The first ever recorded form of outdoor advertising began in the civilizations of ancient Egypt. Thousands of years ago, stone obelisks were used by the government to showcase the local laws, regulations, and treaties to the community. These carvings in stone may have been the earliest form of marketing to exist. Clearly the Egyptians were onto something because outdoor advertising is still a highly effective channel used by businesses today!
The field of advertising has changed and expanded since then, of course. As the world evolved and technology revolutionised our way of living, marketers moved away from obelisks and changed to print and digital forms of advertising.
Nowadays, businesses have a myriad of channels to advertise through. But the most long-standing form of advertising that still exists is print advertising, specifically on billboards.
To this day, the official origin of billboards cannot be pinpointed to a particular moment in time. However, there are a few interesting theories as to how they came to be. Here are two theories that are quite noteworthy:
The Birth of Mass Print
The first theory is that billboards began thanks to the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 when he invented the first mechanical, moveable-type printing press. With his invention came the possibility to create flyers and illustrated posters, leading to the birth of print advertising.
The Name Origin
Another interesting theory is how the name ‘billboard’ came to be. During the Great Depression, a young lad named William ‘Bill’ Boarders used advertising to help save his family’s business. He would walk along the streets wearing a sandwich board his father had made, while distributing flyers and shouting slogans to get the attention of customers on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. He became so popular that eventually he started his own business of renting out his sandwich boards to other struggling business owners. These became known as ‘Bill’s Boards’, and later, were dubbed ‘billboards’. Bill went on to become so successful that he started buying and placing billboards around the city and along busy highways.
And the rest is history. Although multiple origination theories exist, one thing is certain… billboards have been used for advertising for centuries, and they are still the first choice and most effective tool for out-of-home mass marketing.
The Evolution of Billboard Advertising
In the early 1830s, posters were largely used by circuses to pre-showcase their acts, and soon after we started seeing large print billboards in growing cities where they were placed on the side of large building walls facing busy streets with pedestrians and horse carriages. These boards usually advertised for local businesses which were situated nearby. By the 1850s, advertising at railway stations began. As the popularity of billboards grew over the next few decades, it wasn’t until 1867 that they began to be leased out to businesses.
In the 1930s, billboards were set to one standard size, which made it easier for printing companies to mass print the billboards. This also allowed well-established larger companies to launch massive outdoor advertising campaigns.
Why Have Billboards Survived For So Long?
Billboards are a part of the scenery in any city or town. They have evolved and adapted to progressive changes in technology and city infrastructures. They’re used to showcase all the new gadgets, products, and services that have brought change and innovation to mankind over the last 100+ years. In current times, some billboards have adopted digital technology to display animated screens. These digital screens have become landmarks and touristic sites in certain cities such as New York’s Times Square and Piccadilly Circus in London.
Billboards have been added to a variety of new places to accommodate the growing demand of more businesses seeking to advertise. Advertisement boards are seen on the side of modern buses, at tube stations, bus stops… and the list goes on! Even with the evolution of digital advertising, billboards are still standing strong, evolving and adapting with the times.
How Can I Advertise on a Billboard?
Due to the longstanding effectiveness of billboards, why not try one out for your business? We have thousands of billboards scattered across the United Kingdom which are highly successful for businesses looking to grow their customer base. If interested, give our team a call at 0845 86 22 198 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org to book yours today.