When Billboards Make Good TV Ads

By Ken Klein, OAAA

From kickoff to trophy presentation, I watched the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, helping the broadcast post an overnight ratings record for such a game.

The oft-shown Ford truck ad, I noticed, featured billboards in the 30-second spot (one medium embedded in another medium).

As the Ford truck motors through the 30-second spot, it passes billboards that reinforce/amplify Ford’s message (mimicking a real truck on a real road).

Billboards-in-TV-ad is a common combo. Throughout 2018 we watched Carl the broker admire Charles Schwab’s out of home (OOH) ads in a series of commercials:

A billboard was the star of State Farm’s “Borrow Better Banking” 30-second spot (estimated ad spend: $26.6 million).

The premise: chagrinned bankers learned that State Farm offered car loans, so they climbed on the billboard intending to tear it down. In small print, the TV ad warned not to attempt to climb on billboards.

The State Farm billboard ad (86 percent positive sentiment) showcased media over-lap: the OOH medium complementing broadcasting advertising, with a cameo appearance by the news media.

Competitor GEICO embedded a billboard in its TV ad for motorcycle insurance, featuring music by The Wallflowers.

Another GEICO ad suggests you live under a rock if you don’t know GEICO could save you 15 percent. An unshaven man crawls out from under a rock to gaze at a Geico billboard:

Weather Tech auto mats ran ads on the Weather Channel and elsewhere featuring its product on billboards, in various weather conditions.

Ad innovator Coca-Cola pushes boundaries in Times Square, posting groundbreaking content on its giant high-tech screen. Video of Coke’s pioneering 3-D robotic sign attracts a sizable audience on YouTube.

Meanwhile, other media are top buyers of OOH media.

Spotify won top honors in the 2018 OBIE Awards for best OOH creative. Other winners included The New York Times, TruTV, Viceland, FX, NBC, Bravo, Hulu, Netflix, and HBO.

Netflix now promotes its content via its own billboards in the Los Angeles market.

For Ohioans like me, the Rose Bowl (in Pasadena, CA) holds special allure:

  • Warm-weather escapism
  • Big Ten Conference/Ohio State football nostalgia

The 2019 Rose Bowl on TV peaked at 10.9 overnight ratings in the fourth quarter as Washington made a dramatic comeback attempt versus victor Ohio State.

But that overall rating was puny compared to Columbus, OH, with a best-of-the-day home market rating of 42.7.

Helping boost that home-market rating was my son Ryan, who works for Nationwide, which is based in Columbus.

And, he owns a truck, and so do his two brothers. Together, they own a Tacoma, a Chevy S10, and a Ford F150.

Based on this family focus group, Ford knows what it’s doing by airing bowl-game truck ads featuring embedded billboards.

We’ll be watching for more TV ads featuring billboard ads during the 2019 Super Bowl.