Rotating TV (LED) Billboards


Rotating TV billboards are a growing and evolving technology that has brought many changes to the tradition of outdoor advertising. For example, advertisers are not buying space for these billboards, but they are instead buying time. The rotating billboards are digital light-emitting diode (LED) screens, and these LED screens can change the advertisement displayed on the billboard every 15, 30 or even 60 seconds. This is convenient and revolutionary in many ways, as now multiple advertising messages can be seen by the public and creates awareness all on the same giant digital billboard.



There are many benefits to using rotating billboards. Digital billboards generate more revenue than a traditional billboard at a much lower cost, which explains, for example, why advertising giant Clear Channel Outdoor recently traded 100 traditional billboards for 10 digital billboards in St. Petersburg, FL (Boyle, 2009). Since production costs are cheaper for billboard companies and multiple advertising messages can be shown on one rotating billboard, the number of ads sold increases, leading to greater profits. These billboards are also bright enough to be seen for miles, can target specific areas/markets through their locations and they are very easy to change or update. “Rotating billboards also work well for repeated messaging and multiple headlines, as well as sequential boards,” says Pittsburgh-based copywriter Sam Panico.



The most frequent complaint about rotating billboards seems to be that they are considered a distraction to drivers and can lead to car accidents, though two studies in 2007 showed no direct correlation between rotating billboards leading to an increase in car accidents (Birdsall, 2008). Rotating billboards are actually prohibited in some US cities, such as Tampa, FL (Boyle, 2009). There are also environmentalists annoyed by these bright, rotating billboards. One study says each one of these billboards uses enough electricity to light 13 homes (Canberra Times, 2009). Weather conditions also can be a limitation, as thunderstorms and power outages can shut down the digital billboards. They are also much heavier than traditional billboards, weighing between 3,000 – 4,000 lbs, and can only be supported by certain structures (Ahrens, 2007).


Rotating TV billboards are actually slightly cheaper to purchase now than they were earlier in the decade. “Three or four years ago, a 14-by-48 digital billboard cost about $1 million for a company such as CBS to buy,” says Wally Kelly, President of CBS Outdoor. “Now, the price is about $450, 000,” says Kelly (Ahrens, 2007). Andy Boyle, a staff writer for the St. Petersburg Times, also noted that it costs $150,000 to $350,000 to convert a traditional billboard to a digital rotating billboard (Boyle, 2009).

Reach and Frequency

Digital billboards are both high reach and high frequency. The ads rotate on these billboards 24 hours a day. There are hundreds of thousands of cars and people driving on the highways every day, so there is incredible reach since people are seeing these billboards every day. Many people also drive the same route to and from work on a daily basis, so frequency is great among these people because they may be seeing the ads on these billboards literally every day.


Digital billboards have had an impact in the growth of the outdoor advertising industry, as in the past decade, revenue has increased from $4.8 billion 1999 to $7 billion in 2008, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (Boyle, 2009). They are effective and impactful because of their high reach and frequency, and the creative possibilities that digital billboards can allow.


The audience that rotating digital billboards can reach is very large. As stated earlier, the ads rotate 24 hours a day, which makes the chances of awareness very high since many people are driving on the highways or stuck in traffic. The billboards and the ads in these billboards can also be placed in certain areas to specifically target a desired audience with their messages.


There are many companies that have found success using rotating billboards. "In Pittsburgh, I notice the newspapers use them as "what's in the news today" boards. That way, each sequential board has a different headline and copy," says Pittsburgh-based copywriter Sam Panico. They have also been used recently on AAA professional wrestling events in Mexico as a way to advertise during the televised matches.

Rotating billboards during Mexican lucha libre television programs:


  • Boyle, A. (2009, Oct 23) South Petersburg Times. 10 Digital Billboards for 100 Old Ones. 1B.
  • The Carberra Times (2009, March 1) Creating a Glow the World can Bathe In. 26.
  • Ahrens, F. (2007, May 3) Washington Post. Digital Billboards That Turn your Head
  • Panico, S. (2010, Apr 6) e-mail interview.
  • Birdsall, M. (2008, Apr) Institute of Transportation Engineers. ITE Journal. Vol. 78, Iss. 4; 22.