Billboards Are Making a Pandemic-Driven Comeback

Billboards Are Making a Pandemic-Driven Comeback

Here’s what Texas executives need to know about outdoor advertising and how to use it to reach consumers.

We Texans are no strangers to billboards, whether they’re alerting us to a Buc-ee’s up ahead on I-35 or to the services of modern icon David Komie (“The Attorney That Rocks”) while we’re stuck in Austin traffic.

Given the still-rolling pandemic that saw so many of us spending more time at home and indoors, outdoor advertising might not seem like an obvious option for most brands. But a closer look reveals something interesting happening: In the past year in Texas, billboards and their outdoor-ad peers are gaining attention from consumers and investment from brands.

It’s true that outdoor advertising — known as out-of-home advertising (OOH) in the industry — took a hit in terms of ad rates and demand in the pandemic’s early months. But since the initial drop, the OOH market has steadily regained traction, and in some cases, it is exceeding pre-COVID levels. This is good news for consumer and B2B brands, and small businesses and major corporations alike, as OOH is one of the most high value and low cost forms of advertising around. And while there’s no such thing as a one-size fits all campaign, outdoor advertising works across any business vertical, whether it’s for a branding exercise or to drive traffic to storefronts, websites, social channels or apps.

In the past year in Texas, billboards and their outdoor-ad peers are gaining attention from consumers and investment from brands.

According to research by the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, 45 percent of U.S. adults now say they notice OOH advertising more than before COVID-19, with particular prevalence in the 18–54 age range. Given digital fatigue and a new appreciation for the outdoors, that makes a lot of sense — today, many of us mentally gloss over the digital ads that clutter our phones and laptops. The research also notes that some 25 percent of the general population say they’ve discovered new brands and businesses thanks to OOH advertising.

Here in Texas, we are currently seeing significant OOH quarter-over-quarter growth in 2021 in four major markets. From Q1 to Q2, Houston saw a 184 percent jump; followed by Austin with 135 percent; Dallas-Fort Worth at 105 percent and San Antonio with a 37 percent increase, according to AdQuick. While Houston is accelerating fastest, Dallas has garnered the most interest from national brands. In Austin, where inventory is limited, advertisers are clamoring for OOH ad space in the state’s most competitive market.

Leveraging Outdoor Advertising to Reach Texas Consumers

Today’s competitive landscape calls for brands to pull out the stops to get in front of consumers. Given the growth of OOH advertising — including static and digital billboards, wallscapes, kiosks, street furniture, bus wraps, subway ads, airport media, and more — this sector represents a big opportunity. Here are a few tips to help you capture your consumers’ attention with outdoor advertising:

Get creative

There really are very few limitations when it comes to OOH advertising. Outdoor ads call on businesses to embrace the go big or go home mentality. They represent the same creative opportunity as a Super Bowl ad but without the exorbitant cost. OOH offers the lowest CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) of any traditional medium. That makes OOH accessible to businesses and budgets of all sizes, and gives them a space to use creativity to capture attention.

Take advantage of new tools to plan and launch your campaign

Billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising were once pigeonholed as primarily a means to build nebulous brand awareness. But developments of the industry have made OOH just as sophisticated and data-rich as digital advertising. You can now plan a rich, targeted OOH campaign just as you would any other.

Today, map-based platforms let advertisers see OOH media availability in a given area, all in one place, with each piece of media labeled with price and impressions. Advertisers can also use such platforms to target OOH ads to certain consumer segments or certain points of interest, and to integrate them into a multichannel campaign across several mediums.

Measure the effectiveness of your OOH campaign

Tracking the performance of OOH media used to be a tedious undertaking. In fact, the data advertisers did collect in the past — specifically impressions — only measured how many people had the potential to view an ad. That’s all changed in recent years with the rise of online OOH buying platforms that simplify the process of not only locating and launching campaigns but measuring them as well.

Today, brands can track and isolate the impact of their outdoor ad campaigns. They can directly attribute online and offline conversions, compare campaign performance across ad units, and measure true ROI with rigorous lift analyses. Armed with this data, advertisers can optimize and adjust their OOH campaigns to increase their effectiveness and see results.

As companies across Texas look to attract and engage consumers, OOH is proving to be an increasingly useful tool — especially now that campaigns can be intelligently planned and tracked in real time. Sleeping on the benefits of OOH means missing the opportunity to build brand awareness, engage customers, and drive incremental revenue. As eager consumers continue making their return to more normal times, the time for businesses to move on OOH is now. 

Matthew O'Connor

Matthew O'Connor is the CEO and cofounder of AdQuick.com, the first platform to allow brands, agencies and individuals to complete the entire process of planning, buying, executing and measuring out-of-home (OOH) advertising campaigns anywhere in the United States and around the globe. He lives in Austin.

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