Different Factors Affecting the Cost of Billboard Advertising

Most people are surprised at how cost-effective billboard advertising is, as the overriding assumption is that billboard advertising is expensive and only for large companies.

However, billboard advertising is experiencing something of a revival augmented by digital technology, providing a choice of classic or modern advertising.

Many factors affect the final price when it comes to billboard advertising, and here are some of them.

The Size of the Billboard

The standard classic billboard is also known as a 48-sheet billboard and is roughly three metres by six metres in size. Double this to a 96-sheet billboard, and expect the price to double accordingly.

96-sheet billboards are the best choice for landscape mode designs, so it’s not just about the size of the advertisement but also the design.

The bigger the billboard, the more the rental will cost and the higher the charge to produce the poster.

What’s the Billboard Made Out Of?

There’s a choice of materials for billboards, including paper, plastic Correx, and vinyl, the choice of which impacts the final cost.

Vinyl is more expensive but is weather and tear-resistant and allows for a brighter and bolder paint finish than traditional posters.

Digital Billboards

Digital billboards are available in the exact equivalent sizing as traditional billboards. 48-sheet digital boards are more expensive than the standard equivalent but can be cost-effective over a more extended advertising period, and the prices compare well with traditional installations.

Long campaigns in excess of twenty weeks can work out at between £22-£25 per day.

96-sheet digital billboards are around double this in both size and cost.

Digital billboards usually have higher maintenance and running costs; however, they can be controlled remotely, and operators can add real-time updates to campaigns.

Digital billboards also allow for programmatic advertising. Advertisers can choose the best times to display their creatives in programmatic advertising. This might be just for morning commuters between 6 am and 9 am or evening commuters between 5 pm and 7 pm.

Programmatic advertising saves wasting money on the wrong audience.

However, one drawback of digital billboards is that they don’t offer exclusivity. Digital billboards usually share space with at least five other advertisers, giving each company or organisation only ten seconds of coverage per minute. Compare this to classic billboards, which are exclusive and offer maximum and continuous exposure 24/7.

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Other Pricing Considerations

Production and Installation Costs

Production and installation costs are almost always separate from the rental charges levied by a billboard company. Production costs depend on the type of advertisement you’re trying to produce.

Billboard companies may cap their production costs or charge based on what’s required in terms of artwork or images. Some billboard companies have their own in-house graphic designers or work with external agencies to produce designs. It may be cheaper to commission this yourself, but always use a designer who is experienced in creating designs for billboards, as it is specialist work. It’s not just a case of taking an A4 design and scaling it, as that won’t always work.

A company or organisation may need reprints if the original is damaged. For long-running campaigns, it’s recommended that the advertisement is renewed every six weeks. Some billboard companies include the cost of any reprints or a set number of reprints in the original production fee, but most do not.

Always remember that if you’re using an actual image from a professional photographer, then you’ll also need to pay a copyright charge.

Some billboard companies will offer free production and installation for long-term rental bookings.

Billboard Rental Period

Simply put, the longer you rent, the more you’ll pay. However, renting for a more extended period of time as, with many things, can lower the cost, reduce higher digital rates, and put them on a par with classic billboard rental charges. Consequently, starting with a more expensive advertisement or location and running the campaign longer can be worth it.

However, depending on the content of the advertisement, a more extended period of advertising may not be beneficial if the subject is date or issue-sensitive.

An excellent example of this might be a last-minute billboard campaign promoting a particular political party before a General Election: longer advertising beyond the General Election date may not be desirable or relevant.

The billboard rental period is different from the advertising cycle. Some promotions are only present for a two-week period before being taken down. The advertisement may be repeated again for a fortnight after a set interval. The advertising cycle is two weeks, but the rental agreement will be for the total amount of time the advertisement is visible on the billboard.

Location, Location, Location

Choose the right location, and your advertisement can stand out and catch the eye of thousands of people rather than getting lost online.

Location is probably the most critical factor to billboard advertising success, whether you opt for a traditional or a digital billboard. You can create the world’s best advertisement, but if the right people and the correct numbers of people don’t see it, then your campaign will crash.

Billboard companies will typically assess the cost of living in different geographical regions to calculate advertising costs. However, some offer a flat rate across all areas, so you won’t pay more for billboard locations in places like London.

Rental rates reflect the precise location right down to the last metre. Why are two billboards on the same road charged at different rates? The answer will be their respective visibility.

A billboard in a city positioned on the side of a building and visible from only one direction will cost less than another billboard further down the same road but on a junction and so visible to traffic and pedestrians from multiple angles and directions.

 

Shopping around for a good deal should always be a priority for a marketing team, but returning to the same billboard company with repeat business usually generates a discount. It’s worth asking the question when you make your first booking for billboard advertising, as this can affect your decision about who to use in the future.

Billboard advertising can pack a long-term punch and really increase brand awareness, and the most successful companies are the ones who invest in advertisement design.

It might be worth diverting money from other areas of the marketing budget to produce an outstanding billboard design for cost-effective and long-term advertising. Great designs earn their keep.

Seasonality affects rental prices unless you have made a fixed deal with a billboard company. Christmas is a busy promotional time for certain companies and products, so popular billboard locations with a high footfall can dramatically increase in price. Planning ahead with a twelve-month marketing strategy can help offset some of these costs.

A classic billboard can be lit; this is a cheaper alternative to a digital billboard and will help make your advertisement stand out, especially if you are advertising in the autumn and winter months rather than spring and summer.

There was a trend to add scent to billboards, but this has never really caught on, and clearly, it would only work with pedestrians rather than vehicle traffic.

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How to Reduce the Cost of Billboard Advertising

  •   Plan ahead – a forward-thinking, coherent marketing strategy will make the best use of the budget and can include both the long and short-term benefits of billboard advertising. Consider the availability of popular and more expensive locations and dates, particularly with seasonal products and events
  •   Agree on a long-term rental – long-term rentals can reduce the weekly cost of billboard advertising and also make digital billboards more affordable if they’re suitable for advertising the product or service. Long-term billboard advertising also offers advantages when it comes to brand awareness, so it is cost-effective
  •  Opt for an audience-first approach – across all marketing, strategies should focus on the ROI – Return on Investment – and avoid spending on endless metrics that don’t actually manifest into meaningful progress
  •  Negotiate loyalty reductions – repeated billboard advertising with the same company should generate lower rates for loyal customers. If they don’t, then negotiate these or a better rate if the reduction isn’t generous
  •  Commission graphics as part of a coherent strategy – artwork for billboard advertising can be expensive, so plan a coordinated approach that can save costs and will ultimately yield better results
  •  Think outside the box – don’t just focus your attention on regular billboard sites in cities; think about short-term billboard advertising at very high-traffic events like festivals or sporting occasions

Always ensure your marketing strategy is clear and well-researched before you start a billboard advertising campaign. There should be data to support the choice of advertisement, the target audience, and location, plus some way of ascertaining whether or not the billboard presence has made a difference.

Billboards vs. Online Advertising

Cost is always an essential consideration for business advertising, and the budget for marking is not infinite. The key issue is how to prioritise the money available, and billboard advertising is often overlooked in favour of quicker and more convenient online options.

However, one of the big problems with online advertising is that it’s reaching saturation point plus, if you factor in the increase in ad blocker usage – up by around 30% – it’s probably time to question whether online advertising is really delivering the goods.

In comparison, billboard advertising is never ‘blocked’ or switched off; it is always present and, depending on location, has far less competition than online equivalents. It is direct to the public and not filtered out by algorithms.

Online advertising requires advanced research from people who understand the science of different algorithms, which is expensive. Conversely, capturing data for varied geographical locations can be easier, and evaluating a billboard’s impact is more transparent and accessible.

Billboard advertising is subliminal and can remain in people’s minds for years as an unforgettable memory. In comparison, many people would be hard-pressed to remember an online ad that has stuck in their minds amongst the information bombardment of the internet.

Securing the Best Billboard Company

Not all billboard companies are made equal, so here are some questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

  •   What are your rental prices?
  •   Do you offer a discount for a more extended period of hire?
  •   Do you operate a loyalty scheme for returning customers?
  •   Are the production and installation costs reflected in the hire charge or a separate expense?
  •   Do the production and installation costs include repeat posters, or are these billed as an additional cost?
  •   Do you have an in-house graphic designer who produces the final advertisement, or is this outsourced? If it’s outsourced, you can find your own graphic designer and potentially save some money
  •   Do you provide footfall or vehicle data about your different advertising locations?
  •   Do you charge a flat rate per billboard size, or does the rental charge reflect the location and postcode?
  •   Most billboard companies will charge VAT, but always check
  •   Discuss the insurance of the billboard and the poster – both can be damaged in bad weather events

Final Thoughts

Many businesses still overlook billboard advertising, assuming it will be out of their price range. Plus, with the current focus on screen presence, it’s easy to forget this old-fashioned advertising style outside in the fresh air.

Billboard advertising is clever and can yield impressive results for virtually any type of business or organisation. There are loads of locations, and targeting those people you want to see the advert can be easier than trying to stand out from the crowd online. However, billboard advertising is its own specialism, so don’t expect to take an online advert and scale it because it probably won’t work. There are design agencies that specialise in billboard advertisements, and any company thinking of this type of advertising will need to understand the best locations for their particular product or message.

Traditional billboard advertising is cost-effective and affordable, and long-term digital billboard rentals usually result in lower prices, making the rates affordable compared to classic billboards and other competing forms of advertising. Billboard advertising also sits well with different promotion types and advertising as part of a cohesive marketing strategy. However, like any advertising, you need to do your homework first.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Mega Billboards?

Mega billboards are giant portrait-style digital billboards usually placed beside major road networks like city aerial routes or above large shopping centre car parks.

Mega billboards are constructed from a large number of LED panels.

Where’s the best location for a billboard?

The best location depends on what you are advertising. An experienced billboard company should be able to provide data on footfall or audience numbers for different locations and advise on the best site for a particular product or service. However,  not all do this, so the customer may have to research this information themselves.

As with any form of advertising, if you don’t research beforehand, you can waste your money advertising in the wrong place.

What is the difference between footfall and impressions in billboard advertising?

Impression refers to the number of times potential customers are likely to see the advertisement. In contrast, footfall means the amount of pedestrian or vehicle traffic that passes a billboard site or location.

Some billboard companies vary their pricing structure to reflect particular footfall data or how long a potential viewer can engage with an advertisement. This could be a very desirable postcode like the famous digital billboards in Piccadilly Circus with estimated traffic of two million passers-by per week, or a location where there is severe traffic congestion, and drivers spend longer looking at a billboard, even in a mediocre or unfashionable postcode.

How long should you rent a billboard for?

Billboard rental periods should align with a coherent marketing plan and be underpinned by solid data as part of an integrated marketing strategy. There are always budgetary constraints, so it’s essential to have a real focus on the purpose of the advertising.

Shorter rental periods work best with time-sensitive advertising and promotions; extended periods are more appropriate to raise overall brand awareness.

Most companies require a minimum four-week rental commitment.

What does ‘OOH’ stand for in advertising?

‘OOH’ stands for ‘Out of Home’ advertising and includes traditional billboards and digital mediums and advertising on public furniture like kiosks, bus stops, benches, and public transport, including buses, trams, and trains.

Billboards account for around 66% of all OOH media.

Are digital billboards better than classic billboards?

The answer to this depends on the type of advertisement.

There is no doubt that DOOH (Digital Out of Home) advertising offers more creativity and interaction than a static design. There are options for lighting and animation to create different experiences within one advertisement. DOOH is multi-faceted compared to the rather one-dimensional classic billboard advertisement.

However, there are occasions when a classic static design is a better choice and has more impact. The famous Saatchi & Saatchi ‘The Pregnant Man’ advert was devised for the Health Education Council in the 1970s and showed just that: a pregnant man with a provocative tagline.

Designed not for billboards but for the doctor’s waiting room, the ad was intended to challenge men to take responsibility for casual sex, and it found real acclaim and won a number of prestigious awards. It’s a classic example of when a static image with a few choice words creates more impact than a digital equivalent ever could.

Saatchi & Saatchi have reimagined this advertisement from over fifty years ago and brought it up to date and back in play, adding the face of US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito alongside a different caption.

Is an advertising hoarding the same as a billboard?

In the USA, the term ‘hoardings’ is often used interchangeably with billboards. However, there is a distinct difference between billboards and hoardings in the UK.

Hoardings are large boards erected around a site; a construction site is a common location for hoardings or where there are renovations taking place. It’s common for companies working on the site to advertise their services or provide updates or information to the public using these hoardings. A company can use this for promotional purposes with messages like ‘we are considerate constructors.’

Hoardings are also seen around football pitches.

Is billboard advertising better for longer-term brand awareness or key short, specific marketing campaigns?

The answer is both. Long-term billboard campaigns have the ability to build legitimacy and trust amongst consumers, and there’s no online competition. Billboards offer repeat exposure to the same message at a time when the viewer is usually not engaged with other forms of advertising.

However, billboards are also really effective for two-week targeted campaigns where the push is to drive customers to engage or purchase.

Mike Alexander
I’m Mike, a seasoned professional with a decade of experience in the dynamic realms of marketing and advertising. My journey has been fueled by a passion for staying at the forefront of outdoor advertising trends. I look forward to helping you to realised your advertising ambitions.
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