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Overview of Billboard Advertising

Billboard advertising is often termed outdoor advertising, although technically outdoor advertising also includes advertising on cars, trucks and vans.

Interestingly over recent years outdoor advertising has been growing in popularity, and in 2006 had a 9.63% share of total advertising spend in the UK, compared to 7.45% in 2000.

The outdoor advertising market can be divided into 3 sections:


This includes everything from advertising on phone boxes to huge billboards on multi-storey buildings.

Roadside advertising has universal mass-audience appeal and is therefore particularly adept when used to raise brand awareness. It’s also considered a highly effective way of reaching young male audiences.


This sector covers railways and underground stations, airports and advertising on vehicles. See our advertising on vehicles section.

The transport sector is sometimes used in areas where there is a low roadside presence, and is favoured in some instances because people tend to have more time to spend viewing the billboards in these locations.


This includes billboards at shopping malls, petrol stations and supermarkets.

Billboards are often used in this sector to complement the local stores in the area through special offers and gift ideas. It also doesn’t suffer from the problem of ‘hitting people cold’ – they are already in a shopping frame of mind.


The growing market share that outdoor advertising has of total advertising spend illustrates that advertisers’ view the medium as being cost-effective. Today 94% of the UK’s top advertisers use outdoor advertising.

The reasons for this are that it is excellent for raising awareness levels, as everyone who leaves the house is exposed to it. It’s a visual form of advertising and with the advent of animated and interactive billboards there are greater opportunities for portraying a certain brand image and enabling brand interaction.

Outdoor advertising is also suited to targeting middle to upper-income demographics, a group that increasing numbers of people are becoming a part of.

Developments within the billboard advertising industry are also evolving all the time, with one of the most promising being combining bluetooth technology with billboards. This brings an interactive element to billboards – bluetooth messages can now be sent directly to peoples’ mobile phones as they are viewing billboards. Find out more about Bluetooth Marketing.

Interestingly, research from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) showed that consumers have a very positive attitude towards all forms of outdoor advertising. This is important as advertising on other mediums, such as online banner advertising or television adverts, can be seen as a nuisance.


Being able to make advertising accountable is a vital component today with companies looking to get more from their advertising budget. The accountability of pay-per-click advertising has gone a long way towards encouraging its rapid growth.

The outdoor advertising industry realised this in the early 1990s and the result was the creation of POSTAR, an extremely reliable way of measuring how many people actually saw and thought about your advertisement.

Outdoor Advertising and Its Relationship with Radio

One problem with outdoor advertising, such as billboard advertising, is that it is limited in terms of the message that you can portray about your company. Complicated messages don’t work – they must be kept short and catchy.

Therefore businesses often see billboard advertising as being part of an integrated marketing campaign, with other channels explaining more clearly what the product, service or promotion is. Advertising on billboards is most effective at raising awareness.

Radio advertising is one marketing channel that has become closely linked with billboard advertising, perhaps not surprisingly considering that many people who view billboards are also listening to their radio whilst driving their car.

This strong relationship has also been identified by Google. One of Google’s recent patent application states:

“Attribute information indicating retailer and categories of products available for purchase in the vicinity of a display device is maintained for each device in a database.”

In other words, when someone is driving along and hears a radio ad they may also see a billboard at the same time promoting the same message. Whilst being some way off this close relationship is the ultimate aim, and it illustrates the complementary nature of billboard and radio advertising.