Digital billboards – the future of roadside advertising realised

Extremely close photo of a blue LED screen

It wasn’t long ago that plasma screens started appearing in homes across Australia, bringing us in touch with a future only imagined in sci-fi and deep space thrillers. A screen so thin you can mount it on a wall? Crazy.

Fast forward 15 years and Australia is at the forefront of digital roadside advertising, using improved LED technology to deliver the benefits of this versatile medium in a safe and sustainable way.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) has kept pace with this rapidly expanding advertising trend and now boasts a diverse portfolio of static and digital billboards on state-controlled road corridor and freehold land, small format advertising on the TransLink busway network and street sign advertising (known as identilites).

Why has TMR decided to diversify its portfolio and include digital billboards in its outdoor advertising mix? The simple answer is that digital billboards offer greater flexibility for both TMR and advertising clients, providing shared value for us and our key stakeholders.

How is this shared value realised?

Community Service Announcements – TMR is able to display community service announcements (CSAs) on each of the digital billboards as they are needed. Emergency messages can be broadcasted and reach mass audiences fast. Events such as severe weather, traffic concerns and missing persons can be posted on digital billboards without assistance from the commercial operator (this is for billboards on TMR owned land or corridor with a commercial licence agreement). At the same time, commercial advertisers can still have their messages displayed, meaning the billboard’s revenue stream remains largely undisturbed.

Free advertising for TMR – One in every six advertisements is dedicated to TMR’s messages including road safety and customer information campaigns. TMR can change or update any of the campaigns at any time simply by providing artwork for the new campaign to the commercial operator. This greatly reduces the cost of advertising important messages.

Light sensitive technology – Digital billboards are designed with special light sensors that determine how bright the surrounding environment is and adjusts the light output of the display accordingly. That means the digital billboard will use less light and energy in order to adjust to the ambient light in the surrounding area. By being bright during the day and dimming at night, digital billboards save energy while still delivering a visually engaging and safe advertisement.

Efficiency and cost effectiveness – Digital billboards have made the billboard advertising industry more effective and cost efficient for advertisers who need to change their message more frequently. With the easy digital transition between advertisements and more eye-catching graphics, digital billboards are a popular way to connect with consumers. The ability to change content with the click of a mouse means road closures are no longer needed to change billboards and consumption of printed materials is reduced.

While digital billboards make up a very small portion of TMR’s billboard portfolio — currently just 5 of over 110 total faces — they generate more than 70 per cent of the portfolio’s revenue. That’s because TMR is strategic about where we place digital billboards and advertising companies are taking advantage of the unique marketing communication that digital billboards enable. Multiple businesses can take advantage of the reduced cost and tailored messaging that digital billboard advertising allows. For example, a restaurant could adjust their advertisement to offer breakfast specials in the morning and dinner specials in the evening easily through these electronically controlled billboards.

All advertising types are subject to stringent road safety and traffic engineering assessments and must meet the criteria of the TMR Roadside Advertising Guide (RAG). The RAG calls for digital billboards to flip advertisements every 10 seconds for speed limits less than 80kms and every 25 seconds for speed limits greater than 80km. Our guidelines for the safe delivery of digital advertising are based on extensive research on impacts of driver safety and road user behaviour.

You can find out more information about the Roadside Advertising Guide on our website.