In the age of digital, why spend money on billboards?

I recently came across a post on LinkedIn about Gas Buddy billboard by Dave Morse.

While I agree with Dave’s comments, I had an entirely different question – In the age of digital, why spend money on billboards?

My major issues with this are high costs and non-trackable ROI.

High Cost, Low ROI.

Are Billboards good for brand awareness? They can be. But the cost is too high for any rational justification. In my hometown (Boston), it costs approximately $10,000 to $20,000 for a 4-week Billboard slot. More, in some cases. I assume, it’d be about the same in other major metropolitan areas.

While it may be okay for big companies like gas buddy to burn their cash in this manner, I would discourage small businesses to go this route.

Instead, I’d go the Video + Memorable Message + Social Media route.

Here’s an idea:

Take GasBuddy for example. The pain point is gas prices.

How about a video of a person driving around town looking at gas prices. After noticing prices at 4 or 5 different stations, he drives around to the one he found the cheapest and comes back to it to fill gas. The video also shows the time he begins his quest, and the time he ends his quest. Satisfied he got the best price, a smile sweeps on his face. Then he opens his Facebook and sees a Gas Buddy ad which shows him how to find lowest price gas around in matter of seconds. He gasps. He smiles and he immediately clicks on the Download App button.

Now, blast this video via social media. It’s really simple. Low cost, high ROI.

Billboards are high cost, low ROI.

No real Tracking or Conversion mechanism.

The simple fact is ROI cannot be tracked with Billboards. If you cannot calculate the ROI, it would be difficult to decide where to funnel your marketing dollars for most effectiveness.

With social media, you can see exactly how many people saw the ad, how many people interacted with it, and how many people downloaded the app.

Metrics ought to drive marketing dollars. If not, you either have too much money to spend or you’re spending it foolishly.

In conclusion

Billboards are great if you don’t care about conversions or costs. But if you do, I’d think twice before using them as a marketing strategy. There are better, effective tools.

Always remember … Marketing strategies should never be seen in terms of good or bad. They always ought to be seen as either effective or ineffective. What was effective twenty years ago, is not effective today. What is effective today, may not be effective twenty years from now.

Today, billboards make an ineffective marketing strategy. Social media is what works today. 30-years from now … something else may reign supreme Who knows? But for now, video + great messaging + social media works.