Skip to content

Billboard Advertising : History and Evolution of Billboard

From the humble beginnings of a few large posters to a world where the digital billboard is playing one of the largest roles in outdoor advertising, there are so many to tell about the evolution of billboards.

In this article, we will discuss how billboards took over advertising and why businesses are turning to digital billboards in recent years.

Outdoor LED screen display.

The History of Advertising

Billboard is an advertising tool. This discussion would not be complete without a brief introduction to the history of advertising.

In the very earliest days, sellers in the market shouted to promote their products. In some ancient cities, messages were painted on the wall. This could be the earliest form of graffiti.

Then, it was 1439 and things had started to change a lot due to the printing revolution in Europe. Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press. His achievement laid a strong foundation for mass printing in the upcoming years.

During the industrial revolution, newspapers, magazines, and flyers were no strangers to everyone. Some of the world’s earliest advertising agencies also found ways to generate revenues for newspapers by selling ads spaces. The impact of advertising was so powerful. Since then, people are constantly looking for methods to improve ads exposure.

From static advertising such as handbills and newspapers, to digital and online advertising such as DOOH (digital out-of-home) and social media, advertising has been evolving constantly to suit new consumer trends and mediums.

Newspaper Reading

The Billboards

The very first large-format billboard (or more accurately a giant poster) was introduced by Jared Bell in 1835. Years later, more and more businesses began to utilize outdoor spaces for advertising. As billboards became popular, many billboard associations were established to regulate the standards of billboard advertising.

In the 20th century, billboard advertising had become one of the most preferred promotion methods as more highways and roads were built. By showing advertisements to drivers and road users, billboards have a much greater reach and can help businesses to boost their brand awareness effectively.

Circus Poster

Today, billboards own the biggest share in the outdoor advertising market. While billboards are mostly used for commercial applications, they can also be used in relaying messages such as public service announcements, government information, and personal opinion.

Yes, you hear it right. Personal opinion. If one can afford the media buying cost and his message is appropriate to the public, citizens like you and me can buy ad space.

Although billboards can offer many benefits to both advertisers and businesses, there are also some notable disadvantages. These disadvantages become obvious as we enter the era of digitalization.

Traditional Billboard

Challenges Faced By Traditional Billboards

Since the first introduction of the billboard in the 19th century, our ways of living have changed a lot. Billboard advertising achieved its peak in terms of performance when people were spending a large amount of time on the roads or outdoors. Billboards managed to attract people when the world was less noisy, and people were still accepting various advertisements positively.

Today, businesses start to question the effectiveness of traditional billboards as consumer behaviours are changing fast. Some of the challenges faced by traditional billboards are

  1. Losing ability in attracting attention.
    Consumers are so used to advertisements. Billboards’ static content is no longer attractive enough to grab consumers’ attention.

  2. People are consuming too much media.
    In addition to traditional print media, consumers are surrounding themselves with various digital and social media nowadays. All these media cause the information explosion where there is a sharp increase in published information in our daily lives. While digital media provide an entertaining and engaging experience, traditional billboards’ static content fails to stand out among all other noises.

  3. High advertising costs and failing to reach a target audience.
    It is said that billboards fail to target a niche market as people on the streets can be coming from different demographic subgroups. Besides, billboard advertising is both expensive and inflexible. Media buyers will have to buy ad spaces 24/7 even though there are hours that their audiences are not reachable.

  4. Hard to measure Return On Investment (ROI).
    In the era of digitalization, businesses rely heavily on data to help them in making better decisions. The effectiveness of some traditional billboard campaigns can be very difficult to measure. Businesses have to find and customize their own ways to measure the campaigns’ performance, such as using a different phone number and website link for each billboard.
Traditional Billboard

Billboards Go Digital

In the early 21 century, billboard advertising was constantly challenged by other forms of advertising. Thanks to the invention of better televisions such as Plasma TV and LCD TV, TV managed to invite some people to spend more time at home. TVs with better screen resolutions have also set a very high standard of viewing experience.

Besides, the invention of smartphones also led to the era of online and social media. With so much interesting content, why do consumers bother to look at the static and boring billboard content?

Billboards must evolve and go digital to retain people’s attention.

LED Digital Billboard

Digital billboard is made possible due to the advanced display technology. While the earliest form of digital billboard was only equipped with a low screen resolution, advertisers quickly realized that it was a successful breakthrough. Why would anyone not want to pay attention to a giant outdoor digital screen?

In addition to solving all the challenges that traditional billboards faced previously, a digital billboard can offer many extra benefits to businesses. Tracking impressions and measuring performance are easier now. Advertising cost is more affordable as printing and labour costs are eliminated. Besides, instead of buying the whole ad space 24/7, businesses can now choose to buy their preferred time slots.

Content Is The Key To Success

Although digital billboard is still in its early age, billboard technology has been developing quickly for the past 10 years. Today, most digital billboards are built with LED screens. LED screen provides superior and more reliable performance when compared to other digital displays. Besides, it also has a high screen brightness level to ensure screen visibility during the daytime.

While hardware is important in performing the task, the real key to a successful digital campaign is the content. The evolution of billboard also leads to improved creativity of various businesses and advertisers.

Since digital billboards can now support various media formats such as videos, animations, images, and graphics, advertisers can always think out-of-the-box and create the most creative content to reach their audiences. Advertisers are no longer limited to static image and text advertisements.

Digital Billboard

Future of Digital Billboard

Consumer behaviour is constantly changing. While digital billboard is still one of the most effective display tools in attracting attention in the next few years, it will eventually come to a point where consumers are no longer finding it interesting.

In our opinion, digital billboard is going to be “smarter” and able to provide an interactive experience in the future. Smart advertising is a concept where digital billboard can display advertisements that react to its environment automatically. For example, when it is raining, the digital billboard can switch to a public service announcement that advises drivers to switch on their headlamps.

Besides, a digital billboard can also go “smart” by showing relevant content based on the information it can collect about the passers-by and viewers. For example, if the area has more moving cars than pedestrians, the billboard can show advertisements that are more relevant to drivers. All of these features are possible with the aids of tools and technologies such as radar, camera, and facial detection.

Digital Billboard Advertising


As technology continues to advance, everything and everyone needs to adapt to this fast-changing world. As one of the most innovative advertising tools, digital billboard has proved its worth by helping businesses in achieving their goals. Billboard is evolving constantly. So, how about your business? Would you like to explore more about the digital billboard?

× Click to WhatsApp Us Available on SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday