Lately I have noticed a digital billboard trend that has pleasantly surprised me: small markets succeeding with digital billboards. It would seem to go against conventional wisdom for a small-market digital board to be able to net two to three times more than static boards, but it is happening in many small markets.
I believe that it is the absence of local media outlets creating a huge opportunity for digital outdoor. Many of these smaller towns are part of a larger DMA but are 20-30 miles from the larger population base they are grouped with as a market. These "satellites markets," as I call them, rarely have their own local television or radio station, with closest signals usually located in the larger neighboring city. Some might have a local weekly newspaper with more ads than content and predictably low circulation. In short, the sparse media mix leaves little way for local advertisers to target this smaller market without paying large market rates and generating wasted impressions. Herein lays the opportunity for digital outdoor.
To illustrate my point, let's say that a restaurant in a satellite market wants to advertise daily drink and entrée specials. Traditionally, drive-time radio would be the first to get these advertising dollars. Due to the fact that they may be 30 miles from the city where the majority of the radio listeners will be, this medium would generate a ton of waste. They are stuck paying big market dollars to reach a 50-mile radius when they only want to reach the local folks in a 5-mile radius who would actually be good prospects. It is true that they will reach the local prospects using broadcast, but consider what they have to pay to do it and how many impressions reached prospects who are too far away geographically to head in for dinner on their way home from work.
This is where I see local digital boards excelling. These satellite advertisers want the flexibility that broadcast and newspaper bring, without all of the waste. Digital outdoor delivers that flexibility in a more targeted manner.
So don't write off satellite markets as being too small to justify going digital. Take a look at the local advertising options and see if you can fill a need. It's a lot cheaper and easier to put up a digital billboard than it is to license a radio signal.
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.