It's not difficult to understand why digital billboards are attractive to advertisers. They are bright and eye-catching and can convey multiple marketing messages at once. Marketers can arrange to have computerized ads change with much greater frequency than typical outdoor ads, timing their message to the season, the day of the week, and even the time of day.
If digital signage is good for advertisers, they are an absolute bonanza for billboard companies, which can sell different time slots to different advertisers; a typical digital sign will feature ads for several companies each month. Computerized signs can therefore generate substantially more revenue than traditional outdoor signage, which means that billboard owners have a huge incentive to go digital.
What makes a digital billboard ad effective? Given that the industry is so new, that's still being worked out. The best digital billboards are not simple branding exercises. Rather, they alert drivers to time-sensitive opportunities and urge them to take action.
So far there are about 900 of these digital billboards in the United States and growth is projected at a couple of hundred new locations per year. Because they are built and placed like traditional billboards – with one big exception that digital billboards have a giant LCD screen rather than printed vinyl – billboard companies can sell from 6 to 8 times the number of advertisers per location and sell them at double the price.
This new form of digital signage works by creating and loading an ad into the billboard’s electronic rotation. The ad will be displayed anywhere from 6 to 10 seconds at a time and will rotate with other ads on that same board.
With digital billboards you can enjoy the flexibility of being able to run different ads at different times of the day or year. You are no longer hampered by the hassle of having to take down printed vinyl artwork and replacing it with a new one every time your ad campaign changes. With digital billboards you simply pull an unwanted ad from the rotation and replace it with another.
Digital billboards allow you to directly respond to market conditions within minutes. For example: Your product is weather related and a big storm blows through town. You can create a new ad within minutes, send it to the outdoor company via email, they load it into the system and schedule it to run immediately. Some companies are also offering businesses their own control panel. Once your ads are approved and loaded into the system, you log in to your control panel and personally choose which ads to run and when to run them.
Vinyl can get expensive when you are creating several new ads every season. With digital billboards, you don’t have to watch your artwork fade and get ripped to shreds. The cost of your artwork for digital signage is simply the cost of layout and design. All you need is someone who knows PhotoShop and you can design your own ad. Some of the outdoor companies offer this service for free. If they don’t, negotiate for free artwork.
There are a couple of setbacks to digital billboards. These include not having the billboard location all to yourself, and contract rates can more than double what it costs to run the same size traditional billboard.
Like traditional boards, the new digital signage version is best used by businesses trying to reach mobile demographics: generally the younger, more affluent, working customers. Don’t use this medium to reach seniors, children, or the less affluent. The best use of billboard advertising is for giving directions, name recognition and brand awareness. You should not use this medium for complicated messages.
Because of its creative flexibility, certain price-based, sales-focused businesses may also consider running digital boards. If you do consider them, be consistent with your brand promise and your messages in other media. Use contrasting colors in your artwork with readable fonts. It’s never a good idea to use more than 7 words per board.