When people are outside on the roads, the wide range of billboards can spread a message far and wide and communicate with them in a smart and agile manner. Advertising is one of the main tasks that governments are charged with, in order to inform the public of the happenings within their jurisdiction. For instance, a warning of potential danger, encouraging good behaviour, supporting a humane cause, job ads, or urging citizens to vote. In the age of technology, there is limitless information and advertisements bombarding people on a daily basis on every device. Governments are aware that people might scroll through ads carelessly, so they still invest in billboards and other forms of Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising.
The governments’ dependence on digital billboards reveals the evolution of the OOH ad industry. Billboards can be utilized in a wide range of governmental sectors even the civil defence, safety, and security sectors. For example, Florida Outdoor Advertising Association and governor Jeff Kottkamp, announced a partnership to use electronic billboards to quickly post disaster information along Florida roadways. Under the partnership, state emergency managers were able to communicate with people in Florida through the FOAA’s member network, which operates more than 50 digital billboards across the state. That proactive collaboration came after the realization of the potential hazardous disasters the state of Florida may face in the future – from hurricanes and wildfires, to terrorist attacks and infectious diseases. As an illustration, locations and directions to shelters or list evacuation routes can be easily provided before a hurricane strike or road openings/closings following a storm. With that approach, OOH ads proved to be essential not only for branding but also for public safety!
Although internet advertising is the government’s first choice, OOH ads are crucially important to complement digital campaigns. In the following figure, a vertical bar graph presents the total media expenditures and the amounts spent by media types over five years, from the fiscal year 2015 – 2016 to the fiscal year 2019 – 2020. The media types are internet, television, out-of-home, print, and radio. According to the annual report on government of Canada advertising activities, they reach Canadians through OOH ads in the predominant language of each province. Their spending on OOH was $3,671,456, which put it in third place after internet and TV ads for most popular ad medium.
Governments Have Been Extensively Adopting The OOH Ads For The Past Few Years
Colorado State Patrol
The Colorado State Patrol assigned an advertising agency to produce a 3D billboard that warns motorists and drivers of the danger of tailgating around big trucks because many deaths happen each year due to this action. The idea was to create a simulation of a rear-end collision by crunching the middle of the billboard, displaying the end of the truck and the front of the car crash.
The City of Janesville
In the state of Wisconsin, digital billboards went up in Janesville to facilitate finding runaways, missing persons, and fugitives, as well as for emergency notifications. The FBI’s Michael P. Kortan, claimed that his agency has “evolved from using magazines and newspapers, to television, to the internet, and now to the use of social media and digital billboards.”
The FBI began using digital (electronic) billboards 10 years ago to help find fugitives. Since then, the FBI has resolved 58 cases based directly on tips prompted by billboard publicity. After hurricanes hit Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) featured its toll-free number and website on digital billboards.
New Brunswick Job Ad
The New Brunswick government sponsored a $360,000 ad campaign – We are hiring – from coast-to-coast to draw Canadians to the province in order to fill nearly 3,000 vacant jobs. Fredericton Chamber of Commerce CEO Krista Ross, says the province’s proactive approach is important to strengthening the workforce.
“If we can fill the jobs from people that are here that’s great, if we can’t, then we do need to reach elsewhere,” Ross declared.
Connecticut’s Emergency Service Agency
Connecticut’s emergency service agency had the challenge of reaching newly arrived Puerto Ricans evacuating their storm-ravaged island in two languages. The state assisted evacuees coming to the state after Hurricane Maria. Connecticut attempted to spread the word that if any Puerto Ricans needed any resources once they reached the state, they would find help when calling 211. Digital billboards in English and Spanish languages were erected at Bradley International Airport and statewide on signs.
Get Ready For Brexit
In 2019, the government of the United Kingdom launched the “Get ready for Brexit” public campaign. It was led by the Cabinet Office and supported by the Brexit Communication Centre, a team of civil servants from the Cabinet Office, the Department for Exiting the European Union. and other departments. The £100 million campaign’s objective was to ensure that everyone was prepared for leaving the EU on the 31st of October.
The state of Georgia wanted to get Georgians to explore the beauty of their home. Their challenge was reaching Georgians at home, on their commutes, and going about their everyday lives. So, they partnered with Movia to target neighbourhoods, local businesses, and town centers to get locals to stay local. With just 10 trucks travelling around the greater Atlanta region over 14 weeks, the campaign targeted 56 million impressions in key suburban neighbourhoods. In addition to showcasing the beauty of Georgia, the drivers themselves became an extension of the Explore Georgia brand. They fielded questions about the campaign and handed out flyers with more information about Explore Georgia, bringing the brand to life at every stop. In addition, layering on digital mobile device retargeting helped Explore Georgia reach their core targeted demographic with more hyper-targeted messaging. Through targeting the message to relevant audiences using drivers as brand ambassadors, and retargeting through digital, Movia was able to get Georgians to keep Georgia on their minds.
New Brunswick Tourism
Tourism New Brunswick wanted to promote itself as a top tourist destination and attract more visitors by a single, bilingual, integrated campaign to generate referrals and bookings for the province’s tourism operators. The agency – T4G – created a social media campaign with OOH ads across the country and designed seven road trip experiences around target travellers’ interests to raise awareness and inspire exploration, with the goal of increasing economic growth in the province’s tourism sector. A fully integrated multi-channel campaign – Take a Trip East of Ordinary – achieved outstanding results, including a 20% year-over-year increase in website traffic and more than double the year-over-year conversions.
Cossette and Tourism Yukon collaborated to produce a digital billboard masterpiece showcasing the beautiful view of the midnight sun in Dawson City to attract travellers to Vancouver. During a two-week campaign that ran through July, live images were captured from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. just outside of Dawson City, a town in the Yukon Territory near the Alaskan border.
To Wrap Up
Governments are appreciative of OOH ads more than ever before because they can target a specific audience in the blink of an eye. They have realized that it not only offers great creative options – digital or programmatic – but also has myriads of benefits when it comes to communicating an urgent message to the public in critical times. Nowadays, authorities of most sectors are increasingly turning to digital signage, digital billboards, and the range of digital out-of-home, from civil defence to tourism, to deliver vital information, raise awareness, and drive engagement.