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Billboard advertising is the use of signs along roadways to advertise a wide range of products, services, and causes. In general, the signs used in these roadside advertising campaigns must be over a certain size in order to be truly referred to as a billboard. In general, the sign must be large enough for a driver or passenger in a vehicle to be able to clearly read the lettering while navigating the vehicle along a road.
The use of billboard advertising has been around for many centuries. Prior to the advent of motor vehicles, primitive examples of billboards were sometimes used to alert people traveling on foot, on horseback, or by carriage that an inn could be found within a certain distance up the road. Along with naming the inn and providing an approximation of the distance to the establishment, the billboard would sometimes list some of the amenities such as clean beds, food, and the presence of facilities to house the carriage or stable the horse.
During the early 20th century, the growing use of automobiles quickly led to companies making use of billboard advertising to publicize a wide range of products and services. Motor villages and motels would buy or lease billboards as a means of directing potential customers to their facilities. Towns and cities made use of billboards to entice the traveler to stop long enough to see some of the local sights before moving on with the journey. Roadside restaurants used billboards to advertise hot meals for competitive prices. The effectiveness of these advertisements led to creating an entirely new branch of the advertising industry, as clients demanded newer and more attractive ads that would catch the eye and entice the traveler to stop and spend money.
While many advertisers make use of electronic and other types of advertising today, billboard advertising remains an effective means of reaching consumers. Because the advertisement on a billboard is available for customers to view around the clock, billboards work very well in conjunction with other ad options. Today, it is not unusual for businesses to list website addresses on billboards as well as calling attention to products or sites of interest. This type of complimentary advertising allows the billboard advertising to work in harmony with other advertising tools and further enhance the overall potential of the marketing campaign.
These may be effective, but many people find them unsightly. There are a lot of towns in the United States, in fact, that have outright banned their use within city limits for purely aesthetic reasons.
Advertisers and various city councils have argued for years over whether to allow billboards. Expect to see that friction continue.