Return of the billboard: Why the future looks bright for big ads

Paul HiebertData Journalist
April 26, 2016, 10:31 AM GMT+0

New data from YouGov Profiles reveals the growing power of interactive billboards to get through to young people

If you thought billboards were on the way out, you'd be dead wrong. Although giant ad displays placed alongside the highway might feel like a relic of yesteryear — especially in a time when all the marketing buzz seems focused on social media and targeted advertising — billboards are getting smarter, interactive, and futuristic. Ad Age reports that as more high-tech billboards become capable of connecting to smartphones, the out-of-home advertising industry is about to enter a renaissance.

New data from YouGov Profiles suggests this renaissance may already have started. Far from being ignored, around one in two people both notice billboards at the side of the road and agree that billboards showing dynamic content, such as breaking news, capture their attention. A growing number of people also use ad blockers when browsing the internet, leaving plenty of online ads unseen.

Young people in particular show promise for the next generation of billboards. For example, when asked if they've ever seen an interactive billboard that can connect with their phone, 33% of those under 30 say that they have — more than any other age group.

Asked directly to choose which they pay more attention to — online ads or digital billboards — for the under 30s its pretty much a tossup. Zoom to the other end of the age spectrum and it's a very different story. Among over 65s, online ads are significantly more noticed than digital billboards.

This is a direct challenge to one of the prevailing narratives of advertising — that traditional media are the best way to reach older people. Online ads are already an accepted part of the landscape, and, ironically, may now be more effective with older, less tech savvy consumers. With new interactive features, the friendly old roadside billboard is getting a new lease of life.