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Marketing and advertising insights for automotive suppliers

Billboards Still A Key Marketing Tool for Automotive OEM Suppliers

Billboards Still A Key Marketing Tool for Automotive OEM Suppliers

There’s a right time and place for outdoor advertising.

You can credit (or blame) the automotive industry for the rise of billboards. Since the arrival of Henry Ford’s Model-T in the early 20th century, billboards have multiplied along streets and highways. As the speed of motor cars increased, billboards grew larger to capture passing motorists’ attention.

From the Model-T to today’s Fusion Hybrid, car brands and local dealers have used billboards to advertise. But you’d be surprised how many automotive suppliers employ the medium, too. Since the 1960s, suppliers have used billboards to reach Detroit’s manufacturing buyers, engineers and executives—the decision makers who select the parts and raw materials for their vehicles. Today, there are many more marketing tools available, such as social media, email, websites and online videos. But, for many auto supplier brands, billboards remain part of the mix.

Not every billboard is for everybody.

Promoting a supplier’s new transmission technology will probably be lost on 99% of drivers. Just like the many billboards for accident lawyers that don’t apply to everyone, but permeate Detroit’s roadways. That’s okay. Lawyers are going for a specialized audience (although you wonder how many injured people are driving). And so are you.

Decision makers are drivers too.

A good place for an auto supplier to reach decision makers is alongside metro Detroit’s highways. Unless they commute via corporate helicopter, these executives have to get to work somehow, crawling through daily traffic like the rest of us. The majority of auto industry billboards are along I-94 between the airport and downtown Detroit. They’re also posted on I-75 between Detroit and Auburn Hills, home of FCA and many of its suppliers. There’s a prime time to reach your audience, too—during the North American International Auto Show every January.

Keeping billboards in the mix.

Even if you don’t have a Big Three automaker’s marketing budget, billboards are highly affordable. Pricing depends on location, number of billboards and length of contract. Traditional billboards range from $700 to $5,000 a month, according to industry estimates. Digital billboards, which rotate messages for eight seconds each, typically cost about $1,000 a week.

Smart marketers know not to put all your eggs in the same basket. Keep in mind that outdoor advertising is just one of your marketing tools. Reaching your audience across multiple mediums with a strong, consistent message is essential. Don’t underestimate the value of billboards as a key component of building your brand.

Advertising, Media

Ernie Perich

As the owner and creative director of Perich Advertising + Design for more than 30 years, Ernie knows a thing or two about automotive marketing. He combines brand strategy with smart creative to help automotive suppliers strike a nerve. Contact

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