Traditional vs Digital Billboards – Which is Right for your SME?

Traditional vs Digital Billboards – Which is Right for your SME?

We’ve seen billboard advertising come under increased scrutiny in recent times, as the out-of-home (OOH) sector continues to enjoy consistent growth across the globe.

Despite only accounting for around for 6% of the total advertising spend around the world, it is the only offline media category that continues to expand in the digital age.

In fact, the OOH market has seen its total revenues increase by around 30% during the last two years, forcing entrepreneurs to recognise the power of billboards as a key driver of engagement and assisted conversions.

However, not all billboards are created equal, so it’s important that SMEs make an informed choice between traditional and digital ad spaces. In this post, we’ll compare these two options and determine which one is right for you?

Billboard ad - Easy Bathrooms

Traditional vs. Digital Billboards – What are the Key Considerations?

In order to compare the market thoroughly, you’ll first need to understand the key considerations when launching a billboard campaign. By measuring these against your own expectations and circumstances, you can make a decision that helps your SME to achieve its marketing objectives.

Here are some of the main points to keep in mind when appraising traditional and digital billboards:

1. Reach and Brand Exposure

With OOH now established as the most effective form of offline media, channels such as billboards have superseded television as the best medium for building brand awareness for businesses. This is great news for SMEs (particularly given the cost of national TV advertising), but it’s important to note that traditional and digital billboards offer different propositions to clients.

With digital billboards, for example, you’ll usually be required to share a designated advertising space with up to five additional brands. As a consequence, your advert will only receive 10 seconds of airtime per minute on a digital billboard, forcing you to compete with contrasting messages and potentially more recognisable brands in the process.

This is far from ideal, particularly for smaller businesses that are looking to drive recognition and awareness around their brand. Remember, research has found that the advent of the smartphone has left customers with an average attention span of just eight seconds, making it hard to engage them in a relatively small period of time.

In contrast, traditional billboards can be secured exclusively, with some service providers offering contracts that can last for up to 12 months. This enables SMEs to achieve maximum exposure within their targeted locations, gradually building awareness and driving interaction with customers in the process.

Billboard advertising

2. The Cost of Billboard Advertising

Cost is likely to be another important consideration for SMEs, and once again there is a pronounced difference between the various propositions of traditional and digital billboards.

If we take the latter, for example, a typical two-week booking can cost anywhere between £800 and £1,323 on average. This includes both the rental cost and the price of producing your advert, while there are a number of variable factors that can also influence your bottom line spend (such as the location of your billboard, but we’ll explore this in a little more depth later).

This represents a significant investment, particularly when you consider the restrictions in terms of airtime and brand exposure. It is also a considerable outlay for small and medium sized firms, which typically have a restricted market budget that must be deployed wisely if it’s to achieve a viable ROI.

This brings us neatly onto traditional billboards, which can be secured at a far lower rental cost. While the costs associated with traditional billboards will be dependent largely on the size of your advert, it’s almost universally more cost-effective to invest in this medium over a longer period of time.

So, while production costs can occasionally be slightly higher to the procurement of print materials and design, 48-sheet billboards (which boast dimensions of 3m x 6m) can be rented for as little as £300.00 over the course of a two-week booking.

Interestingly, billboard brands have been quick to leverage this cost advantage by offering further reductions in exchange for longer-term booking. In terms of the larger, 3m x 12m 96-sheet billboards, for example, this means that SMEs can secure a year-long booking at a rental cost of just £180 per week. Even when you add a £275 production fee to this total, you’re left with an extremely competitive price plan that optimises your SMEs’ level of exposure while enabling you to achieve genuine value for money.

Billboards on a busy street

3. The Location of Your Billboard

We’ve already touched briefly on the location of your billboard, and this is crucial when effectively targeting your core demographics. For your campaigns to be successful, you’ll also need to advertise in high-traffic areas that optimise the reach of your brand (bearing in mind that this will also impact on the cost of your billboards).

In this respect, it can be argued that digital billboards offer more value to SMEs. This is because digital adverts are usually reserved for the busiest locations, including those that have the highest levels of footfall and are the most likely to drive a high number of impressions.

Impressions refer to the number of times that potential customers are likely to see a particular advert, so digital adverts may be your best bet if you want to raise brand awareness and share your message with the mass market.

Your SME may have different objectives, of course, such as advertising a brand new product range or directly targeting a new demographic. In this instance, you may need to prioritise locations that are relevant to a specific audience, including fixed geographical areas and communal, public spaces. In this instance, it’s more important that your campaign is targeted, so traditional billboards may well serve as your most suitable option.

If you do invest in a digital billboard in a busy, high-traffic location, however, just make sure that your budget can cope with the inflated costs. As an example, a 96-sheet billboard in London’s iconic Piccadilly Circus would cost an average of £727 per week (plus VAT), with this price point accounting for the huge footfall that passes through the area on a daily basis.

So, while such an approach may optimise the reach of the SME and its primary message, this must be balanced against the additional cost, your objectives and your overall marketing budget.

The Last Word

These are the main considerations when choosing between traditional and digital billboards, and SMEs should think both carefully and strategically before making a decision.

As a general rule, however, traditional billboards are far more cost-effective, while they also help to optimise brand exposure and deliver a superior ROI on your investment.

The key is to consider the pros and cons of both traditional and digital billboards, before measuring these against your own marketing objectives to choose the option that best suits your needs.

Ivan Widjaya

Ivan Widjaya is the Owner/Editor of, as well as several other blogs. He is a business blogger, web publisher and content marketer for SMEs.