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During 2020, the first year of the pandemic, spending on outdoor advertising slumped big-time when folks were home and spending far less time in their cars.
But in 2022, according to Insider Intelligence, spending on out-of-home advertising rebounded to an estimated $7.93 billion in the U.S., up from $6.08 billion in 2020 (though still not back to the $8.65 billion spent in 2019). Car-centric Los Angeles — where significant FYC campaigning takes over billboards across the city — factored into that recovery, says Philip Berardi, president and CEO of Regency Outdoor Advertising.
According to Berardi, “2020 saw revenues decline by approximately half, and this revenue decline persisted until approximately the end of Q2 2021, after which the market for FYC and entertainment ads took off like a rocket.” He adds that “2022 was a great year with strong revenues across all areas.” Among the top outdoor advertisers in the U.S. last year, according to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, were Apple, Amazon and Paramount+.
But the type of billboard that companies gravitate toward is driven by a mix of commercial and aesthetic choices. Apart from the fast-growing segment of digital displays, billboard displays come down to two choices: those made vinyl, with and without PVC, and those that are hand-painted. Hollywood generally favors the former.
“Most entertainment companies will use vinyl, especially for FYC campaigns, just in case there’s a need to quickly change it out or they don’t get the nomination,” says Kevin Bartanian, founder of Los Angeles-based media sales company Kevani. “[They] tend to go with vinyls and digital as opposed to hand paints.”
Adds Berardi, “Generally, entertainment companies take the vinyl route due to the need to post the media and remove it within a very specific timeframe. Regency’s founder Brian Kennedy is credited with bringing the vinyl technology to the billboard industry in 1988. Prior to that all billboards were either hand painted, or the image was assembled using a series of sheets similar to a puzzle. Using vinyl to rotate the ads on billboards has really made it possible to turn the media faster which I believe is especially appealing to entertainment companies. This also made it possible for billboard companies to rotate ads on their inventory enabling the growth we see today in the business.”
On the other hand, heritage and luxury brands often opt to go the hand-painted route, according to Bartanian, in many cases because those billboards offer a whiff of nostalgia. “We always tell advertisers, especially at eye-level closer to the sidewalk, that this is an art piece. It’s not meant to look exactly like a print. It’s going to have natural imperfections,” he says, noting that there’s no price differential at Kevani between vinyl and hand-painted. (Prime billboards on the Sunset Strip cost at least $75,000 and can run much higher for a four-week ad.)
During the painting stage — which can take up to a week — “a fun process happens,” says Bartanian.
“It almost becomes a show as they’re painting it,” he explains. “Especially if you’re painting in a very concentrated area, it creates a crowd because you have two, three, sometimes four people on a given wall: One side is sketching, the other one is literally mixing paint, and the other one is painting. So it’s a very involved, interactive process. People are usually awed by it.”
Bartanian also notes that the pandemic affected advertising locally in L.A. in significant ways, with people spending more time in the areas where they live. He says studios, for instance, increased their targeting of such areas as downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and Koreatown for FYC campaigns. Says Bartanian, “People have moved around and [voters] are kind of everywhere, and then that audience profile is translating to our advertising.”
This story first appeared in the March 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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