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Billboards, a booming business during election campaigns

By: Thabani Khumalo | 10 Feb 2009 09:20
These days, billboard advertising is one of the hottest sectors of the marketing industry and a booming and visible brand promotion business, particularly during the election campaign period.
What was once made famous by the Egyptians over 3000 years ago is still a popular form of advertising today. Billboard advertisement was probably first used to convey a message to the majority of individuals who were illiterate. Primitive examples of billboards were sometimes used to appeal to people traveling on foot, on horseback, or in popular events and areas. During the 20th century, the growing use of automobiles quickly led to businesses making use of billboard advertising to publicise a wide range of their products and services.


Since then, billboard advertising has gained in popularity and stature. Billboard advertising remains viable for businesses looking to send strategically and creatively crafted visual and appealing messages that can be read in a matter of seconds. Their effectiveness have led to marketers creating an entirely new element of the marketing communication strategy, as clients demanded newer and more attractive advertisements that will grab eyes and attention.

Why is outdoor advertising (leaflets and posters), particularly billboards, so important during election campaigns? Why is the billboard advertisement sector such a booming business during election campaigns?

According to information gathered by the media consultancy AC Nielsen, a sum of R46 784 678 was spent by major political parties to advertise their campaigns through the mainstream media at the height of the last general election campaign (January - April 2004).

That adspend represented expenditure on print, radio, direct mail and outdoor advertising. Radio has arguably the greatest reach of any media type in SA, with the potential of reaching illiterate, semi-literate and rural voters who would not be exposed to print advertising in newspapers. It was therefore not surprising that the largest portion of adspend, 43.79% or R8 million, was dedicated to radio media.


The second highest proportion of adspend was in the outdoor advertising sector. This type of media should be viewed, in strategic terms, as an extension of the poster campaigns that are an established centre piece of election campaign culture.

Despite an overall dip in traditional advertising, caused by the growing online and new media spending, billboard advertising remains the most visible medium in the period leading to elections. Outdoor advertisement remains the most appropriate medium to reach the broad cross-section of the voting market, particularly, the market segments that often appear to ignore other forms of communication. In the right location, for the right length of time, with the right message, billboards can attract attention and leave a lasting impression.


Effective billboard advertisement should be designed to catch readers' attention through clear, colourful, concise messages, ostensibly witty slogans, attractive illustrations and appealing appearance, and big bold headlines. Billboard advertisements have a few seconds to transmit messages to drivers, passengers and pedestrians, and therefore need to be as clutter-free as possible, easy to read and creative to capture attention.

The benefits of billboard advertising include:

  • Being the most high-impact.
  • Cost-effective medium.
  • Instilling brand recognition in front of the masses on a daily basis.
  • Reinforcing a repetitive message that creates a memorable impression.
  • Emphasising a specific image.
  • Targeting a specific audience according to location.
  • Messages are not lost in the mix of competitors and editorials.
  • Delivering a continuous and frequent message.

Compared to other forms of advertising, billboards work for you 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It is within this reason that from now until the election day, billboards will be showing big faces of smiling candidates appealling to us to vote for their parties.

About Thabani Khumalo

Thabani Khumalo is a passionate researcher, reader, writer and an analyst. He is MD of Think Tank Marketing Services. Email him on .
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Illegal advertising-
Pitty they do not comply with the outdoor by-laws though!! They will however be the first to object to an application from a billboard company.
Posted on 16 Feb 2009 16:26