Billboards and branding

A Missouri S&T billboard in Kansas City highlighting the school’s Mars Rover Design Team, which won a world championship.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is apparently the odds-on favorite to win a lot of Oscars at tonight’s Academy Awards ceremonies. But whether the movie brings home any trophies, it has reaffirmed something many marketers in our digital age may hesitate to admit:

Billboards  work.

We higher ed marketers must know this. Because we love our billboards, and we have a lot of them.

It turns out we’re not wrong. A recent article in MarketingProfs about targeting millennials with billboards and other out-of-home (OOH) advertising suggests that billboards work because they’re not as intrusive as online ads.

Paul Inman, author of the MarketingProfs article (who also works for a UK-based billboard advertising company), notes that “approximately 63% of (millennials)  are thought to use ad-blockers on at least one of their devices. That cynicism is largely the result of the saturation of the online space with conflicting and overly promotional ads, which have made it extremely difficult for messaging to shine through.”

And nobody has yet created an ad-blocker for OOH media.

There are other advantages. People spend a lot of time on the move — in their cars, walking through cityscapes, in train and subway stations — so effective billboards and other OOH can capture attention, assuming we look up from our smartphones long enough to notice.

But there are drawbacks, as there are with any form of advertising. When driving, a billboard may catch your attention for a fleeting moment. But it’s doubtful that you’ll jot down the web address or take immediate action based on what you saw. You’re too busy driving.

You also can’t measure the activity surrounding billboards as easily as you can with digital marketing. There are no click-throughs or eye-tracking to see how people reacted to our creative OOH marketing.

Nevertheless, billboards are worth considering for your marketing mix. They may not play the starring role, but they can certainly be supporting actors.




Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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