Outdoor Advertising: Signage as an Advertising Medium

Outdoor advertising has been around for a long time and includes some new and interesting methods to deliver the message. One of the long-term products has been the billboard, but even the traditional billboard has undergone changes over the years.

When outdoor sign advertising began, billboards were much smaller in size than they’ve become over the last forty years. Fixed images were either painted or posted to outdoor signs, and space sold by outdoor sign reps.

Over time, outdoor signs became larger. Some signs extended beyond the frame it was designed to be placed on to offer more to attract the eyes of people passing by. Outdoor signs were, and still are, placed on roadsides in spaces purchased by the sign company, on the structures they erect to place them.

Eventually lights and moving parts were added to outdoor signs. They were placed on top of buildings, in high traffic areas. Sign sharing began several years ago, with more than one advertiser featured on a rotating sign, creating even more interest to those driving by or sitting in traffic. In large cities, it’s not uncommon to see very large outdoor signs or marquees featuring movable, changing, scrolling lines of type or pictures produced using computers and incorporating graphic images.

Media buyers looking to purchase outdoor advertising signage analyze traffic pattern studies, or commission studies, from the sign company from which they lease the space. Outdoor companies base the sale of space based on a count of automobile traffic passing a sign every day. These counts ignore duplication (when people pass the same sign more than once in a day) and allow media buyers to compare the values of signs placed in different locations.

Using outdoor signage allows the advertiser to use color, branding of images or logos and tell a story with pictures rather than excessive copy. Messages are very simple, direct and to-the-point because the passing traffic has only a moment to view the ad. Signage is best utilized when the advertising appeal is to the masses, not a segment of the market exclusively.

Some areas have limitations on the installation of additional outdoor signage locations in an effort to maintain the beauty of the countryside, and are usually restricted to areas zoned for business and industrial use. Geographic locations may determine the availability of utilizing outdoor signs, since they are prohibited in some areas. Other areas impose sign ordinances on any sign placed outdoors; permits may be required and fines imposed for those who ignore sign ordinances.

Outdoor signage is a good solution for clients who wish to promote service categories of business or do institutional advertising. Often, these advertisers wish to blanket the market with this type of advertising and buy multiple locations within a geographic area. Outdoor advertising offers clients the opportunity to reach a lot of traffic at a relatively low cost per person, capturing an audience as they pass by, and often, offering something creative and intriguing to view in their approach.