How much does a billboard cost?

How much does a billboard cost?

Samantha Brault  |  

Whether you’re a marketing agency looking to snag a spot on Time’s Square for your newest account, or your curiosity was piqued after watching Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, you may find yourself asking how much does a billboard cost? Well, the short answer is: it varies.

Billboard pricing, as is the case for most advertising, is based on a CPM model, which is the cost for one thousand impressions. Of course, CPMs vary between companies and even particular billboards. According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, the average CPM for bulletins (large format billboards) is between three and 18 dollars, and the average CPM for posters (smaller format billboards) is between one and 13 dollars. So assuming 100,000 impressions per month, a bulletin would cost 300 to 1,800 dollars and a poster between 100 and 1,300 dollars per month.

How much a billboard costs compared to other media

In some instances, out-of-home CPMs are less expensive than other marketing media

As with any product or service, supply and demand play a large role in determining the cost of a billboard. The more attractive it is to advertisers, the higher the price, with factors like location, audience impressions and demographics, and the type of sign affecting the final cost.

Location

The location of a billboard is probably the most important factor when determining its cost. Other than impacting how many people will be in the area, the physical location will also affect how visible it is. Addressing questions like the following will all play a role in determining how much an owner will charge.

  • Is the billboard part of people’s natural gaze?
  • Is there anything partially blocking the view?
  • What else are people doing as they pass by?
  • Are there any eyesores nearby?

For example, billboards that are on the opposite side of the highway will cost less than those on the same side of traffic, seeing as drivers and passengers are more likely to look that way as they go by. Thinking about how someone will actually interact with the sign or poster is important when looking to lease a space for your ad.

The popularity of a location will also sway the price of a billboard. A billboard in a rural area can cost as little as 250 dollars, whereas one in a more urban area can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A billboard in Times Square, for example, can cost 1.1 to 4 million dollars each year.

With over 330,000 visitors each day, and even more exposure via television events and movies, Times Square is home to the most sought-after billboards in the world.

Impressions and audience demographics

With traditional print billboards rented by four-week periods, the total cost for the month is the CPM multiplied by the number of people that will see the ad. But how do billboard owners know how many impressions their signs get? This is where out-of-home audience analytics companies like Geopath come in.

Using anonymous location data from mobile phones and cars, along with custom data resources like traffic statistics and pedestrian count, Geopath is able to establish the reach and frequency for a given billboard. Then, using the size and visibility of the sign, and the dwell time (time idle in front of the sign) or the speed at which people are passing by, the impressions for the sign are then estimated.

For an even more in-depth analysis, OOH audience data can also be broken down by demographics such as age, gender, purchasing habits and more. This enables brands and advertisers to better understand who will be seeing their ad and ensure they are hitting their target audience. These demographics can also have an impact on price, as some audiences are more interesting to advertisers than others. For example, a billboard in a wealthy and established neighborhood will likely cost more than one in a less affluent area of the city, as this audience is presumed to have a higher level of disposable income.

Types of billboards

Traditional billboards range in size, and while the relationship is not necessarily one-to-one, the general rule is the bigger the billboard, the higher the price. Larger signs typically pack a bigger visual punch, and the steps associated with installing a huge roadside billboard is much more complex than a small poster. Production costs will also vary by size, as more material is required for printing. However, printing is a fairly inexpensive part of the process, costing roughly 300 to 500 dollars.

Standard billboard sizes

  • 4 Sheets – 40″ x 60″ (1.02 x 1.52 m)
  • 6 Sheets – 47″ x 70″ (1.20 x 1.80 m)
  • 12 Sheets – 120″ x 60″ (3.05 x 1.52 m)
  • 16 Sheets – 80″ x 120″ (2.03 x 3.05 m)
  • 32 Sheets – 160″ x 120″ (4.06 x 3.05 m)
  • 48 Sheets – 240″ x 120″ (6.10 x 3.05 m)
  • 64 Sheets – 320″ x 120″ (8.13 x 3.05 m)
  • 96 Sheets – 480″ x 120″ (12.19 x 3.05 m)

Thinking outside the outdoor advertising box

Most advertisers like to think big, and outdoor advertising provides many creative capabilities that are often impossible with other media. Each year at Cannes, the best outdoor ads are celebrated and some of the world’s top brands walk away with the Grand Prix. However, any ad-hoc size, set-up, materials or installations will have additional fees associated with it.

This billboard for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club won the OBIE Award (excellence in advertising) for the best custom installation category for nontraditional billboards and graphics.

This billboard for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club won the OBIE Award (excellence in advertising) for the best custom installation category for nontraditional billboards and graphics.

How much does a digital billboard cost?

Digital billboards are priced in a very similar fashion to traditional print posters, with location, impressions and audience demographics, and the type of screen each affecting the total cost. Digital signs have an average CPM of nine to 32 dollars, making this medium slightly more expensive than its static counterparts. However, digital offers creative flexibility and budgeting options that are otherwise impossible.

With formats like video and HTML5, ads can be much more creative than a simple static poster. Movement, animation and even sound can catch a viewer’s attention, and many screens include touch or mobile interaction for a more immersive campaign.

Some audience analytics companies, like Quividi, also specialize in digital out-of-home. With real-time audience recognition, campaigns can be triggered only when the relevant audience is nearby. This data is also used to better quantify the reach and impressions for a campaign, giving advertisers an in-depth look at campaign success.

Unlike the four-week cycle of traditional billboards, a campaign on a digital screen can run for any amount of time. A digital out-of-home campaign can be turned on or off within minutes, seeing as there is no physical installation involved. Rather than having their ad displayed at all times, with digital displays, brands also have the flexibility to target the ad to specific times of the day. So while the CPM for digital billboards is higher, it is often possible to spend less by carefully targeting the campaign to the specific times the target audience will be in the area.

This is made even easier by programmatic digital out-of-home. Similar to online and mobile, digital billboards can be purchased in an automated way using data feeds, like time of day, the day of the week and more creative things like weather, traffic, sports scores, store inventory…virtually anything that can be quantified. While we won’t dive too much into this topic in this post, be sure to download our programmatic digital out-of-home playbook to learn more.

As one of the largest digital billboards in the world, Harmon Corner definitely catches viewers’ attention.

As one of the largest digital billboards in the world, Harmon Corner definitely catches viewers’ attention.

So, how much does a billboard actually cost?

As so many factors influence the cost, there is no concrete answer. Yet if you are looking to lease a billboard for your campaign, be sure to carefully consider the following to determine which billboard is best for your campaign goals:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How much of this audience do you wish to reach?
  • When does your campaign need to run?
  • What level of creativity do you need to get your message heard?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is the CPM for your other marketing channels?

And one last hint: billboard costs are not set in stone and can often be negotiated with the owner!

Ready to get started with your billboard campaign? Check out our ebook featuring our favorite dynamic digital out-of-home campaigns.