The Evolution of Billboard Advertising


Billboards are an integral component of out-of-home advertising. Their large display area reaches large audiences with eye-catching imagery and captivating messages that engage a target demographic.

Jared Bell created some of the first proper billboards during the 1860s. These large posters displayed colorful images, emphasizing specific aspects of various shows hosted by circus acts like P.T. Barnum.

The first billboards

Billboards were initially defined as posters or handbills placed on buildings and fences to inform passersby of goods or services available for sale, often produced by merchants to promote their offerings and gain new customers. Since their introduction during the early 1800s, billboards have only continued to become more prevalent – becoming an indispensable form of outdoor advertising with milestones in history such as automobile usage increasing viewing potential and improved technology that enables advertisers to track better how successful their ads are performing.

Billboard leasing businesses first made an appearance in 1867. By 1870, nearly 300 sign-painting and billboard-posting companies had emerged across the United States. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, associations like OAAA had formed, providing best practices for creating effective billboards – traveling shows, circuses, and movies were particularly fond of using billboards at this time.

In the 1920s, billboard design and its frames evolved along aesthetic lines. Deluxe 1920s billboards featured vibrant, ornate illustrations with stylized, often idealized figures; product names were highlighted while messages, if any, were muted; frames typically comprised of wood could be painted or covered with canvas covering; more elaborate setups even included end supports that resembled caryatid figures found in Greek architecture.

As the billboard industry developed, more companies utilized national campaigns as marketing strategies. This allowed smaller local businesses without resources for national marketing campaigns to benefit from a national presence on interstate highways, increasing reach and impact.

Companies continue experimenting with ways to make ads more engaging and relevant as the industry expands, including installing sensors that collect data on how many people view an ad and where their attention lands; this data allows companies to evaluate billboard’s effectiveness.

The first billboard companies

As billboards became more and more prevalent, companies emerged dedicated to designing and creating them, leasing space for advertising on highways and roads, and renting billboard space from them for other locations – quickly making the industry one of the most reliable forms of promotion available.

By the 1860s, billboard advertising had become an enormously successful form of promotion. Businesses were finally able to purchase outdoor space to use for billboard ads; many began experimenting with various sizes and shapes; early billboards were often hand-drawn or painted by artisans using brushes, yet quickly became practical marketing tools.

As automobiles emerged as an alternative mode of transportation in the 1900s, so did billboards. When these motorcars replaced horses and trains as their preferred form of travel, advertisers quickly saw how valuable roads and highways could be as potential billboard locations. Thus, multiple billboard associations formalized billboard advertising across the nation. It was during this period when “twenty-four sheets” billboards first appeared at the Paris Expo, eventually becoming standard formats across all billboards.

In 1965, the Highway Beautification Act was passed and established standards for billboards. These included size, spacing, and lighting requirements – although many thought it would end billboard advertising altogether; instead, designers found new ways of presenting their ads that complied with these new rules.

Billboards remain a timeless form of advertising and continue to capture consumers’ attention. As our world becomes more digitalized, billboards have evolved into sophisticated marketing tools capable of targeting specific messages at specific audiences and collecting data about how many people view and interact with them. Digital billboards even collect this data!

If you’re considering starting your own billboard business, you must become acquainted with its industry and current trends. Doing this will allow you to make informed decisions regarding where and how best to invest your funds while creating an advertising campaign that uses every cent spent.

The first billboard ads

Circuses used billboards extensively throughout the 1800s to promote their traveling shows. Jared Bell created some of the first billboards in 1835 to advertise for his Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circuses; these colorful posters drew drivers’ attention as they passed. Although billboards weren’t yet widely utilized as an advertising strategy, they were only seen in major cities.

By 1900, billboards had established themselves physically and were becoming more prevalent throughout America, leading to various billboard associations and standard formats being formed. Large companies like Palmolive and Kellogg began mass-producing billboard ads nationwide. By the turn of the century, most major cities had outdoor billboards.

Billboards have come a long way and employ digital technologies to draw attention and build brand recognition. Many use RFID tags to collect information about people and vehicles that pass by them and show relevant content based on the data gathered, providing more targeted messaging to their target audiences.

Billboard campaigns strive to tell an engaging story that will resonate with their target audiences by using emotional marketing techniques such as humor, anger, empathy, or cleverness. Billboards may also serve as an invitation for viewers to support a cause or visit a website.

As the billboard industry expands, advertisers must strive to develop creative campaigns that stand out. This can be accomplished using targeted messaging, locations, and audiences – as well as by having professional designs create billboards that catch viewers’ eyes and incite them to act – to ensure that consumers respond and sales or traffic increases accordingly.

The first billboard campaigns

Billboards first emerged in the 1830s and were large posters printed in color to draw people in for circus performances. This marked the first instance of mass printing and billboard campaigns. Laws were changed in the 1860s, allowing businesses to lease outdoor space for advertising, thus facilitating a boom in industry and making billboards much more varied and widespread.

Roads and highways were becoming an integral component of American infrastructure, which allowed advertisers to take advantage of them by placing billboards. Billboard campaigns quickly rose in popularity, with big names like Coca-Cola, Palmolive, and Kellogg incorporating them as regular parts of their national marketing strategies.

As these companies expanded, different billboard associations and standards began to form. One standard billboard was unveiled at the Paris Exposition, eventually becoming standard size across the industry. By the 1900s, outdoor advertising had become hugely successful due to Interstate Highway System construction; outdoor ads could now reach wider audiences than ever.

Today’s billboard industry is an energizing business with endless creative and innovative potential. However, this type of advertising can present unique challenges, including privacy concerns and environmental considerations and maintaining fresh content regularly.

Even with its challenges, the future of billboard advertising remains bright, and it remains an integral part of the advertising world. New technological advancements enable it to reach audiences more specifically and meaningfully than ever. We look forward to witnessing how this medium progresses over time and see what changes may emerge; trends may occur that we’re yet to experience first-hand; until then, we should enjoy their beauty!