The Covid-19 pandemic has made many unusual niches of the American economy more in-demand (such as toilet paper) and others completely undesirable (airline revenues are down 90%). One lucky recipient of positive momentum from the nation’s quarantine has been the rural billboard. Why is that?
Not located in Covid-19 “hot spots”
While the national motto has been “we’re all in this together” the truth is that physical geography renders some areas hugely impacted by Covid-19 and others not so much. While urban New York City leads the nation in cases, spots in rural New York state have virtually none. And rural billboards are not typically in areas that have high levels of the pandemic nor the resulting shut-downs and quarantine. As a result, these are areas that have most advertisers’ businesses unaffected and fully open.
Most advertisers are “essential” services in rural markets
Equally important, most advertisers in rural markets are in “essential” services such as banks, hospitals, and fast-food restaurants. There are not a lot of “luxury” businesses in rural areas, such as movie theaters and bars, and those are not regular billboard advertisers anyway. In this manner, many billboard owners that serve rural areas have had no impact from Covid-19 on their occupancy or collections and should continue this trend even if there is a future resurgence of the pandemic.
Increase in urban dwellers shifting their focus to rural areas
One interesting feature of the pandemic has been the re-focus of millions of Americans on the wonders of a world less dense with population. While the big city may have serious problems going forward for years to come, most rural areas offer city dwellers an escape from their concerns. And this is having a positive effect on rural area sales and occupancy which is making many advertisers interested in increasing their marketing despite the national pandemic.
A simple model that is very affordable to advertisers
One of the strengths of the billboard to an advertiser is the low cost compared to other marketing methods. Even prior to the internet, the billboard has always delivered the lowest cost-per-thousand exposures – a fraction of the cost of newspaper, radio or television options. If you are a hospital in a rural market wanting to reach locals, you can rent a billboard 30 days per month for the same rate as just one day’s newspaper ad. At a time when national frugality is reinforced daily, the billboard is not a tough sell for advertisers.
Despite the national pandemic of Covid-19, rural billboards have been operating solidly and profitably and there seems to be no hindrance to this type of advertising opportunity going forward. Have you thought about the profit to be made in this old-fashioned business model?