Digital outdoor 2013: Outsmarting your competition

Jan. 18, 2013 | by Darrin Friskney

Last year, I had the pleasure of talking with dozens of digital billboard operators throughout the United States. With more than 250 independent operators as customers, I often hear about the challenges operators face and best practices they employ to succeed, whether they are installing their very first digital billboard or already have many in operation.

No matter the size, these operators are forecasting future sales, choosing locations and developing sales strategies to determine if digital is the right choice for them. There are three important developments that are contributing to a competitive advantage for digital billboard operators in 2013:

  1. Lower prices: As LEDs have become more affordable, the purchase price of a digital billboard is now nearly half what it was five years ago. The price of a 14-foot-by-48-foot digital billboard is nearing $180,000; just five years ago the price was $350,000. As cost of acquisition has dropped, the cost of operation has plummeted as well. Higher efficacy LEDs have made it possible to cut energy usage by 50 percent over digital billboards manufactured in 2008. For operators, this means that potential digital billboard locations that would not have been profitable a few years ago may now be good candidates. Now is the time to take another look at potential locations you may have ruled out.
  2. Cost-effective, influential advertising: Advertisers have now had several years to observe the impact of digital advertising. They have found the traditional advertising channels they used just a few years ago — television, radio, newspaper — today are too expensive and ineffective due to the prevalence of DVRs, satellite radio and declining newspaper circulations. Advertisers are impressed with the benefits of digital billboards — their ability to display new dynamic content on a daily basis, promote updated content several times a day and reach a broad audience. On a cost-per-impression basis, digital billboards are now accepted as one of the most affordable and effective advertising tools available.
  3. An increasingly favorable regulatory environment: Towns and municipalities have affirmed that digital billboards can play an important role in their communities. Digital boards are utilized throughout the U.S. to display Amber Alerts, Silver Alerts, emergency weather alerts, Homeland Security bulletins and public safety messages. Digital billboards have been instrumental in helping the FBI and other law enforcement agencies catch dozens of criminals after their profiles have been publicized. These benefits can assist operators in the zoning and permitting process, as communities increasingly see tangible benefits to digital billboards.

While any of these developments on their own would have an impact on the success of digital operators, the convergence of all three creates a very favorable environment for 2013. Look for more billboard operators to go digital in 2013 as they realize that now is the time to act for a competitive advantage.

Topics: Digital Billboards , Outdoor Signage

Darrin Friskney / Friskney is vice president of sales for the Outdoor Advertising Division of Danville, Ill.-based Watchfire Signs, which has been manufacturing outdoor electric signs since 1932.
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