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Billboards: Introduction and Conceptual Clarification

  • Advertising and Promoting
  • Advertising is a paid form of non-personal presentation of ideas, goods and services by an identified sponsor with a view to disseminate information concerning an idea, product or service (Puranik, 2011). The message which is presented or disseminated is called advertisement. In the present day marketing activities, hardly is there any business in the modern world which does not advertise (Asemah, Edegoh and Ojih, 2013). However, the form of advertisement differs from business to business.

    Advertising is the structured and composed non personal communication of information, usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature, about products, services and ideas, by identified sponsors, through various mass media (Arens 2008, p.7). This definition is closely related to Dominick’s (2007, p.321) definition which asserts that advertising is any form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods and services, usually paid for, by identified sponsor. Asemah, Edegoh and Ojih (2013) state that advertising is a controlled, identifiable and persuasive communication that is presented via the mass media and designed to develop product demand and to create a favourable image for a company.

    The major purpose of advertisings is to promote the sales of a product or service and also, to inform the masses about the highlights of the product or the service feature. Advertising is an efficient means of communicating to the world, the value of the product or the service.

    Advertising is any communication that is paid for, identified by a sponsor, directed at a target audience through the various mass media like radio, television, billboard, newspaper, magazine, with the aim of creating awareness about goods and services. The essence of advertising is to make known in order to sell or buy goods and services. The power of advertising depends on the use of creative and planning skills to achieve its objectives. Advertising is the process of persuading potential customers to buy products or promote its services (Kenechukwu, Asemah and Edegeoh, 2013). It is the branch of marketing that deals with communicating to customers information about products, brands, and services. Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action with respect to products ideas and services (Asemah and Edegoh, 2012a). Advertising commends ideas, goods and services to potential consumers through various traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, the new media and outdoor media such as billboard.

    Outdoor advertising is a medium of advertising which is used to reinforce the recall of brand names and pay offs (Okoro, 1998, p.158). It is one of the channels of mass communication. It is a medium usually used for dissemination of information or advertising message to a mass audience. The outdoor media have been described severally as “out–of-home media” and as the “traffic or position” media since they depend on people and/or vehicular traffic passing by their locations to deliver their advertising message (Amaechi, 1991, p.77). The billboard as a type of outdoor advertising is asserting itself as a powerful medium for the introduction of new products, with its appeal to all classes of consumers and its high visual impact. Billboard advertising generally belongs to point of purchase (POP). It is one of the most effective outdoor advertising techniques that are used in business everyday. This explains why Russell and Lane (1962, p.50) cited in Mbadi (2005, p.65) successfully claim that “billboard survived the decline of the Roman Empire to become the decorative art of Europeans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries”.

    In our contemporary modern society, the use of models has been predominant and widespread in billboard advertising which has brought tremendous change especially on sales of products. Belch and Belch (2001) opine that companies spend huge sums of money to have models appear in their advertisement. This is because of the attractive force in drawing attention of people to product, sustaining their interest and giving the product a personality. A model is a person employed to display, advertise and promote commercial products (notably fashion clothing) or to serve as a subject of works of arts (Wikipedia).

    Celebrity branding refers to branding in which a celebrity becomes a brand ambassador and uses his or her status to promote a product, service or charity, and sometimes also appears as promotional model (Wikipedia). The source defines a promotional model as a model hired to drive consumer demand for a product, service, brand or concept by directly interacting with potential customers. The most important characteristic of the vast majority of promotional models is that typically they tend to be attractive in physical appearance. Their major function is provision of information about the product or service and make it appealing to customers (Wikipedia). This study, therefore is an examination of audience assessment of the use of models in billboard advertising, using Amstel malt consumers in Onitsha the commercial nerve centre of South East Nigeria, as a case study.

    Statement of Problem

    The most important role of advertising is to sell product, service, idea, etc. This is also the major aim of billboard advertising. Although billboard advertising could appear fascinating, the crux of the matter lies in its effectiveness in capturing and sustaining attention and in making consumers take required action by buying the product, idea, opinion or service. Inspite of the many benefits inherent in the use of attractive models in billboard advertising there is a raging argument regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of these attractive models to pass across the intended message (and nothing more) to the buyers.

    varied. First, the commuter has very little time to note and appreciate the advertisement before his vehicle speeds past. Second, there exists a problem as to whether the audiences are attracted to the models or to the product they endorse, and whether the audience eventually recall the product advertised or the face of model used. This is a problem because the audience needs to be attracted to and recall the product before he or she can take the desired action. This study therefore attempts to ascertain whether the use of attractive models in billboard advertising is a strength or weakness; whether the models attract attention to themselves or to the product they endorse.


    Billboard is a branch of outdoor media, but in most cases, some scholars who distinguish it from outdoor media see it as a form of advertising (Anna, 2006, p.13). Billboard is usually targeted at passers-by, drivers, those in moving vehicle and pedestrian traffic. They are characterized by attractive models images and catchy slogans that attract attention.

    Duncan (2013) writes: Billboards take two forms. The most common definition of a billboard is an outdoor sign or poster you usually see on freeways, highways and streets. A billboard is also an announcement of a sponsor or sponsors at the beginning, middle or end of a radio or television broadcast. A billboard that is an outdoor sign or poster is also known as outdoor advertising. Billboard advertising is the use of large signs along roadways to advertise a wide range of products, services and causes (Wise GEEK, 2013). The source further asserts: In general, the signs used in the roadside advertising campaigns must be over a certain size in order to be truly referred to as a billboard. In general, the sign must be large enough for a driver or passenger in a vehicle to be able to clearly read the lettering while navigating the vehicle along a road.

    Billboards are large format advertising displays intended for viewing from extended distance generally more than 50 feet. Billboard displays include but on not limited to: bulletins, junior posters, posters and spectaculars. The major types of billboard include: digital billboards, mobile billboards, inflatable billboards, multipurpose billboards, billboard bicycle, mechanical billboards and dimensional billboards. Ariyibi –Oke (2007) aptly captures the importance of billboard advertising when he asserts “another great benefit of out door advertising is that it does not interrupt consumers in any way. There is no obnoxious sound, smell or any type of negative attention grabber. Billboard got noticed because of their messages, bright bold colour and creative graphics”.

    In his own contribution, Okoro (1998, p.77) states that the importance of billboard includes: high visual impact, low cost, high product visibility, high frequency, and immediate message delivery. Anther important contribution which is hard to ignore is that of Simcoe (2008, p.19). According to the author “one of the most effective ways to strengthen your company’s brand recognition is billboard advertising. If placed in the right location, billboard advertising can increase traffic to your business, familiarize customers with your brand/product/service, and attract new customers who make impulse buying”.

    Anna (2006) affirms that “billboards are here to help us and be tangible reminder of what we have become and what we have achieved. Not only do they improve the visual quality of the area where they are placed, they also serve as beautiful reminders of our past and the future”. Still on the importance of billboard advertising, Plumely (2000, p.13) states that “one most important advantages of billboard over other advertising media is that it has the potential to capture the attention of the audience on the go”. Unlike the media offerings of the electronic media which are transient, billboard message are permanent. One can expose himself to them over and over again and this makes their message(s) indelible and easily recalled by the audience (Okoro, 1998).

    In most advertisements, the models used are mainly beautiful women. Gustafson, Popovich and Thomson (1999) observe that physical attractiveness is a very sensitive issue for many women. Some research studies indicate that physical attractiveness is associated with female’s global self esteem. Bers and Rodin (1986, p.772) found that the self-concepts of many female adolescents stem primarily from the sense of their physical attractiveness. In advertising, the use of attractive models is believed to be effective in increasing sales. However, this view is not always consistent with marketing literature. Bower and Stacy (2001, p.10) note the positive effects of employing attractive advertising spokesperson, resulting in advertising effectiveness.

    However, Bower (2001) notes that “attractive models could decrease advertising effectiveness because it deflates the self-image of potential customers when they compare themselves to these models”. Richins (1991) reported that when sufficient negative effect is generated as a consequence of comparism with beautiful models, evaluation of both the model as a spokesperson and the product may be affected adversely because of model derogation. The comparison with these beautiful models may lead to negative feelings such as frustration and anxiety (Richins, 1991). The author found in a study that half of the young female respondents reported that they compared themselves frequently with models in clothing, personal care, and cosmetics; and approximately one third reported that these advertisements made them feel dissatisfied with their appearance.

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