What is Unique About the Billboard Advertising in Piccadilly Circus?

The cost to advertise in Piccadilly Circus is eye-watering, and most people think that’s just a reflection of the incredible footfall and the iconic location. It’s undoubtedly one of the most famous locations in London, close to Regent Street and an easy walk to Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and Soho.

Piccadilly Circus is also one of London’s busiest intersections, and an estimated 100 million people pass through there every year. However, there is more to this story than meets the eye!

The world-famous illuminated advertisements wrap around one of the tallest buildings in the Circus, so they have a huge profile. However, the six individual screens that made up the digital billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus have recently been updated.

The new billboards use recognition technology to select advertisements based on the make of cars driving around the Circus and the age and gender of pedestrians.

There are concealed cameras built into the billboard, which track the make, model, and colour of passing cars and also target advertising at the age and gender of pedestrians using algorithms.

The cameras pick up distinct features like height and hair length and constantly review the demographic to adjust the advertising to suit the audience. This technology can also alter to react to changes in the weather and news and sporting events.

So, essentially, the Piccadilly Lights, as they are called, can react to real-time factors like the colour of the cars or the weather.

Local Wi-Fi lets pedestrians engage with the advertised brands via their favourite social media platforms, adding a further layer of personalisation to the passing traffic and helping the billboards reflect things people are likely to want to see.

What are the Factors that Affect the Cost of Billboard Advertising?

Billboard size

It makes sense; the more space you rent, the higher the cost.

The classic billboard size is 48 sheets, equating to about three metres by six metres. The next size up is double that.

Design is relevant, too. 96-sheet billboards work better for advertisements in landscape mode, so sometimes it’s not just size that affects the price but design.

Location

Location is the most significant influence on costs. Areas with high footfall or impressions – like Piccadilly Circus – attract premium rents.

There can be a lot of detail in the pricing structure of different locations. For instance, it’s possible to have different rents on opposing sides of the same building because one billboard commands more possible views than the other.

Remember that you can opt for smaller digital bus stop ads in the area which have great reach but may be more cost effective.

Digital billboards

Digital billboards cost more than the equivalent size in a traditional billboard format, but if you rent for a more extended period, then the rates become better value for money.

A digital billboard can work out at around £25 per day for hires that extend beyond twenty weeks.

There are other advantages to a higher cost. Digital billboards are much more flexible; they can be managed remotely, and updates can be added to long-term bookings to reflect changes or promotions.

Digital billboards offer more precise and targeted advertising. Digital adverts can be honed to appear at specific times of the day depending on the content and location, saving money.

Billboard rental period

Renting billboards is like renting anything else, but there are sometimes economies to be had if you opt for a more extended hire period, and this can bring the cost of digital billboards on par with classic billboard advertising.

However, sometimes, the nature of the campaign only requires short-term exposure, but companies can consider signing up for a longer commitment; this doesn’t have to mean continuous advertising but could mean timed billboard blocks.

Billboard advertising cycles work differently from other advertising mediums, so advertisements often appear on a staggered or repeating programme. The advertising cycle may be a fortnight, but the rental agreement usually reflects the total period for which the advertisement is booked.

Creative Costs

Creative ad production costs can range from low to the sky’s the limit.

Some billboard companies have their own in-house designers, or businesses can approach specialist graphic designers. Billboard advertising is a specialism; it’s not quite as simple as taking an existing advert and scaling the size.

 

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Other Price Factors

Comparing prices is one tactic; however, many billboard companies reward loyalty, so it can be better to stick with one provider. Thinking ahead on marketing strategy and how billboard advertising fits into the picture can help make the best-informed choices about which company to use.

Billboard advertising can be hugely influential, and the companies that reap the best rewards are those who invest in design and strategy. Billboard advertising isn’t necessarily the cheapest option if done correctly. Still, it can offer great value for money and be highly successful with a lot of in-house input.

Seasonality is relevant to billboard hire prices. Don’t advertise at Christmas unless you really need to, as this is a busy time for companies who operate in the festive sector. This also demonstrates the importance of creating at least a twelve-month advertising cycle so campaigns can be planned to avoid busier and more expensive times of the year.

Lighting is another option to bring a classic billboard to life and may be essential if you choose to advertise in the autumn and winter. There’s an opportunity here to make a statement about green credentials and sustainability if you’re clever and achieve some company kudos, plus get your marketing message across.

Find out how much your outdoor ad campaign will cost

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Final Thoughts

Advertising on the billboards in Piccadilly Circus may be out of reach of all but the big-name brands, but it’s impossible to argue with the data on footfall and impressions in this location.

However, it is horses for courses, and a static or digital billboard advertisement that is clever and powerful in the right location can still yield impressive results based on a single design.

Online advertising has reached saturation level, and it can be a bit of smoke and mirrors. Packing a punch online in such a crowded marketplace relies on pretty expensive specialist input; there’s more to it than just putting something out there and hoping it will reach your target audience. Okay, your billboard advert might be in a location with three of four others, but you can multiply that by the thousands online.

The great thing about billboard advertising (especially at the traffic lights!) is that the audience is captive, and there’s no ad clicker to switch off the billboard. Even people who are in conversation, either with passengers or digitally, still receive a footprint, a subliminal message. This is amplified in high footfall areas like Piccadilly of course.

A note of caution, though. Billboard advertising is its own specialism, so businesses shouldn’t expect to take an advert produced for a different medium and hope they can scale it to billboard size. However, the costs associated with producing a billboard advert are still minimal compared to the type of constant digital support required to keep your advertising working online in an ever-changing world of ad blockers and algorithms.

Billboard advertising is cost-effective and affordable plus, it’s right back in fashion as businesses begin to turn away from the internet and look for less crowded space. There are plenty of ways to lower costs to bring the price of a digital billboard in line with more traditional options, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

How large big is the Piccadilly Lights Billboard?

The screen measures 17.5 metres by 44.6 metres and compromises 11 million pixels. It is the largest of its kind anywhere in Europe. The old display comprised six distinct panels, and now the new billboard can stretch one advertisement across the entire face, although there still is the option to display six different advertisers.

Are there any drawbacks to digital billboards?

Digital billboards don’t offer exclusivity as space is usually shared with other advertisers, so that exposure may be as little as ten seconds of visibility per minute.

What are the estimated total footfall and impressions in London’s Piccadilly Circus?

The total audience who sees the famous Piccadilly Lights is estimated to be more than 56 million people on foot, in taxis and cars, and on buses and coaches. It’s not just the high footfall in this very popular location in central London, with shopping in Regent Street and Oxford Street nearby and the lure of all the cinemas in Leicester Square. The famous brightly lit advertising makes this one of the most photographed sites in the world.

Which is better, a digital or a classic billboard?

Digital billboards are, without a doubt, more multi-faceted than traditional static billboards. Still, a lot depends on the type of advertisement, which medium works best, and the kind of campaign.

There are some tremendous static concept designs out there that break the barriers of traditional billboard advertising without resorting to digital tricks. Some of the best examples rely on using the location to enhance the message, so an advertisement on two sides of a building that incorporates the corner as part of the design or an advertisement around a tunnel entrance that includes the physical structure.

What is the best rental period in billboard advertising?

How long a billboard rental period is depends upon the marketing strategy, which should underpin any form of advertising, billboard, online, or print.

Sometimes, the optimal rental period depends on the subject matter; there’s no point in advertising a Christmas product in January!

Most billboard companies look for a minimum of a four-week commitment, and the longer the rental period, the better the rate. Also, booked billboard space doesn’t have to be used in one hit; it’s usually possible to capture a reasonable rate for a long-term commitment and rotate the advertisement between other advertisers.

How old are the Piccadilly Lights?

The first electrical advertising appeared at Piccadilly Circus in 1908, with Bovril claiming the first neon sign in 1923.

From 1939 to 1945, the lights were in darkness to prevent enemy bombers from using them to identify targets from the air. The lights were also switched off as a mark of respect in 1965 for the funeral of Winston Churchill and in 1997 for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In recent times, there has been another extended switch-off as the six separate screens were replaced by one giant curved screen.

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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