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The History of Billboards

A wide variety of very popular billboard advertisements

The History of Billboards

Billboards: A History of Billboards

It feels like they’ve always been around, those tall, free-standing advertisements, strategically placed along the highway. You may have memories of a favorite billboard you’d frequent every year in a family road-trip or one that you used to wait to see because it meant you were close to a favorite place. Billboards, as we know them today, have been around for over 100 years, but the inspiration for today’s billboard advertisements dates back to the 1400’s.

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Johannes Gutenberg made billboards possible

We wouldn’t have billboards without…

In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type printing which led to the very first piece of advertising, ever. It was a basic flyer at first, growing into illustrated posters, all the way up to a simpler version of today’s billboards.

Early billboards, which began appearing in the 1830’s were essentially oversized posters placed on the sides of buildings which faced the road. They were initially bought by businesses to attract people traveling on foot, horseback, or carriage. Campaigns were local and billboards were often very close to the establishment they were advertising.

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Coca-Cola Santa Billboard 1931

The first billboards for sale

The biggest motivator increasing billboard business, the number of roads and highways throughout the US, took a while to grow to the size we know today. However, by the mid-19th century, infrastructure was developed enough to lead to the first billboard lease in 1867.

More changes came to the billboard advertising industry as we moved into the 20th century. This is where standardization in billboard structure led to the creation of billboards, more or less, as we see them now. Once standards were put into place, larger companies were able to launch national outdoor advertising campaigns. Billboards are a standard, uniform size, which allows a company to mass produce a single billboard ad, knowing it will fit billboards anywhere in the country. Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola Company took advantage of this advertising strategy, introducing its iconic Santa Claus on a billboard in 1931.

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Billboards today

Processes used by businesses across the country today for billboard advertising began forming just before World War II as companies began utilizing outdoor advertising to create distinct pieces to engage a guaranteed audience of commuters and road-trippers. Owning a car became a necessity rather than a luxury, putting more people in front of billboards than ever before. This led to a variety of significant events in billboard advertising history, including:

  • Regulations being put on the location of billboards, such as being limited to commercial and industrial areas when a billboard was placed on an interstate or federal-aid primary highway. This came about in 1965 as part of the Highway Beautification Act.
  • Interest in measuring the effectiveness of billboard advertising – this was first done in 1975 with an ad featuring the newly crowned Miss America at the time on billboards across the country. Results of this study showed recognition of Miss America’s name rose 940 percent after the campaign launched.
  • Increase in spin-off outdoor advertising options, combining technology with traditional billboards such as digital place-based screens in the 1990’s and the first digital billboard in 2005. Digital place-based screens uniquely allowed advertisers to digitally deliver video, creating an interactive experience that reached an audience beyond standard demographics. Today’s digital billboards not only give marketers a way to generate outdoor advertising that’s easily modified and quickly displayed but allows the audience to get multiple advertising messages at once as a digital billboard cycles through its ads.

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Modern Digital Billboard

How to navigate billboard advertising options

You can go online and search ‘billboard advertising’ today and get an extensive list of results. Not only will you see the variety of choices you have for outdoor advertising, but also numerous vendors interested in selling you space to advertise your business. With so many options in who you hire to assist you in your billboard advertising efforts, it’s important to partner with a company who has the experience and the willingness to make the process of purchasing billboard space as seamless as possible.

Effortless Outdoor Media creates a special experience for its customers that take the guesswork out of selecting the best billboard for your business. From the first in-depth consultation to the visitation of possible billboard options, Effortless Outdoor Media works tirelessly to get your ad on the right billboard in the best spot in Atlanta based on your advertising goals.

For the best billboard and outdoor advertisement prices, placement and service contact us now at  – We will respond within 24 hours or less.

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For the best billboard and outdoor advertisement prices, placement and service contact us now at – We will respond within 24 hours or less.