If you’ve ridden in a car in your life, either as a driver or passenger, you have undoubtedly seen a billboard which, at the least, caught your attention and possibly influenced a buying decision. Billboards are a ubiquitous feature of American highways and have been channeling consumer decisions for multiple decades. So, what makes them work and why do advertisers continue to use them? More importantly, where will billboard design go for the future of outdoor advertising? Let’s look first at some successes of the past.
Classic and Timeless
Although the products and ad mediums may change over time, the overarching goal is still the same - catch the attention of the target audience and keep their attention, even after the image is no longer in sight. Clever designs often conveyed story elements or would continue a narrative through a series of signs along the roadway. Catchy slogans or popular cultural references are also effective. Consider the popular internet memes of modern social media and you have the essence of billboard advertising. A quick message, related image and easy to read font are the keys to grabbing the public’s attention. But, what new methods are available to push this advertising medium to new potentials? Well, consider the meme as a jumping off point for billboards of the future.
New Tools-New Designs
As we all know, we are firmly entrenched in the digital era. Computers and mobile devices have become such a dominating part of everyday life; it’s really impossible to overlook their importance and influence. When considering the future of billboards and advertising, then, it becomes apparent that technology will play an integral part in new designs and methods to reach the consumer public. And, as previously stated, by considering trends on social media and communication, we are seeing trends for advertising, as well.
Electronic billboards are already a staple for many highways. Whereas billboards of the past had to be manually changed, electronics allow the advertiser to quickly make changes to format, ad focus or numerous other variables, derived from keeping pulse on consumer trends. In addition, multiple advertisers can occupy one space through a series of rotating electronic billboard designs. Imagine a prime location on a highway or in-town intersection, where views will be substantially higher. In the past, one advertiser would pay for that spot and most likely for a considerably higher price. With electronic boards, numerous advertisers can benefit from the high traffic location. Furthermore, the billboard company exponentially increases its revenue, as multiple advertisers will be paying for the same coveted spot.
And consider the visual possibilities. 3-D technology is more lifelike in each of its subsequent generations. The ad medium could literally reach out and touch the consumer. Or melding ad space with existing terrain. Not a new idea, but highly effective in drawing attention and clever enough to hold the attention over time. We have even seen “experiments” involving people using their bodies as living breathing billboards, although some are much less permanent.
Pushing this idea further, imagine that the consumer can interact or contribute to a billboard ad campaign via their mobile device. Think QR codes, but on a much larger scale. Cell camera picks send the consumer to a site specifically designed to engage the consumer and promote products, services or other consumer wants and needs. Then, continue the process by posting to your social media sites about your experiences. The customer-advertiser connection comes full circle.
So, what will billboard ads look like 100 years from now? Probably a mixture of all of the above with a healthy dose of the culture of the times. Regardless the method, the goal will always be the same: capture the attention, retain the information, sell the product. Otherwise, its just words on a picture.