Do Billboards Work?

Do Billboards Work?


I was asked this question the other day by a friend of mine who has recently started his own business and was thus exploring the many avenues available to him to market and advertise his services.

Just one of many channels

My answer, in short, was “yes” and “no,” but the question does not permit a ‘short’ answer.

I expanded as follows:

There is no one macro media type that is better than another. All media works for someone; if it didn’t, market forces would soon ensure that it no longer existed. Billboards are just one micro media channel within the outdoor macro.

The challenge is making the most out of your limited resources and ensuring that you get the best bang for your buck. For instance, a TV campaign for a company with a small target audience located in a local geographic location would clearly be a waste of money, whereas an advert in the local community newspaper might serve the purpose.

What your product needs

The question is not necessarily if any media platform works better over another, but rather to work out for your product and your target market what combination of media will have the biggest impact on your sales.

Understanding who your target market is (the target market is never ‘everyone’) and how they consume media in their daily lives will be a major drive in the media selection. Which media should be used for brand building and which for a direct call to action? The integration of all of these marketing elements is the difference between mediocre or an exceptional return on investment on your marketing funds.

Like most things in the modern world the tools exist to allow you to do most things yourself. Any business owner or marketing manager can develop a campaign using tools that are freely available on the internet or worse – based on the advice of a media sales rep. The question is – “Would you go on the Internet to find a DIY solution instead of visiting the doctor?”

Making a strategy work

The operative word here is strategy. If you want your marketing campaign to work, whichever media you use, you need to ensure it’s selected according to your identified target market. The strategy should be achieved by using the appropriate message, at the right time and with the right frequency.

In my opinion too many companies, especially small ones, buy their media on an ad hoc basis based on gut feel, rather than on a well thought through strategy with objectives and measurements. A wise man once said, “How do you know when you get there if you don’t know where ‘there’ is?” The same logic applies to marketing and advertising.  Once objectives are in place, some form of measurement needs to be applied.

By way of illustration: in certain industries and markets, especially business to business, a direct digital or call centre campaign may be most cost effective. That said, a company with good brand recognition tends to have much better direct campaign results.

It may therefore be appropriate in such a case to place some strategic advertising with the goal of increasing brand awareness in the target market prior to the launching of the direct campaign. The effectiveness of each touch point is increased by each complementary touch point, resulting in a combined return that is greater than the sum of each of the parts.

Answering market needs

The answer to the question, whether referring to billboards, TV, social and online or any other media is that each work, and each serves a purpose in an integrated campaign; the art is found in putting them together in the most appropriate way for that product at that time which will answer to a specific market need.

Grant Leishman
Grant Leishman is a founding member and CEO of Penquin, a full service agency. He has experienced all facets of marketing and advertising and believes that if you want a different result, you need to do things differently. He takes a creative approach to solving business problems. From the outset, Penquin’s strategy has been to offer 360°, integrated and innovative marketing solutions that delivers value to clients.