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With costs typically as high as $2,500 for a single placement, billboard ads are an expensive investment for advertisers. However, as consumers find more ways to avoid other types of traditional advertising like television and radio, advertisers turn to billboard ads, which are hard to avoid. In her December 2010 article "Brighter Summer for Outdoor Advertising," Media Life Magazine writer Toni Fitzgerald indicated that U.S. companies spent $1.44 billion on billboards and other outdoor advertising during the 3rd quarter alone in 2010.
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Billboard advertising is part of the support media class known as outdoor advertising. Billboards are typically large signs along highways or major roadways in metropolitan areas. They are generally used either to announce that a business is upcoming to travelers on the highway or to flood a busy city or metropolitan area to reach a large number of people multiple times to reinforce a message.
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Costs of billboards vary greatly based on the economy of the area in which your ads are placed, the billboards' location, and the potential daily estimated traffic (number of exposures). Typical placement ranges from $700 to $2,500 per month, according to Gaebler.com. Billboards are rarely purchased in singular packages in a metropolitan area, though; you often buy signage as a package. Buying space on 10 billboards for one month, at the high end, could cost up to $25,000 per month. Though this sounds expensive, a billboard in Chicago or New York could potentially get hundreds of thousands of daily views based on the number of people going by them in the course of a day. Plus, costs have decreased as technology has developed computer-generated vinyl sheeting for sign creation versus hand-painting that was typical years ago.
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Billboard advertising does offer some major benefits that distinguish it from other forms of advertising. Repeated exposure opportunities are significant. Someone entering a downtown area daily for work could see your message on a daily basis. Though the total cost seems high, the efficiency of billboard ads is very low in terms of cost per exposure relative to other media. You can select billboards located near your target demographic. Plus, billboards typically do not come down at night, so your message has virtual around-the-clock exposure.
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Billboards do pose some limitations that may get in the way of your business finding good value based on the costs. One limit is inability to target an audience other than knowing what type of people drive through a particular area. Sometimes, you can target specific types of workers entering an area. However, defining a more specific audience is difficult. Creative limitations exist as well. Billboards must have strong visual appeal, as you do not have much time to hit passersby with a lot of words.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.