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Move the Meter: Billboards Get Moment in Spotlight, Both On and Off the Screen

An old medium has found new relevance
March 5, 2018

When it comes to advertising, billboards are about as old school as it comes. Yet they’ve been proving their relevance recently, with high-profile placements — and Oscar recognition.
Billboards recently have:

  • Celebrated Serena Williams’ return to tennis. Even though her husband founded the digital platform Reddit, he went low-tech to honor her.
  • Served as the focus of the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri where they, according to the Atlantic, “are striking as a tool of protest—concise, silently confrontational, memorable.”
  • Become central to campaigns to highlight sexual harassment, humanize the crisis in Syria, and promote gun control.

In an age when we use digital advertising to micro-target audiences based on their demographic and psychographic profiles and track how they react, billboards seem like a blunt instrument. Advertisers pay to reach everyone in a geographic area.
However, billboards have two unique benefits:

  • If provocative and timely, they may generate earned media attention and community-wide buzz, as the examples above illustrate.
  • Because inventory is limited, they can offer advertisers a way to stand out in an increasingly cluttered and constantly shifting media landscape.

SE2 client Smart Colorado, which works to protect children from marijuana commercialization, has long insisted on using billboards and they have been proven to be effective, sparking both the aforementioned buzz and media coverage — and even website clicks.
Centuries after billboards were pioneered, advertisers continue to draw on their unique power to make an impact, especially on cause-related campaigns.
Let’s now turn to a new entrant on the digital landscape.
Content Strategist Allison Nipert:
Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be a “next new social media platform,” here comes Vero.

The app claims to be a more authentic version of the social sites people already love, without the stuff they hate (e.g. wonky algorithms, too many ads). It’s too soon whether the app will live up to the hype, so we’ll have to say tuned to see how, or if, Vero disrupts the social sphere.

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