Ask an out of home advertising company how much a billboard costs and you’ll get the following answer. It depends. It depends on a billboard’s location. It depends on a billboard’s size. It depends on a billboards lighting. It depends on a billboard’s visibility. It depends on how many billboards are nearby. We will talk about costs using some actual examples from the Midwest.
Billboards are almost always quoted on a 4 week as opposed to a 1-month period. This means that if an out of home advertising company quotes you $1,500 for a year contract they mean 13 4-week periods for $1,500/period.
In addition to the monthly rent a billboard advertising client must pay a production fee for the vinyl. A good rule of thumb is that the production fee will be 50 cents per square foot for the vinyl. The production fee will be $336 for a 14′ by 48′ billboard, $189 for a 10.5 by 36′ billboard and $64 for an 8′ by 16′ poster.
Impressions – The Basis for Cost
Geopath is a not-for-profit organization which uses data, technologies and media research to compute the weekly impressions which are received by a billboard. Out of home advertising companies pay Geopath for the ratings. Geopath impressions are derived from a complete formula which factors in traffic volumes, the number of people in each car and the position of the billboard in relation to the road. Not every out of home advertising company is a Geopath subscriber, but most large out of home advertising companies are.
The typical billboard sells for a CPM or cost per thousand impressions of $5.21 according to Peter J Solomon. A freeway billboard which gets 400,000 impressions in a 4-week period will be priced at $2,000/period. A billboard on a country road with only 30,000 impressions a month will rent for only $600/period. You can usually get impressions data from your billboard company to verify what sort of CPM you are paying.
Billboards in cities cost more to rent than billboards in the country. More traffic and more people mean higher impressions.
A billboard in downtown Indianapolis will cost $2,500-10,000/month. A billboard on the freeway system outside Indianapolis will cost $750-1,500/month.
Freeway billboards cost more to rent than state highway billboards, because more traffic equals more impressions. State highway billboards cost more to rent than secondary road billboards. More traffic equals more impressions.
A bigger billboard is easier to see than a small billboard. A 14′ by 48′ billboard has 77% more square feet than a 10.5′ by 36′ billboard. A larger surface area means that a billboard is more likely to be seen and can be rented for more, but the relationship isn’t linear. Here’s a 14 by 48 billboard on a freeway in Indiana which rents for $1,000/month.
And a double-stacked 10.6′ by 36′ billboard a couple miles away where each face rents for $400/month. The larger board is worth more than the smaller double-stacked boards. It should come as no surprise that the double stacked 10.6′ by 36′ billboards get about 28% fewer impressions per period than the single 14′ by 48′ billboard.
A small 8′ by 16′ poster will rent for even less.
These posters on rural Indiana rent for approximately $500/month.
A billboard with lighting can be expected to go for a 25% premium over a billboard without lighting because the billboard will be available to many more viewers at night. Lighting means more impressions. Casinos and all-night restaurants are especially interested in billboards which are lit all night. Cracker Barrel and some retail stores sometimes ask billboard companies to turn off the lights on a billboard prior to store closing times so they don’t have customers pulling up to the establishment at closing time.
A right hand read, that is a billboard on the right side of the road, will be more expensive than a billboard which is a left hand read. The reason is that a right hand read billboard is closer to a car and easier to see than a billboard which must be read across several lanes of traffic. Take a look at this billboard in downtown Indianapolis. The right hand read rents for $4,100/month.
The left hand read on this same billboard rents for $3,000/month. It’s a great, high traffic location but you look at the board across four lanes of traffic.
A setback billboard which is more than 600′ from the freeway will rent for much less than a billboard which is right against the freeway because it gets fewer impressions.
Most billboards are within 45′ of the grade of the road which makes them easy to see. A billboard which is extremely tall – 80′ or 100′ feet above the road – will be cheaper because it will get fewer impressions. People won’t crane their necks just to see what’s on a sign.
Trees can ruin visibility. This billboard has a public service ad which is probably free because the trees next to the road have blocked the view to the billboard.
A billboard in an area with lots of other nearby billboards will sell at a steep discount. 1,500 feet is the average setback between billboards in many cities. Some cities have no minimum setback or only a 500-foot setback between billboards. An area with lots of billboards very close together will have lower rates than an area with few billboards.
Take this 10′ by 48′ billboard on a Highway outside Indianapolis. The billboard has excellent, long reads in both directions. The billboard rents for only $300/month. There are numerous other billboards in the vicinity, many of which are vacant or running public service ads. The availability of plenty of competition has driven down the price.
Look at these billboards packed together along a rural stretch of freeway in Nevada.
They rent for $300/month. If there weren’t so many you could expect rents for be $750-1,500.