Designing Digital Billboards to Win

Publication: Billboard Weekly
June 3, 2009
By Darrin Friskney, Watchfire Digital Outdoor

Digital billboards are unique to the outdoor advertising industry and deserve creative messages that capitalize on qualities found only in LED boards. With a palette of trillions of colors, images on digital billboards can appear to jump off the board, and other design elements offer a richness, timeliness and flexibility not available on vinyl billboards.

So, when I see a traditional billboard ad replicated on a digital billboard, it makes me feel a little sad. The advertiser is missing out on the many benefits that make digital billboards such an effective medium.

In my quest to improve advertising displays on digital billboards, I’ve put together some tips to help advertisers and digital billboard operators create advertising messages appropriate for digital billboards, and help to move audiences to take action.

  • Target customers with relevant and timely ads. The day part capability of digital billboards should be used to target customers with relevant messages. For example, place an ad for breakfast sandwiches during the morning drive time and dinner specials during the evening rush hour.
  • Take advantage of digital’s color spectrum. Use color gradients and shading to create the illusion of dimension so the ad literally pops off the board. Utilize photos to grab the attention of viewers.
  • Use multiple ads to tell a story. For example, a restaurant can run one ad message with name and location and another ad with a lunch special.
  • Keep content fresh. Digital billboards allow you to change messages instantly, so use specific sales and price points on ads because they drive immediate traffic and produce a significant ROI.
  • Stick with one idea per ad. Don’t overcrowd an ad by trying to include too much information. Decide on one main message for your ad: an offer, event, sale, etc. Don’t overcrowd your ad with logos, photos and contact points.
  • Integrate outdoor with other media. Use timely, short-term promotions that tie into a broader campaign. For example, a weekend-only automotive price promotion can be pre-scheduled to go up on a Friday and down on Monday, and can tie in with TV and newspaper advertising.
  • Use digital outdoor to test. Since digital creative can be changed easily and quickly, use it to test ad concepts, messages, colors and images. In addition, advertisers can test lunch menus, auto rebates, and other offers. Finally, advertisers can test dayparting and frequency to come up with the best combination.

More ideas are available in a free design guide. Design to Win: How to Get the Most From Your Outdoor Digital Design is available at

Darrin Friskney is director of Watchfire Digital Outdoor. He can be reached at or at 866-949-9282.

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