Digital billboards can be changed in real time for special promotions.

Adaptive Creative

Digital billboards offer real-time brand awareness to high-traffic areas

In a digitized world, spa retailers have found value in digital billboards.

Cavanaugh Pool, Spa & Patio in Madisonville, Kentucky, has been using two digital billboards in its newest market — Owensboro, Kentucky — for about three years, owner Chris Cavanaugh says. Traditional billboard advertising still makes up a key piece of the company’s marketing strategy, partially because it’s required in the terms for the digital billboard to also have a static billboard ad.

Traditional billboards offer extensions and embellishments beyond the standard rectangle.

While static billboards continue to offer benefits — including creative opportunities such as extensions and embellishments outside the traditional rectangle — Dan Levi, chief marketing officer of Clear Channel in New York, says digital billboards can have creative updates in real time. These updates can instantly reflect promotions/sales or change messaging based on factors such as the season or adjust to local/national news. 

“Digital gives you the ability to make those changes rapidly and be very responsive,” Levi says. “A perfect example of that for so many of our advertisers across the country … is adjusting their creative so that when they’re reaching people during a time of crisis like [COVID-19], their advertising is reflective of that. [Advertisers are] sending positive messages to the marketplace, keeping their brand out there, but doing so in a way that doesn’t come up tone-deaf or insensitive.”

Cavanaugh says the billboard advertising company he works with provides information on the average vehicle count his billboard reaches. His ad is on a rotation with eight other advertisers — a standard for Clear Channel as well, according to Levi. Cavanaugh monitors ROI by simply asking customers how they found his company; many mention the billboards.

Cavanaugh also uses geofencing, Google AdWords and social media marketing to reach his audience. Levi says that kind of digital out-of-home marketing can be combined with digital billboard ads to be part of a larger programmatic ad ecosystem. Doing so allows advertisers “to retarget specific audience groups by leveraging mobile location data that comes from apps on smartphones where people have opted in to the data being used to understand where they go and what they do out there in the physical world,” Levi explains.

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Using this type of technology “allows us to look at groups of people and say, ‘Where do they go in the real world?’ ” Levi says. “What are their travel patterns? What are the roads that they take? Or what stores are they visiting? Things like that. And then we use those insights to help our advertisers target people who meet that kind of criteria.”

For spa retailers specifically, he adds, this can mean using mobile-collected data to choose areas for a digital billboard with high home ownership versus rentals, or homes with children versus those without. These audience-specific data points can make choosing a location and a message more synergetic.

“That combination of audience targeting and proximity and location targeting gives us the ability to help advertisers select the best locations,” Levi says, adding that this increases the marketing value of the digital billboard.

Another add-on for a campaign that uses digital billboard advertising includes mobile retargeting campaigns, Levi says. Using geofencing and geotracking to capture those anonymous aggregated mobile devices, digital advertising companies can then retarget those same people with mobile ads on behalf of the company the target customer just saw on the billboard.

Despite the capabilities of digital technology, Levi says the digital billboard advertising industry is highly regulated. It can’t use animation or videos and must continue to rely on a still image for driver safety. He suggests using eight words or fewer for the billboard ad design, which gives onlookers the right amount of time to absorb the ad’s information. Cavanaugh says keeping the branding and vital information — like the company’s logo, phone number and website — on billboard advertising, as well as consistency across the company’s marketing collateral, has helped brand cohesion and maintained appeal for its target demographics. Above all, Levi says, a successful digital billboard campaign knows its audience and crafts a message to reach them.