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Toll-Free Numbers as Direct Response Mechanisms in Billboard Advertising

Telephone Numbers, URLs, and Local Business Addresses in Billboard Advertising Campaigns

Effective use of toll-free numbers has produced numerous business success stories. This study examined billboard advertising along major highways in two major metropolitan markets – Philadelphia (the 4th ranked DMA in the US) and San Diego (the 26th ranked DMA in the US). Researchers gathered data on advertiser, advertisement telephone number information, Internet address information, and local business address information, and also compiled data on advertiser industry segments. A total of 358 billboards were surveyed in the course of the study.

Highlights of the findings include the fact that approximately 50% of the surveyed billboards displayed either a telephone number or an Internet address. Of the billboards with telephone numbers, toll-free numbers predominated, making up over 70% of the total telephone numbers. Advertisers that included a toll-free number in their billboards preferred vanity numbers as a response device. Vanity numbers made up over 75% of the total toll-free numbers.

Key Finding: Nearly half of the surveyed billboards included either a telephone number or an Internet address. Toll-free numbers made up over 70% of the telephone numbers included on billboards, and if a telephone number was included on a billboard, it was displayed prominently 80% of the time.

Findings Summary

Although consumer’s exposure to outdoor advertising can be measured in seconds, advertisers frequently include either a telephone number or Internet address in their advertisements. Vanity numbers offer advertisers many advantages in an outdoor context including greatly improved memorability. And, for vanity numbers that incorporate an organization’s name, the ability to simultaneously present a call to action while increasing a firm’s name recognition. If an advertiser incorporates a vanity number into other media placements, this will only serve to reinforce these positive effects in the outdoor medium.

For the full research study report, please send your request to

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