How to Maximize the Returns on Outdoor Advertising - dummies

How to Maximize the Returns on Outdoor Advertising

By Alexander Hiam

The costs of outdoor advertising vary widely in marketing campaigns. In the United States, billboards typically range between $1,000 and $5,000 per month, depending on the quality and quantity of traffic.

Digital billboards cost a little more but offer the advantage of lower production and setup costs. When you get down to it, you want to make sure you’re getting your marketing money’s worth out of this investment. The following sections help you do just that.

Make cost-effective billboard buys

Given the high traffic rates on many expressways, you can get a pretty good buy for a billboard on a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) basis. The average U.S. 30-sheet poster reaches adults 18 years and older at a CPM of $1.50 per thousand impressions, which is cheaper than most other media. (Radio costs about twice that figure; TV and print ads cost at least three times as much.)

Of course, the CPM figures here are only the beginning point for cost estimates. Be sure to factor in your estimate of the percent of exposures that reach your target market, which may be small given the numbers of people the ad can potentially reach (in which case, the divisor in that CPM equation goes down, and the price goes up).

For example, the average CPM for reaching women aged 25 to 49 with a 30-sheet poster is about $7 — more than four times as costly as when you don’t care what sort of adults see your poster. If you need to target a specific customer and don’t think the broad viewership of a billboard is for you, look into locational advertising instead.

Boost your reexamination rates

Always consider the likelihood that your billboard exposures lose value after commuters have seen your billboard many days in a row. Do you get the same effect from the 30th viewing of a billboard as you do from the first half dozen? Will anyone even bother to look at the same billboard multiple times?

Maybe not. In outdoor advertising, marketers talk about reexamination rates — the average number of times viewers bother to read the same outdoor ad.

The best billboards have higher reexamination rates because people find them interesting enough to look at again and again. If your ad is clear, easy to read, and attractive or amusing, its reexamination rate will be higher. Keep this goal in mind as you design any billboard (or any banner, sign, or poster for that matter).

Blanket the area with a 100 showing

In most urban markets, you can readily purchase enough outdoor advertising to (theoretically, at least) cover the entire market. The out-of-home advertising industry calls this practice a 100 showing, meaning you have enough billboards at viable locations to supposedly expose 100 percent of the people in that market to your message. (Similarly, a 50 showing gives you a maximum of 50 percent coverage.)

If you’re looking to introduce a product with a broad target market, such as a new restaurant or grocery store, then a 100 showing is a good goal. Search for an agency that handles outdoor advertising in your target city or cities and ask it for a proposal that includes 100 percent coverage.

However, if you’re targeting a more narrow market, such as business managers, don’t worry about percentages. Instead, ask for placement where you can expect the largest concentrations of your target market, such as along a major commuter route.

Take advantage of location to buy smaller, cheaper bulletins

As in print advertising, the costs of billboards vary based on both ad size and audience size. A bulletin costs about four times as much as the standard poster ad — reflecting the fact that a bulletin is about four times as big as a poster. A junior poster (which is about one-sixth the size of a standard poster) costs roughly a quarter of a poster ad.

Not all outdoor advertising is equal. Location makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of your ad. A smart shopper can find good locations that give a bigger bang for the buck than the average outdoor ad space.

If you or your media buyer care enough to shop around (and possibly wait your turn) for locations with low-speed traffic, you can get a billboard that a higher percentage of passersby read more slowly and carefully.