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Billboards still have a place in a digital world

Across the board, we are seeing big changes in how we consume our media.

According to the latest stats in the Roy Morgan State of the Nation: Media Report, print newspaper readership is down over 40 per cent from 1998, while free to air television viewership has also dipped by 8 per cent. Despite this, advertising spend has risen 17.9 per cent over the last two years to a total of $15.25 billion annually.

A large reason behind this spike is the rise of new media channels like social media and streaming services for video and audio.

But what about the humble billboard and outdoor advertising? In this article, we’ll explore whether people are still noticing this traditional advertising platform.

Digital Billboard

Billboards adopt a digital touch

Just because outdoor advertising is traditional, doesn't mean it can't move with the modern advertising world.

Digital billboards are rolling out across Australia—in shopping centres, train stations, popular thoroughfares and on our streets and highways.

These billboards allow for video and the rotation of multiple advertisements, generating more advertising revenue.

Old school appeal

The Media Precinct recently polled people on the streets of Sydney, with even young people who consume most of their media on mobile devices admitting to being drawn in by billboard advertising.

"It's in your face and it's old school. Obviously on screens and laptops it's a little bit more eye engaging, but billboards will never lose their touch—they're great," one young man said.

"If I was to own an advertising company or if I was to ever own my own product, I would really look towards billboards, because they are eye-catching."

A young woman said outdoor advertising was an effective way to promote upcoming events.

"I think it's a good way of advertising, you're always looking about and I've heard recently from a friend who saw on a billboard this star is coming out—Stevie Nicks," she said. "I always pay attention to these posters and stuff on electricity boxes or bus stops."

Perfect placement

Of the people polled, many said it was the location of billboards and outdoor advertising that generated interest.

One young man admitted that he regularly read the content on this form of advertising because they were stationed at places where he would be sitting still.

"Definitely on the trains and at the train stations because it's probably where I am waiting the most," he said.

Another young woman said it was effective advertising because it was passive, rather than active.

"You don't actually go and seek out billboards to get any information or reviews or anything," she said. "But I am sure that we must absorb a lot of it passively."

Sex sells, or does it?

A common complaint from people polled by The Media Precinct is the blatant use of sex as an advertising tool on outdoor media.

"When you have a lot of billboard advertising that is quite sexually [angled], it's quite promiscuous," a young professional man said. "I don't think it's right, but it works and that's why they do it."

A young woman said that was a large reason why she never looked at billboard advertising for purchasing inspiration.

"Never, ever. Not to mention that half of the time it's just a half naked woman," she said.

There have been numerous recent cases where advertisers have taken the 'sex sells' slogan too far.

Honey Birdette is a lingerie company that has twice had its billboards removed from the shopfronts of Australian stores.

The billboards were said to have breached Section 2.4 of the Australian Ad Standards Bureau Code which states: "Advertising or Marketing Communications shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience".

Brisbane residents recently petitioned the Queensland Government after ads for Sexpo appeared on bus stops and buses that children used for transport to school.

And sportswear company Lonsdale was found to have breached the AASB code for billboards that featured topless women whose modesty was covered by boxing gloves in another recent case.

This all means that the appropriateness of the content is something advertisers need to give thought to prior to considering outdoor as part of their marketing mix.

About the Media Precinct

The Media Precinct is a leading Australian owned media agency known for our research and insights led by Glenda Wynyard. If you are looking for a media agency that understands how people connect with media then email today.

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