investing? The short answer to this is, yes but as long as you do it correctly.

Billboards are no longer interesting so you need to get creative

The problem with billboards being everywhere is that consumers are now used to them. They are very often the thing we wander past on a street corner and pay no attention to. So to get your return on investment, you obviously need to grab attention and interaction. Sometimes that doesn’t come from the billboard, it mostly comes from talk of the billboard.

Social Media and Marketing Blogs are quick to talk about good adverts, before that it was word of mouth. To me that is where they come into their own. The discussion of what is on your billboard is what makes them worthwhile and in a time where consumers are so used to seeing them, how do you grab attention?

Think outside the box – like IBM

The smarter cities campaign was one that really got the attention of people. When I am asked to think about making an eye-catching, converting, billboard, this is what comes straight to mind.

Useful because it's eye catching. A bench and shelter made out of the IBM smarter cities billboard.

Created by Ogilvy France, the billboards were designed with a call to action – to share ideas on the IBM smarter cities website and how did they get people to look at that call to action? They made the adverts into things that made people use them – a seat, a shelter, and a ramp. Keeping in line with the idea of making cities smarter.

This immediately changed the perception of the billboard from something that you would completely disregard into something you were thankful for, particularly on a rainy day or a tiring walk, which would likely increase the real life engagement rate with the billboard as a result.

It is, at the moment, the best use I’ve seen by far.

Make people stop and think – like Coca Cola

Coca Cola is a very rare brand with decades upon decades of building up its brand. No one can have the same power as these guys on a billboard and with their hear the feeling campaign they proved that power.

What would grab you more than just seeing a giant red billboard with just a logo and two words? You’d definitely notice it and you’d want to know what the brand were playing at, for sure. Particularly because of the colour, red is usually associated with anger so to have it right in your face is very different.

Coca Cola boldly ran a bright red billboard. Showcased in three pictures is the campaign on a bus stop, regular billboard and an example from a design program.

The whole idea behind this piece of advertising was to get people to stop and think about the unique sound and taste you get from opening a cold bottle of coke. I’d probably think that anyone reading this can imagine exactly what it’s like.

This is just another good example of making people pay attention to your advert; you’re not going to get a click through to your website but you’ll certainly get someone buying a can of coke. This acts effectively as a third man, a sales person constantly on the street to start to persuade people to go into a shop.

Long live the billboard! Changing how we use them to make them stand out.

The internet is a constantly evolving and having an impact on how people view media. Attention spans are getting shorter and people are less likely to read static adverts – unless they stand out. We, as marketers, have a duty to evolve other mediums to keep up with this and billboards are a good place to start. Previously where billboards would shine, before the internet, they were used as an attention grabber or what we know now as a click-through. They tempted a passerby to complete a physical action. This is no longer the case.

A billboard advertisement will always be useful, not as a conversion tool, but as an attention grabber – something extra to get a campaign successfully into more news outlets. Big brands have proven how good they can be, we just need to keep thinking of new, sustainable, ways to use them. They are increasingly becoming part of a the three-points of contact for brands to prime a passerby into looking further into a brand when they see an actionable advert on their computer rather than something that tells people to follow through with an action.

We also have to understand that not every billboard will get you extra news coverage, but what is important is the impact it has on the passer-by. If it adds an extra 10 or 20 percent into a campaign, then I would say it’s pulling its weight.

Innovation in billboards

I mentioned previously in this post about innovating to keep billboards interesting and modern, I said this because I haven’t seen many new in terms of advertising but one great example of next generation technologies being applied is Times Square in New York.

Coca Cola have a full time billboard spot in the square and have done for as long as I can remember, so people who see it every day or quite often will mostly be ignoring it. To overcome this the company invested in a new type of billboard, one that isn’t only changeable but also looks like it’s alive. Moving and shifting tiles make the billboard pop out as the content changes to keep people’s eyes and grow anticipation about what’s coming next. Take a look in the video below.