Billboards, Brand Awareness and Big Data, Or What Comedy Central and Gallery Furniture Have in Common

When it comes to digital advertising, targeting and segmenting is easy. In fact, that’s the whole premise of online advertising to begin with. Target based on interests and demographics, segment to reach the right audience at the right time and hopefully engage them well enough that they come back time and time again. It’s about building customer lifetime value via click-throughs and brand awareness. But, what happens when you take your advertising efforts offline? 

Traditional advertising relies on influencing the influencers, and gaining enough impressions that you can reasonably determine an ad’s spend produced sufficient ROI. As of now, there are no hard numbers to back that up, which is why so many brands put their traditional ad spend to play in areas with proven influencer viability, for instance Times Square, Hollywood or Vegas. 

“Traditional advertising relies on influencing the influencers, and as of now, there are no hard numbers to back that up.”

Take Comedy Central, for example, which pays $500K a year for one billboard. Granted, the location of that billboard is famous, resting right above L.A’s Pink Dot delivery supermarket on Sunset Boulevard. 

Hundreds of pictures of the changing billboard have been uploaded to the internet over the years by admiring fans of whichever show is being advertised, or so proves a quick Google search. Though, perhaps none captivated the L.A. audience as much as Comedy Central’s 2014 Emmy’s ad featuring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.


That billboard along with a cousin ad featuring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of Broad City got even those outside of L.A. talking. Heck, even a few digital pubs in New York City got wind of the placement and wrote up their own coverage pieces. 

The press buzz on the campaign alone was probably enough to justify the annual spend on the Sunset Boulevard billboard. After all, brand exposure and awareness are integral parts to any advertising campaign and this Emmy Consideration campaign certainly delivered on that. 

See, what Comedy Central is attempting to do with their Sunset billboard is simple. The brand wants to influence the influencers, and where better to do that than Hollywood? 

Data-Driven Brand Awareness via Billboards

Of course, Comedy Central isn’t the only brand looking to influence and delight potential fans. Down in Houston, a local furniture store is doing the same. 

The company’s goal was simple: keep Gallery Furniture top of mind for Houstonians when it came to where to buy furniture. A billboard issuing brand awareness, and effectively influencing the influencers, fit this need exactly. The only problem was that without an obvious location like Sunset Boulevard where furniture shoppers might naturally congregate, Gallery Furniture couldn’t exactly pinpoint where to buy the ad

“Without an obvious location like Sunset Boulevard where furniture shoppers might naturally congregate, Gallery Furniture couldn’t exactly pinpoint where to buy the ad.” 

But, big data could. Using ethically collected customer data, Gallery Furniture noticed that a large portion of their digital customers were also customers of Chick-Fil-A, and there so happened to be a Chick-Fil-A chain in town with a billboard in perfect view to customers dining there. 

Since buying the placement, sales have indeed risen. Old marketing strategies would give credence to the billboard ad spend for that uptick in ROI. Except, of course, that that credence is really just a best guess. 

Modern Marketing: Measure, Analyze, Improve

And that’s the thing about old school marketing strategies: they have long relied on impressions to drive value, and on brand awareness to drive ultimate purchaser conversion. And perhaps for the offline marketplace including the likes of billboards or bench placements, the impressions truly do add up. It’s just that as of now, we can’t possibly know for sure that they do. 

What we can measure, though, are impressions and engagement with digital ads. What’s more, we can target specific silos of users across the web, effectively influencing the influencers – and getting the data to prove it. 

Soon, billboards will be forced to have this capability as well, and the Internet of Things will make sure it happens. Because as valuable as brand awareness is, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, nor can you improve on it. Traditional advertising isn’t going away. Instead, it’s about to experience a data-driven rebirth. And for local brands everywhere, unable to afford obvious ad placement spots like those in New York City of L.A., the renaissance has long been awaited.

Figure out your next data-driven marketing campaign, on or offline, with Umbel. Check out a demo here to see how.