Why Are Billboards Effective? 3 Psychological Reasons

We write a lot about the ways that outdoor advertising can build your brand, bring you more customers, and boost your profits, but do you know why Out-of-Home (OOH) is such a powerful advertising medium?  Exactly why are billboards effective? Here are 3 reasons based in psychology.

So Why are Billboards Effective?

1. Billboards Reach Consumers on an Unconscious Level.

In 2013, Arbitron’s Out of Home Advertising Study found that 84% of travelers pay attention to the billboards they view. (Incidentally, this is up from 71% in 2009, Arbitron National In-Car Study).

But what about the 16% of people who aren’t actively paying attention to outdoor ads? Turns out, the brain still registers billboards on an unconscious level even when we’re not consciously looking at them! That’s because our brains are like sponges, absorbing information about our surroundings without us even knowing.

So even though your next customer doesn’t realize he’s seeing your billboard, he actually is!


2.  Outdoor Ads Create Familiarity.

More than 30 years of psychological research on the mere-exposure effect proves that we respond more favorably to something familiar than we will towards something unfamiliar.  More surprisingly, this happens even when that unfamiliar object is similar to the known object!

What does this mean for you? Simply put, the more someone knows about your business, the more they like – and buy – from it!

And you’ll quickly become a familiar face to your audience when they see your brand every day on a billboard!


3.  Billboards Cause Emotional Responses.

Although we may believe we give thought to the choices we make, research proves otherwise. Turns out, decision making is largely an emotional process.  In fact, according to research, 95% of buying decisions result from feelings. Most often those feelings are associated with deep psychological needs around belonging, prestige, safety, and biological states (like hunger and thirst).

This is a key reason why OOH ads are so effective. With their larger-than-life presence, bold imagery, and ability to tell a story, billboards have the power to trigger strong emotional responses rooted in basic needs.  


Perhaps Maya Angelou was referring to billboards when she said:

“. . .people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


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