Billboards ‘brand’ campus
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2012 03:01
Though the nation's eyes were on USF on Monday for the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate, nine
billboards aim to remind the Tampa Bay area of USF's presence throughout the year.
The University spends almost $12,000 of its marketing budget a month to rent two of the nine billboards — a large board at the intersection of Interstate 4 and Interstate 275, and a smaller one west of campus near the
railroad tracks on Fowler Avenue. The remaining seven boards are paid for by USF Athletics.
USF advertising professor Harold Vincent said billboards are often referred to as the "last medium" for advertising.
"Things like television have fragmented into hundreds of channels, as people have watched less television and spent more time online, read less magazines, less newspapers," he said. "A billboard is very difficult to ignore."
Billboards, he said, subliminally make passersby think about what they're seeing.
"The more we repeat it and the more we make a consumer think about our brand and think about, in this case, our school, then the more likely they will be to have positive feelings and support the university in whatever way it may be," he said.
University Communications and Marketing (UCM), USF Athletics, USF Health and the Office of Academic and Student Affairs take turns renting the larger board from advertising company CBS Outdoor for three-month shifts. Each office shells out $11,475 per month to maintain the billboard, which they redesign at the beginning of their shift for an added cost of no more than $3,000, USF spokesman Michael Hoad said.
Though the return on investment is not always fully tangible in terms of enrollment or monetary gain, billboards allow USF to keep track of how many people see the advertisements.
Jeff Ledgerwood, CBS Outdoor branch sales manager, said USF chose the pricey I-4/I-275 board because of its location. The board has one of the highest impression rates in the city, he said, reaching an estimated
680,076 adults per week — a number calculated through a metrics process that estimates passengers in cars passing the sign.
Ledgerwood said USF received a discounted price for the board because it is rented year round.
UCM rents the smaller board on Fowler Avenue exclusively, paying $260 a month to MetaMedia with no additional cost for display changes. Based on the number of people other CBS Outdoor billboards reach on Fowler Avenue, Ledgerwood estimated that the UCM board is viewed by 18,000 people a week.
Hoad said UCM uses its billboard for "branding" USF as a "great, high-impact university in town."
When USF added "Tampa Bay" to its tagline this month, UCM tested the logo on the billboard, replacing "Bulls Country" with "USF is Tampa Bay" before announcing the change.
Assistant Director of Athletics Marketing and Event Management Ayodele Taylor-Dixon said the number of billboards USF Athletics rents fluctuates depending on what sport it is promoting. Currently, USF Athletics is renting the seven billboards for an eight-week basketball campaign.
"There is not a standard cost," he said. "It all depends on location, number of boards, length of the campaign — there's a lot of variables that affect the cost of what you are trying to do."
Vincent said outdoor advertisers need to know their geographical audiences to be effective. For USF Athletics, Taylor-Dixon said that means focusing solely on Tampa residents.
"Our billboards are up in the areas there is a lot of traffic, so there's a lot of eyes and ears to see that message," he said. "If visitors happen to be in those areas, great — the more the merrier."
Taylor-Dixon said the advertising brings in revenue for marketing budgets, which have been slashed university-wide with the economic downturn.
UCM has dropped more than $70,000 in budgeted expenditures since the 2009-10 fiscal year and no longer has a national advertising budget. USF Athletics' marketing budget dipped from $1,158,504 last year to $400,000 this year, Taylor-Dixon said.
"I think there's no one medium from an advertising perspective that brings in X dollars" he said. "Yes, the advertisements on those billboards does help us bring in revenue, but to say it's bringing in a hundred dollars a day, I can't quantify it like that."
Vincent also said billboard ads are considerably more effective when used to supplement other media in an advertising campaign. In a time when budgets are sparse, Hoad said, the current advertising methods will have to suffice.