Trends point to continued growth for digital billboards

By Darrin Friskney, Watchfire Digital Outdoor

Digital billboards are a wonderful success story. In just 10 years, digital billboards have gone from introduction to widespread acceptance by billboard operators, advertisers and local zoning authorities.

There now are more than 2,500 digital billboards in the United States. That’s pretty impressive for a product that’s disrupting a 150-year-old industry.

Part of the reason for this growth is the recession. Sounds counterintuitive, but billboard operators have seen local ad dollars dry up during the recession, and many turned to digital to stem the downturn in sales. One operator told me that although digital makes up just 4 percent of his inventory, it accounts for nearly 50 percent of his revenue.

A number of other trends are pointing to accelerated adoption of digital billboards:

  • Steady decrease in prices — The prices of digital billboards have fallen nearly 20 percent in the past couple years as LEDs become more affordable. This means that locations that wouldn’t have financially supported a digital billboard two years ago may be profitable locations today.
  • Better energy efficiency — Higher efficacy LEDs allow digital billboards to operate using far less energy today, resulting in lower operating costs. In fact, energy requirements for some boards have been cut in half in just two years.
  • Acceptance by states — Eighty-two percent of states now allow digital billboards, and many large cities support the use of digital boards.
  • Advertisers understand the value — Both local and national advertisers are taking note of digital billboard features, such as dynamic content. Employing digital billboards to the fullest extent has put them on par with media like television, radio and the Internet.
  • Boards look good over time — If calibrated correctly, digital billboards have proven to hold on to their good looks. In addition, boards persevere through time and weather with little maintenance and still look great.
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