Effective billboard design is no easy feat when you have just seconds to capture someone’s attention. Aside from clearly conveying your brand’s messaging, your billboard ads must be interesting and memorable. Below you’ll find our top picks of fantastic billboard ideas and examples for inspiration. Read on to see what sets the best billboard designs apart and what makes them effective.
1. Tell a Story With Your Billboard
Billboards can get a lot of fleeting glances, but a good story can captivate people’s attention long enough for it to leave an impression. Take, for example, this billboard design by Yellow Pages. It’s nothing complicated—pests have damaged the billboard, which warranted a search for pest control services. The solution is presented on the Yellow Pages website.
Even a brief narrative like this can help engage your viewers’ emotions and keep them intrigued. Although a billboard has a limited space compared to video ads or other advertising ideas, find a way to put your product in a narrative to make your ad a memorable experience rather than just another ad on the road.
2. Send a Clear Message in Your Billboard Design
Billboard ads are large, but many are viewed by people driving by at 60 miles per hour or even faster. You have mere seconds to attract attention and convey your message. As simple as it sounds, you need to make sure that your billboard design consists of a clear message—both literally and figuratively.
The example above is both aspirational and emotional in nature. It has a big, easily readable main message that doubles as a clear call to action (CTA) followed by an easy-to-remember brand name.
3. Billboard Ideas That Show Instead of Tell
A picture is worth a thousand words, so don’t be afraid to let your billboard speak for itself with non-text elements. This billboard ad example from The Economist draws attention through the use of motion-detecting equipment that causes the lightbulb to turn on when someone walks nearby. This is a great example of a billboard ad that is unique and memorable without saying a word. Talk about a bright idea.
4. Be Inspired by Current Events
Take inspiration from current events and create messaging that is timely and sparks conversation. This digital billboard from Oreo caught people’s attention with real-time movement that coincides with the movement of the sun on the day of a solar eclipse. Another way of incorporating current events into your billboard design is tuning in to huge events like sports games and cultural milestones.
Did you know? A Nielsen study found that 75% of people felt digital billboards stood out more than online ads. What’s more, digital billboard ads won’t break the bank. See how to bring customers to your business with Blip Billboards at a low starting cost per day.
5. Speak to the Customer’s Perspective
Many small business owners are driven by a passion for their customers, creating products and services to meet their needs. Make sure your outdoor ads showcase how you put your customers’ best interests at the top of the list. The ad above appeals to this marketing strategy by indicating that patients who want to be healthier and pickier about choosing their healthcare provider should opt for this health insurance plan.
6. Add a Live Data Feed to Billboard Ads
Use real-time data to make your billboard ad design interesting and helpful to people who see it. Examples of ways to incorporate these billboard advertising ideas include animated counters, current temperatures, air quality ratings, pollen count, storm trackers, scores of local or important sporting events, or queue wait times (think urgent care centers or airport security lines).
7. Extend Design Beyond Billboard Dimensions
Don’t limit the design of your ads to the billboard dimensions themselves. Go outside the lines with elements that create a striking design. The example above shows an effective billboard ad design for Panera that extends above the billboard with animated steam. Not only is this great for drawing the eye, but it also evokes the memory of hot, delicious soup on a cold day.
When it comes to billboard ideas that not only break the scope of billboard dimensions but aesthetics as well, few compare to the giant fork-held outdoor ad for Sheffield & Sons steak (available in the Bloom grocery store in North Carolina). The steak extends beyond the traditional space of the billboard ad design, and this billboard also emits an aroma for multi-sensory advertising appeal.
Wondering what all this will cost? Get all the details in our article exploring the cost of billboard advertising.
8. Incorporate Strong Visual Metaphors to Capture Attention
The Day After Tomorrow’s marketing team did an excellent job of creating a buzz for their upcoming movie. This visual metaphor of a submerged billboard sparks people’s curiosity and, at the same time, invites viewers to interpret what would happen in the movie in their own way.
It is a global-warming disaster movie, so the billboard design for this is on point. A small detail that makes this advertisement even more impressive is the submerged tip of the Empire State Building in the background.
If you want to cut costs but maintain good visual appeal, there are many places to get free images you can incorporate into your design. Just make sure that you still use unique elements to make it yours.
9. Get Engagement With Interactive Billboards
Not all billboards are along the side of the highway. Outdoor advertising shows up in many places, from bus stops and subway stations to malls, airports, the sides of walls, and even streetlamps.
Technology now makes it possible for people to view ads from many different types of locations and to interact with them as well. Customers can engage with your brand, making your ads more memorable to increase brand awareness and give them a reason to visit your small business website online.
10. Design a Billboard That’s Interesting & On-brand
As with any form of advertising, showing what differentiates your brand is essential. Think of fresh billboard ideas that can promote your brand without compromising your brand’s positioning. One of the best billboard examples showcasing this design tip is for the Swedish vodka brand Absolut.
The creative ad transforms something often thought of as less-than-luxe (public transportation) into a high-end marketing message that effectively illustrates Absolut. Using juxtaposition and a short play on words, the mobile billboard makes the statement that with Absolut, you’re taking a limo, not a bus.
11. Work in Your Audience’s Interests
In 2022, Reddit, a social media platform, rolled out its first TV and billboard campaigns with the tagline “Find Your People.” Their billboards were met with positive responses because they highlighted niche communities that Reddit offers. Aside from the catchy tagline, this is a good billboard design example because its main strategy is finding what interests the people who see the ads and incorporating that into their design.
12. Incorporate the Natural Environment in Billboard Design
Tackle ad location strategically by not only looking at the design from the perspective of the ad space available but how you can utilize the surrounding elements as well. This design example from Ray-Ban is eye-catching and adds advertising space by leveraging the sun to project its ad onto the ground.
13. Design for Different Perspectives
No matter which type of billboard or outdoor ad you choose, people will see it from varying angles and, thus, different perspectives. This allows you to craft different stories from each vantage point. The above billboard from BBC World does a great job of showcasing different perspectives to communicate that they convey both sides of the story.
14. Double Down on a Value Proposition
With countless “Open 24/7” ads there are outside, it’s easy to blend in the background. McDonald’s sets itself apart with a fresh billboard design incorporating a time feed to show that no matter the time, they’re open. Repeating your value proposition like this in any type of advertisement can help people remember what you offer easily and strengthen your brand presence.
15. Add Form to Function in Billboard Ideas
The best billboards feature both form and function. The example above shows how your billboard can serve a practical purpose while conveying a strong marketing message. Offering something of use breaks through the noise of two-dimensional billboards, demonstrating that your brand isn’t just about the message, but wants to be of service. For example, IBM created multi-functional billboard benches to put its marketing message to work.
16. Make Your Billboard Design Fun
Taking form and function a step further (quite literally), Toyota designed a billboard that didn’t just look like a rock wall, but was actually a functional rock-climbing wall. Climbers were invited to scale the New York City building wall, drawing attention to it and creating a newsworthy billboard that captured the attention of people passing by.
17. Place Emphasis on What You Do
One strategy that holds up well over time in small business advertising is putting your selling point front and center. For example, if you see this billboard by Penline Stationery anywhere, you’d understand what it’s selling—despite it not having any words on the ad. A wordless ad can be impactful, but make sure not to sacrifice the quality of your message.
18. Use Negative Space to Your Advantage
It’s not always about what you say but what you don’t say. In some cases, billboard ad designs that are most effective are those using the power of abstraction. In this example, outdoor equipment company Toro deploys the art of abstraction to promote its products. It appears as though its product was used to trim what would otherwise be a difficult area to reach if it weren’t for cordless trimmers.
19. Create Appeal by Getting Artsy
Murals as an advertising medium have become increasingly popular. Not only do they brighten up a city or beautify what could otherwise be a plain building wall, but they can also bring additional exposure through user-generated content, such as when people stop to pose for an Instagram post. Ridesharing app Lyft did just that in New York with a series of murals promoting staycations that are “only a ride away.”
20. Advertise Affordably With Digital Billboards
Digital billboards are not only a modern way to generate brand awareness. They are also extremely affordable since multiple advertisers can share digital billboards. As with other technology, digital ads can also be easily optimized to better connect with your audience. Going digital also means changing your ad creatives much more frequently, keeping your ads fresh and engaging.
Blip Billboards, one of the best providers of digital billboards, offers self-serve digital billboard advertising with a minimum spend of $10 per day and no long-term contract. Your billboard ads will appear as an eight- to 10-second “blip” on a digital billboard that rotates ads. Your budget determines the number of times your “blip” appears and which times of day (peak, non-peak, or a mix), making it one of the most affordable billboard advertising options.
21. Transform Your Billboard With Shadows
A billboard can be brought to life by any unique element. The Dracula billboard by BBC is one that is transformed by shadows. The effect of a transforming billboard is twofold: one, it raises visual intrigue. It makes an impression on people and leaves them thinking about it moving forward. And once it transforms, it makes an impact. The Dracula billboard went viral online because of its transformation, exponentially increasing the ad’s reach.
If you’re interested in exploring light and shadows for your billboard design, try to think of shadows as a way to add a new dimension to your design. Finally, enhance the contrast to put the transformation in full display.
22. Skip the Sales Pitch
The best marketing messages don’t just tell people what they want but make them want what they offer. This strategy also helps your billboard sound less assertive, which psychologically might allow people to view your brand more positively. For example, the fast food chicken chain Chick-fil-A is well known for employing humor in its outdoor ads, such as the example above saying “Don’t have a cow.”
23. Appeal to Local Demographics
A great billboard idea to keep in mind is to customize billboard ads based on location. National companies may be inclined to create one or two billboard designs throughout the country. However, your message will resonate more if you tailor local advertising ideas based on the location’s well-known demographics or characteristics.
24. Create Urgency With Your Call to Action
This outdoor digital billboard draws attention with an animated countdown and reminds local team boosters to buy tickets or tune in to the next Dodgers baseball game. Use calls to action with a deadline to create a sense of urgency with your billboard ads, such as a deal expiration countdown for a time-limited offer.
25. Use a Vanity Number
Don’t make people try to work to remember your number. Instead, make it easy by using a vanity phone number (e.g., 212-storage, as in the example above, or something like 1-800-NYPLUMBER). Even if your business already has a phone number, you can still get a vanity number that directs to your standard business line.
26. Incorporate Humor
Billboard designs that incorporate humor are often the most memorable. They trigger an emotional response while sending a clear message about your brand’s products or services and the problems they solve. When designing a billboard, think beyond your business’ products and use your design by reflecting the characteristics of your ideal customer personas, as this dental implant billboard design does.
27. Select Your Billboard Location Wisely
There will always be elements outside of your control, but it’s worth doing your due diligence when choosing the right billboard location and design. For example, the above billboard, “Where’s daddy?” appears to be answered by the billboard that follows it—a gentlemen’s club. The environment is always something to consider with billboard ad placement.
28. Look at Your Design From All Angles
A seemingly flawless design can go down the drain rather quickly. Don’t just look at your billboard idea by itself, but consider the elements surrounding it and how they can affect its design. Like this underwear ad on a public bus, the design itself is innocent enough. However, the designers did not consider where the ad would be placed.
29. Play With the Billboard Structure
Most billboards are designed to be two-dimensional, so using the structure to add more depth to your design is sure to set your billboard apart. The Formula billboard mimicked the movement of stripping away the billboard itself. It’s an impactful design that can get people to stop and look at the ad, instead of just letting it be part of the background.
30. Don’t Be Afraid to Compete
People love a good fight, whether a sports game or a billboard war. BMW took up Audi’s challenge with a competing billboard that showcases their new vehicle. If your business encounters strong competition with billboards of their own, don’t be afraid to address this competition in your own design.
Billboard Design Do’s & Don’ts
There are no set rules to follow that would make your billboard ad design 100% successful. However, decades of advertising experience have given us the best practices to follow that can help your billboard leave a positive impression.
Here are our top billboard design tips:
- Prioritize clarity: Make sure your message is concise, straightforward, and can be understood in a few seconds—because that’s how long your ad will be viewed.
- Use legible fonts: Lean into clear and bold fonts that are readable from a distance to maximize the time a person sees your billboard. Steer clear of small fonts that can make it difficult to read.
- Create a color strategy: Choose colors that align with your brand identity, get viewers’ attention, and evoke the emotions you want for your message. Our article on how to pick a website color scheme has more information about color theory and meaning.
- Incorporate your brand logo and identity: Integrate your brand identity elements seamlessly into the design to strengthen your brand presence.
- Thoroughly proof: Take the time to check for any spelling or grammatical errors. Errors scream “unprofessional” and can damage your brand’s reputation.
- Don’t clutter your design: An overly cluttered design with too many clashing elements can turn off viewers and hurt memorability vs having a simple, strong ad design.
- Don’t rely on generic visuals: Avoid stock imagery and other generic visuals. Original visuals make capturing a person’s attention easier, are more memorable, and are much more likely to make a lasting impact on the people who see your ad.
- Don’t use a design you’re not confident in: If you’re unsure about a particular design, it’s better to refine it first since it takes time and money to redo a billboard. If you are not confident in your design skills, hire a professional to create one for you.
Best Tools & Resources for Billboard Ad Design
There are different options available for designing billboard ads. Three of the main factors to consider in choosing which tools and resources to use when designing a billboard are your budget, the billboard dimensions, and the artwork needed. These resources can help you find or create an effective billboard for your small business. Read about how these tools help you choose your next billboard design software.
1. Blip Billboards
One of Blip Billboards’ goals is to help small and medium businesses grow by improving their brand recognition. They offer affordable billboard ad design services for $75 and various digital billboard advertising packages. You can choose where to advertise, how often your ads should run, and if they should run during peak or non-peak times (or both) to maximize your budget for as little as $10 per day.
You can skip the cost of hiring a designer and take advantage of Canva’s free graphic design tools and templates. There are dozens of billboard designs awaiting you as well as images and other elements you can use to create a one-of-a-kind traditional or digital billboard ad design.
An excellent way to get a unique and memorable billboard design is to host a billboard-design contest on 99designs. Professional and creative experts will provide different designs for you to choose from, and you’ll only pay if you decide that one of the designs is perfect for your needs.
Grasshopper is a virtual phone system used to help run small businesses separate their work from their personal communications. You can purchase a phone number for your business, including vanity phone numbers. This makes it a good tool for your billboard design, as vanity numbers are far easier to remember for people seeing your ads on the go.
A low-cost option for getting an effective billboard ad design is outsourcing the work to freelance designers. Fiverr is a trusted freelance service marketplace where you can find creative experts to create the perfect visual design for your business’ advertisements.
Proven Benefits of Billboard Advertising for Small Businesses
Many small business owners question if billboards are a good investment or will produce a return sufficient to justify the expense. Although the world of advertising has diversified over the years, the statistics about billboard ads show that they are still an effective marketing tool for boosting local brands:
- Increased exposure and memorability: The ReportLinker found that among U.S. adults, 82% were able to recall digital billboards they’ve seen in the past month.
- Conversation starter: A study on billboard advertising reported that 56% of Americans mentioned a billboard they found interesting in conversation.
- Improved brand awareness: International Outdoor found that out of all their surveyed consumers, 85% notice advertising messages on billboards.
- More engagement: A study on drivers found that 50% are highly engaged by billboards.
- A surefire call to action: A publication of survey results asserts that 35% of viewers of a digital street-level ad visit a website or search online in relation to that ad.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Billboard designs can stand out using humor, striking visuals, unconventional ad sizes and dimensions, non-traditional placements, and interactive elements. These can all make your ad more noticeable and your brand more memorable.
Traditional and digital billboards each have their own pros and cons. With a traditional billboard, you’re not sharing the board with other advertisers, and your ad displays 24/7. However, this also means it will cost far more. Digital billboards cost less, are ideal for optimizing ads, and allow advertisers to display ads at specific times of day or days of the week, making them a better option for ad targeting.
If you have your eye on a specific billboard, you can usually find its owner listed at the bottom center of the billboard itself. If you want to browse available billboards, check out billboard providers such as Lamar, Clear Channel, and Blip to see billboard locations, availability, and pricing. Alternatively, you can always Google billboard advertising options in your desired location.
As simple as billboard advertising sounds, developing an effective design takes skill and know-how. Ultimately, the best billboard ads are those that successfully convey messaging and spark action with their target audience. Of course, many of these aren’t created in-house but by publicity and advertising experts and graphic design professionals.
If you’re on a tight budget, traditional billboards could feel out of reach. But that doesn’t mean you can’t advertise on billboards. Digital billboards offer great exposure and better ad targeting, and come in at a fraction of the cost of traditional out-of-home billboard ads. In fact, you can even specify your ad budget, and Blip Billboards will put a plan together for you.