A History of outdoor Ads… from the roadside billboard to digital signage

70s billboard

We’ve come a long way since the earliest forms of outdoor advertising, budding in the 1830s by local establishments with simple painted signs or posters, till flash forwarding to today, where digital signage, just like it’s early predecessor, is a marketing must-have embraced by local business.

Interested in seeing just how we got here?

Here is a brief history of out door advertising in the United States:


Much like today, business just needed to grab the attention of passers-by, so they started simple, by painting signs or putting posters up on walls to advertises whatever the business was selling, promoting, or just to let people know what merchant was there. Of course now we have digital signage, but the idea has always been simple, efficient and to the point and it’s probably why it’s stood the test of time.

JARED BELL circus-poster


It was Jared Bell who first went big, creating 50 square foot posters to promote Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s circus…in New York of course!


By the 1870s it was clear there was new form of business here, so billboard leasing’s became a common thing. Soon sign painting and bill-posting companies began to sprout out.


National campaigns became an important part of advertising for big companies such as Kellogg and Coca-Cola as well as government sponsored war effort or public service advertising, who doesn’t remember what Uncle Sam wants you for?

Uncle Sam


Outdoor advertising really took over a life of it’s one, from huge partnerships and mergers to the creation of associations for standardization in terms of size and spacing, to third party data gatherers that analyzed just how much traffic a certain ad could be receiving. Although this was great for building name recognition for business, there were still many who tried to pass anti-billboard laws and initiatives.


By 2005 we had the first digital billboards… and now, it seems like we are right back where it all stared, as digital signage becomes increasingly popular among business to attract customers or inform guests, in 100 years we just traded the paint for the pixels but the message is still the same.




Are you ready to install some digital ads for your business or workplace?






Learn More About Digital Signage 

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