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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What images does your brain conjure up when we mention billboards to you? Many people now seem to think of them as dull; once a good innovation in the world of advertising but not an unnecessary waste of space, or perhaps even a gaudy intrusion of advertising into the real world outside of television and newspapers.

But no matter what you might personally think of outdoor advertising, it clearly must be working, and working well – in America alone, the market is worth $6.5 billion, and this grew by more than 4% over the last year, and Anastasia Kourovskaia, of the consultancy firm Millward Brown Optimor, has stated that out of home advertising is “one of the few traditional media channels forecast to grow over the next few years.”

The Evolution of the Billboard
The humble billboard has come a long way since the earliest known billboard rentals, all the way back in 1867. They really took off and became popular once the Ford Model T started selling well, as soon a large number of people were using motorways, meaning their potential target audience expanded at a dramatic pace. 

Since then, they have become almost ubiquitous. Apart from the banning of cigarette advertisements, billboard usage has only expanded. There are even some billboards that have become so well-known as to have been made into almost cultural landmarks – just think of the illuminated signs in Piccadilly Circus, or try to imagine Times Square without the famous Coca-Cola, Toshiba and NASDAQ signs.

Billboards have moved mostly moved away from the traditional paint and glue method, heading towards digital posters and billboards, as well as the plastic ones which either slide up and down on, say, a bus shelter, or the larger ones which rotate, showing three or four different adverts. 

They can be changed depending on the time of day – a coffee on the way to work, a takeaway on the way back – and they can be switched within minutes: Strongbow had a celebratory billboard up within 15 minutes of Usain Bolt scoring gold in the Olympics. If you’d rather opt for a more permanent solution, however, visit this website for some of the most modern innovations in bespoke signage.

The Future of the Billboard
The future of the billboard is looking mighty futuristic indeed. Some screens will be fitted with cameras, so that they can work age the sex and age of the people most attracted to them, and change the display respectively.

And with the rise in popularity of Wi-Fi, billboards are being built to take advantage of the ubiquity of mobile phones, zapping personalised adverts to the smartphones of the people who walk past.

The billboard has been a mainstay for more than a century; it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

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