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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Jun 2, 2014 8 min read

Why You Should Never Consider Advertising On An Electronic Billboard

Electronic BillboardHaving just returned from a weekend that required about six hours of highway driving, I wanted to comment on the newest way advertisers are tricking businesses into thinking ads still work. Welcome to the age of electronic billboards.

You have all seen them, right? These brighter-than-the-sun, high-defintion TVs that light up the entire highway, shining their ads down on unsuspecting drivers. I know they have been around for years, so I’m not saying they’re new. But they do finally seem to be replacing all of the old, poster-style billboards.

Forget the safety aspect of the constantly changing billboards, as I'm assuming that someone made sure the brightness, distractions and safety issues were analyzed. I’m just going to comment on the effectiveness and on the general laziness of the entire advertising industry.

I’m not even going to argue whether someone somewhere has statistics to convince business owners that people look at these ads, recall your business from them and buy your stuff when they remember them.

Here is a rough estimate of costs for this tactic: If you wanted to buy a year's worth of billboard advertising in Atlanta, Georgia, the annual cost would be the number of months times the minimum number of billboards times the cost per billboard. Remember, you don't usually buy just one sign. The formula would look something like this: 12 x 28 x $2,500 = $840,000.For a smaller market, like Ann Arbor, Michigan, the cost would be much less: 12 x 3 x $1,500 = $54,000. These numbers were taken from theLamar Advertisingwebsite in August 2013.

Digital billboards aren’t any cheaper. From an Inc. article back in 2008:

"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 seven 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. Magic Media, a Bangor, Pennsylvania, company that owns more than 10,000 billboards around the country, says its 20 digital signs alone contribute 10 percent of its $30 million in annual revenue. Each digital sign produces $14,000 a month in revenue, typically from multiple advertisers, compared with $1,000 to $2,000 for traditional billboards, which serve only one advertiser. 'My view is that over time all signs, all billboards, will go digital,' says Magic Media CEO Jimmy McAndrew."

But I’m not interested in their cost. Reality marketing mandates that any marketing be both quantitative and deliver a high return on marketing investment, so I’m only interested in whether or not they work. And they don’t. How can they? Here are five reasons why any outdoor advertising is an absurd waste of your hard-won marketing dollars.

You pay per impression.

This is how you pay for all advertising. In essence, you rent the potential audience from the advertising company. So, if 50,000 people drive by your sign every day, the outdoor company expects 50,000 people to see your ad and that’s how you pay for the space. The more eyeballs, the higher the costs. Of course, this is ridiculous because, as you know, not everyone sees your ad. In fact, most people who drive by every day never notice your ad. But the people who own the space don’t see it like that and they don’t sell it like that either. This has to stop. You shouldn’t be renting anyone else’s audience; you should be building your own through earned media.

People aren’t even looking at the road, so how can they be looking at your sign?

The data is ridiculous. Today, people are paying less attention to what’s outside and more attention to what’s inside. Cars now have navigation screens that are the size of small TVs. They display music, weather, traffic and even email and text messages. Add to that the number of people on their smartphones while driving, and it seems like no one is paying attention to the road, let alone looking at your ad on a roadside sign. I don’t care how big, bold, bright or creative your ads are.

There is NO way to truly measure it.

Inbound marketing and reality marketing demand that you execute only quantitative marketing programs. This requirement ensures the ability to track the success of each tactic. While we could add elements to an outdoor ad that would allow us to track it, how many times have you jotted down a phone number, website address or, better yet, landing page from an outdoor billboard? I’m guessing that’s a small number. Maybe a QR code would work? Nope. By the time you got out your smartphone, found the reader, activated it, took the scan … well, you’re definitely well past the ad at this point if you haven’t driven off the road.

You can run a full inbound marketing program for the same money.

The cost of the campaign is ridiculously high: $840,000 for a campaign in Atlanta and $54,000 for a campaign in Ann Arbor. Let’s settle in the middle and say that it’s going to be $200,000. For that price, we are able to execute an entire year’s worth of inbound marketing tactics, track real results, optimize it monthly for performance and drive real leads and real sales for your business.

It’s like gambling: The odds are in the house’s favor.

Maybe this analogy will help you understand what you are doing if you go with advertising of any kind. It’s just like gambling. You take your money, put it down and hope to get a hit with your number, color or cards. With advertising, you take your money, buy ads and hope that someone sees them at the exact time he or she needs your product/service and is willing to take action to buy what you sell.

If you are still up for advertising, my advice to you is ... good luck!

Start Today Tip – There are so many better, more efficient and more effective ways to get the right people to be aware of what you do and what you sell. Take some time to evaluate these tactics and see how they are perfectly aligned with the way your prospects want to buy your products and services. Better yet, test a few for yourself. Since they are all measureable, you're going to quickly see how effective and efficient tactics like content marketing, email marketing, video/web marketing and social media marketing are in terms of helping you get to your revenue goals.

Square 2 Marketing – Leading The Reality Marketing And Inbound Marketing Revolution!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.