Skip to main content

The History of Billboard Advertising

Topic Progress:

The History of Billboard Advertising

Then

Billboards are one of the oldest forms of display marketing. During the early 1800s, local merchants would display signs or posters to help bring passerby traffic into their stores. As the automobile industry took off in the early 1900s, so too did the opportunity for billboard expansion across the growing road system.

Especially in the early days, billboard advertising wasn’t exclusively used by companies. One use was to help further spread specific causes, especially during times of war. Take the popular “I Want You For U.S. Army” poster created by James Montgomery Flagg in 1917 to help to recruit during World War 1. His use of the iconic “Uncle Sam” became widely known following the creation and distribution of this advertisement.

Billboard History Uncle Sam

As corporations saw the power these display marketing tools could have, they also became heavily involved. Take the 1931 Coca-Cola holiday billboard campaign that featured what became the modern-day interpretation of Santa Claus. This display of branding became a copied system for brands for many years to come.

Billboard History Coca Cola

Now

As technology capabilities have increased, so have billboard designs and their creativity. McDonald’s creates billboards like this to help remind people how late they’re open.

Billboard History McDonalds

As technology capabilities have increased, so have billboard designs and their creativity. McDonald’s creates billboards like this to help remind people how late they’re open.

Today, there are two main types of billboard delivery systems: Static and Digital.

Static billboards are the more traditional type, where a single non-interactive image is displayed. Although basic in function and sometimes design, depending on the design these can be incredibly powerful due to their simplicity in delivering their branded message.

Digital billboards utilize technology to add even more content to the billboard display. These billboards vary significantly in regards to their style, length, and overall feel. What does remain consistent throughout is their use of creativity.

What does the future of billboard advertising hold? It’s hard to say definitively, but basic trends in the market suggest an increase in personalization. Imagine driving down the road and seeing a billboard that’s retargeting a product or service you’ve been researching recently? With more personalization comes better use of advertising budgets, making billboards an even better option to include in your overall market strategy.

History of Billboards