A Brief History of Outdoor Advertising
———— The Roots of Billboard Advertising
Humans have been creating wall art since the time we lived in caves. What the wall art was used for, and at what point it crossed from artistic display to marketing for a business is an interesting question. In 1450, the ancient Egyptians the government was using images carved into stones to post the laws and regulations of the land. This carving into stones may, in a way, have been the oldest form of outdoor advertising.
Modern advertising was introduced through the handbill. In 1796 the first illustrated poster was made when the lithographic process was perfected.
1835: The first large outdoor poster (more than 50 square feet) in America debuted in New York when Jared Bell printed one for a circus.
1850: Exterior advertising was first used on street railways.
1867: The first leasing of billboards was recorded.
1870: Nearly 300 small sign-painting and bill posting companies were in operation.
1871: Michigan formed the first state bill posters association.
1872: The International Bill Posters’ Association of North America was formed in St. Louis.
1890: A National Association is Formed.
1891: The Associated Bill Posters’ Association of the US and Canada was formed in Chicago.
1900: A standardized billboard structure is established in America. Big advertisers like Kellogg’s and Coca Cola were able to start advertising nationwide.
1912: Standardized services were available to national advertisers in nearly every major urban center.
1913: The industry association established an education committee which served to encourage members to donate public service advertising.
1915: The National Outdoor Advertising Bureau (NOAB) was formed. It served the needs of advertising agencies and regularly inspected billboards.
1920: The first outdoor advertising company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
1925: The first major merger of outdoor advertising assets took place. The Fulton Group and the Cusack Co. combined to become the General Outdoor Advertising Company (GOA).
1931: Outdoor Advertising, Inc. (OAI) was established to promote outdoor advertising and later merged with OAAA.
1934: The industry established the Traffic Audit Bureau to provide advertisers with data to determine outdoor audience size.
1942: OAAA introduces the OBIE Awards. The Coca-Cola “Yes Girl” design wins the first Best of Show Award.
1958: Congress passed the first federal legislation to voluntarily control billboards along Interstate highways. The law was known as the Bonus Act because states were given bonus incentives to control signs.
1962: French outdoor company JCDecaux(now one of the largest media owners) introduced the bus shelter.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson signed the Highway Beautification Act into law. It controlled billboards on Interstate and some primary highways by limiting them to commercial and industrial areas and by requiring states to set size, lighting and spacing standards.
1970: Billboard companies commissioned research on the creation of messages by computer. Ultimately, this led to computer painting on vinyl.
1972: Tobacco advertising was banned on broadcast media leaving print and outdoor as its most popular advertising venues.
1975: The Outdoor Advertising, Inc. (OAI) developed a campaign to measure billboards effectiveness.
1990: A standardized billboard structure was established in America, Digital technology allowed computer-painted outdoor advertising to replace hand-painted boards.
1991: After two years in the logo sign business, Lamar wins the contract to build logo signs on interstate highways in Ohio.
1992: The Company opens Lamar Graphics, a printing division, and begins silk screening posters.
1997: Lamar Graphics begins printing digitally, using technology in place of the traditional silk screen process.
1999: Outdoor advertising for tobacco was banned.
2005: The first digital billboards were installed and now, it seems like we are right back where it all stared, as digital signage becomes increasingly popular among business to attract customers or inform guests, in 100 years we just traded the paint for the pixels but the message is still the same.