Billboards are Here to Stay..

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In the world of advertising, there is nothing that is certain. Not for the client or the advertising service providers or the intended audiences. Outdoor advertising as a medium is one of the most effective channels of advertisement that has the wave of the internet revolution.

TV stations no longer have the say over their audiences, as online TV and pay TV have come into play.

Radio stations can no longer claim to be directing the materials that people listen to due to the same internet disruption as the case of TV’s, plus an explosion of different radio stations that cater for niche markets. The changes that have been experienced in the adverting sector have sent companies back to the drawing boards. They want to know how to effectively reach their audiences.

The one medium that has not budged from its position is the billboard. I still lies out on the streets. The case in Somalia is not any different. Over a long period of time, people in Somalia used small and medium signs for their business premises to attract the attention of pedestrians and potential customers. The industry has realised some growth in Somalia, particularly in Mogadishu and Hargeisa, for the past two years. A walk through any of the major cities and towns of Somalia will confirm that these are indeed changing times.

As more roads get constructed, commuters in Mogadishu will be accessed through the billboards and any company that would want to engage with them will definitely need to do so through this medium. Billboards have several advantages over the other mediums. They are strikingly appealing when properly done. The fact that they are set at one place gives them a relative feel of permanency and reliability. Whether running a social change campaign, political campaign or product and service promotion, billboards tend to be preferred by marketers. From an industry trend perspective, one can observe that a new form, the Digital Electronic Display (DED) is emerging in Mogadishu with two companies already in the market. In Hargeisa, the DED was appreciated a couple of years ago. This digital electronic display based billboard is much more flexible. The most commonly used DED is the Light Emitting Diode or “LED” type.

Icon MediaA LED based DED allows images to be created and displayed onto the billboard, without any manual intervention. Because the image is electronically generated, changes are quick and inexpensive. This form of billboard allows a number of advertisers, each with their own transient unique advertisement, to share the same space and divide the cost of the LED/DED billboard among them.

Elsewhere in the world, there are nearly close to one million large and small billboards within eyesight on the highways, freeways and local streets in the United States alone. The revenue from the uses of billboards exceeded $40 billion in the US and $25 billion in the UK in 2013. Globally, the billboard industry potential has annual revenues exceeding $150 billion.

In Somalia though, most billboard structures are not erected in adherence to the guidelines of the industry recommended structural requirements, more so in the absence of local government regulations. Despite this, Somalia’s billboard industry is continuing to grow because marketers have realised that consumers spend more time outside their houses. In general, the industry provides a big number of jobs and income for families.

The industry, in Mogadishu alone, employs close 500 skilled and unskilled jobs. As the volume of advertisement increases, the industry is expected to grow. Challenges in the industry include lack of a regulatory framework from the part of the local government; lack of skilled graphic/creative designers; lack of Institutions and schools that offer these courses; and lack of public awareness of this service. Solutions to these problems will require time and the willingness on the side of the local government to legislate the necessary regulations. In the meantime, let Mogadishu billboard away.