During every downturn in the economy, companies tend to cut back in expenses in most all areas. Payroll gets cut as does marketing and advertising.
Have you noticed the number of blank billboards along major stretches of the Interstate? I have been seeing a lot of windshield time over the past year and noticed that there are many outdoor boards with nothing on them, or “Available” with a phone number of the outdoor company; like the one pictured here.
Strange as it may seem, many times I see these boards along the interstate system in major metropolitan areas; prime outdoor space. Typically the businesses that utilize outdoor advertising include: automotive, financial, restaurants, and destination related. There are others of course, but those are the ones you typically see. Certainly it is an indication that businesses have cut back in advertising expenses.
I look at the number or frequency of empty billboards along the Interstate as an indicator of the nation’s economic health. Let’s face it, if people were buying, companies would be boosting advertising budgets and outdoor boards would see available inventories decline and wait lists develop.
Now we hear how the jobs pictures is brightening, unemployment is lowering and new jobs are being created. I might take issue with the true numbers coming out of Washington as being unrealistically optimistic, but the trend is still positive overall. It will still be a long time at the current rates of decline in unemployment and increases job growth to absorb the 14 million people out of work and the more than 3 million new workers entering the job market each year. Plus there is any even greater number of people underemployed. (Check out Gallop’s survey results for perhaps a more realistic set of numbers.)
Getting back to my example of how outdoor advertising might be a good indicator of the true economic health of an area or the economy overall.
I truly feel advertising budgets are still in recessionary mode and it will be some time before we will see destination advertisers. Once all the outdoor boards are snapped up, then I think we will be on the road to recovery.