Billboards and Highways

This time of year has more and more Canadians on the road than any other time. Whether it’s off to cottage country or packing up and heading out on a camping trip, as the final weekends of summer wind down, the highways and major routes can be bumper to bumper. Let’s be honest, there are few things more boring than sitting in a car, for upwards of 4 hours, especially when you’re the passenger. Music can help, if you’ve had time to make the perfect mix tape or are able to dial in to some satellite radio. Surprisingly though, not everyone loves Katy Perry or Joan Baez. Nor do they appreciate U2’s Joshua Tree on repeat, in the event that all technology and planning has been left behind or forgotten about all together. You can read, but that will just lead to car sickness (or at the very least, will give you a headache).  You could do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle, but same again = car sick. You could talk to your fellow passenger(s), but there’s only so much you can talk about until the silence takes over. Before long, you find yourself staring out the window, watching the scenery go by.

It is in that space, that the billboard was born. The invention of lithography helped launch this advertising mechanism into the minds of entrepreneurs around the world. Around since 1867, this medium grew up alongside the automotive industry, populating high-traffic motorways in efforts to attract motorists and their passengers. That being said, some of the very first ones were circus posters, fixed to horse-drawn trucks, paraded through towns preceding the Circus Shows in efforts to increase attendance.  Cities were home to some of the first electric billboards, illuminating cities for the first time, thereby establishing a city’s ‘nightlife’. As more and more people purchased automobiles, billboard advertising experienced tremendous growth. Marketers and advertising agencies had to now consider a wider demographic; options of location and style had more and more influence. Use of comics, photos, made objects larger than life, while celebrity endorsements led to “superstardom” that created Hollywood.

Nowadays, the medium has actually changed very little. A study done in the United States showed that after putting the face of Miss America on a billboard for one month, awareness of Miss America rose from 1.5% to 12%.  The cost effectiveness of billboard advertising has stood the test of time, and remains one of the best ways to build brand awareness. With the rise of online dependency and social media, there is a misconception that traditional mediums such as billboard advertising is slowly becoming extinct in the strategy rooms of many businesses. In fact, the opposite is true. Billboard advertising is essentially operating 24/7, and continues to command the largest reach in terms of audience base. This summer, as you take advantage of the final weekends of the season, drive along the Trans-Canada Highway, take Highway 97, or head north to Highway 16; along nearly every major artery in B.C., you’ll find our recently re-faced billboards promoting many of our locations. With any luck, you’ll find yourself pulling into a Sandman at the next exit.

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