Outdoor Advertising And The Billboard

Outdoor Advertising includes numerous promotional displays from the outdoor sign on a local business to a mural painted on the side of a building. The main categories of outdoor advertising are alternative advertising, street furniture advertising, transit or mobile advertising and the number one revenue producer, billboard advertising.

Millions of Americans commute on a daily basis. As the population continues to grow, the automobile traffic continues to increase as well. The billboard, a strategically placed large outdoor advertising sign has been successfully used by business owners for many years to maneuver customers in their direction to purchase their products. Typically found in high traffic areas, the billboard is seen on major highways, heavily traveled commuter routes, expressways, primary and secondary roads. It seems that wherever there is vehicular and pedestrian traffic – there are billboards.

History of Billboards

Initially billboards were nothing more than large outdoor advertising posters developed by Jared Bell in 1835 to promote the traveling circus in the United States. Outdoor advertising then began to evolve with large posters on the sides of barns and other buildings. Painted posters on fences and painted signs were used along the roadside to lure those passing by to visit an establishment or business.

In 1872 the International Bill Posters Association of North America was formed as a billboard-lobbying group. Today it is known as the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
In 1908 the Model T Ford was creating excitement in the United Sates and now more people had access to highways and outdoor advertising along the roadside.
In 1925 Burma-Shave made it’s debut with hundreds of billboards scattered along the highways.
In an effort to control, the beauty of the landscape and the increasing use of outdoor advertising through billboards, the Highway Beautification Act was passed in 1965.
In 1971 cigarette advertisements were banned on both radio and television via The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act. The tobacco industry turned to outdoor advertising and billboards to sell their product.
In 1997 the United States banned tobacco advertisements on outdoor billboards.
Traditionally, the billboard’s display was printed on a supple PVC vinyl sheet, which covered the outdoor advertising structure known as a traditional billboard. As of 2007, a more eco-friendly lightweight polyethylene is being phased in and used. The new material is safer and easier to install, non-toxic and recyclable.

Types of Billboards

Traditional billboards in North America are around fourteen feet high by forty-eight feet wide. They can be smaller and are then considered to be “posters’. As stated above the outdoor advertising industry is now starting to use a lightweight, non-toxic, recyclable polyethylene plastic to create the traditional outdoor billboard.

Mechanical billboards can be what are known as the scrolling billboard. This billboard can show up to thirty images per side using a scrolling device that is computer controlled. These are often used on mobile vehicles like trucks.

Another popular type of mechanical billboard is the tri-action or multi-message billboard. This type displays three rotating advertisements using a mechanical system. The displays are printed on vinyl strips and as the panels rotate, they pause showing three distinctive messages using only one structure.

Sidewalk billboards sometimes referred to, as kiosks are usually located near areas that have high pedestrian traffic, or vehicular traffic that has to slow down or stop on a regular basis.

Mobile billboards were made feasible in the early 1990’s with the inception of the large format digital ink jet printer. Billboard graphics were now made possible in the form of a large single banner that could be mounted on panels and installed on a flat bed truck used only for outdoor advertising purposes. Bus advertising often uses what is known as the “wrap” image. The entire bus is covered or wrapped with the advertising image.

Digital billboards are now being made that allow fixed ads to rotate in a specified series. Interaction is possible and synchronization with ads on radio is in the very near future if not already accomplished.

The FBI uses digital billboards for public safety messages, kidnappings, unsolved crimes, to find fugitives, and missing persons. The outdoor advertising industry has embarked on a relationship with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to display AMBER Alerts through digital billboards.

As the outdoor advertising industry continues to evolve, the use of advanced technology, and consumers increasingly becoming more mobile and spending more time away from home will be important factors contributing to the growth and success of billboards and the outdoor advertising industry.