MBPT Spotlight: Consumer’s Call Digital Billboards Cool—and Recall Ad Messages

Digital billboards represent a growing advertising opportunity for marketers to reach an audience of consumers who think the medium is “cool” and who exhibit a heavy recall of the messages they see.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America recently commissioned a Nielsen on Location survey to help advertisers and media sellers better understand digital billboards. The resulting report says there are now over 6,100 digital billboards available for marketers in 166 DMAs across the U.S.

Nielsen conducted an online survey with U.S. residents who live in 5 markets – Atlanta, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Tampa. Respondents were screened for having traveled on specified roads containing digital billboards within the past 30 days. Ad recall was tested for 30 out-of-home campaigns running on digital billboards in those markets involving six brands per market.

Some of the general findings: 75% of respondent recalled seeing a digital billboard in the past month; 60% noticed one in the past week; 55% recalled the message on the screen “every time or most of the time” they passed by; 82% recalled ads from the digital billboards; 71% said ads on digital billboards stand out more than ads online; 72% think digital billboards are “a cool way to advertise;” 61% agree it’s a good way to learn about sales and events; and 46% believe digital billboard ads stand out more than ads on TV.

At 82%, advertising was the digital billboard content that was noticed most by travelers. Next were Amber or missing child alerts at 35%, followed by community event information at 24% and weather alerts at 18%.

The survey found digital billboards can be used to drive consumers into stores. Among those surveyed, 37% noticed a digital billboard in the past month providing specific directions to a nearby store or restaurant, and 22% have changed their plans to visit the location featured in the ad.

In each of the five test markets, six brand ads were used on the digital billboards. In Atlanta, the top performing ad was for a local major league sports TV broadcast, with 58% of the viewers having recalled that ad. Next was a legal services ad at 54%, an airline ad recalled by 46%, a local deli ad recalled by 38%, a grocery store ad by 32% and a plumbing service ad by 18%.

In Cincinnati, the top performing ad was for a local zoo with 68% of the digital billboard viewers recalling that ad. Next was a lottery ad recalled by 65%, a sports broadcast recalled by 63%, a grocery store ad recalled by 43%, a bank ad by 42% and a QSR ad recalled by 29%.

The Minneapolis the top performing digital billboard ad was for a major national QSR chain with 46% recalling it, followed by an appliance retailer ad with 32% recall, a pizza restaurant ad with 28% recall, a coffee shop ad and a bank ad both with 25% of the travelers recalling it, and a deli ad recalled by 17%.

In Phoenix, the top performing ad was for a local casino with 58% of the past month’s digital billboard viewers recalling it. Next was a sports broadcast ad recalled by 48%, an auto dealer ad recalled by 41%, a soft drink ad recalled by 36%, an outdoor recreation ad recalled by 32% and a television news ad recalled by 23%.

Finally in Tampa, a lottery ad was the top performing digital billboard ad, recalled by 62%, followed by a cable TV/Internet provider ad with 55% recall, a public safety ad with 47% recall, an amusement park ad with 45% recall, a grocery store at ad with 36% recall and a local radio station ad with 33% recall.

Some other survey response percentages: 68% said digital billboard ads are visually appealing; and 68% said they make the city look more modern.

With the ultimate goal of advertising being to spur consumer action, the survey examined actions consumers take in response to seeing a digital billboard.

More than one-third – 36% — of those who noticed a digital billboard in the past month said they have talked about something they saw in the ad with their friends and family and 8% recommended the advertiser or brand to others.

Nearly one in five – 19% — said they have visited a business, store or restaurant seen in a digital billboard ad and 14% have made a purchase. Also, 14% watched the TV program featured in the billboard ad and 12% turned in to the radio station advertised.

While digital billboards are an offline medium, they do prompt online action, the survey found.

Some 18% of those who saw a digital billboard message searched online for more details about the message featured; 17% visited the advertiser’s website; 9% accessed a coupon from the advertiser’s mobile service; and 4% posted a social media note about the billboard and its message.

The median age of those surveyed was 43 with a good percentage in every five years of age group. Among the participants were 53% male and 47% female, with 69% white, 14% Hispanic, 12% black and 3% Asian. Another 2% declined to state their race.

Overall 58% were in the 25-54 buying demo and 30% were multicultural. Also, 40% had a college degree or higher, 39% had a household income of $75,000 plus and 59% were employed, with the remainder primarily being full-time students, stay at home spouses or partners, and retired people.

One caveat that should be noted is that many of those surveyed do spend a lot of time in their cars. The mean number of miles traveled per week by a person surveyed, either as the driver or passenger, is 153 miles. And the mean amount of time spent in a vehicle per weekday is 4 hours and 31 minutes.

The study does show, however, that digital billboards are an effective way to reach consumers when they are not involved with traditional media platforms and that they do spur consumer reaction.

“Digital out of home is part of advertising’s future, and digital billboards offer brands a quick and flexible solution to target today’s mobile consumer,” says Stephen Freitas, OAAA chief marketing officer. “Communities are impressed by the medium’s ability to drive awareness and business.”