About OAAG


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About OAAG - History

1835-1870: The Start of Outdoor Advertising
1872-1891: The First Associations
1900: Standardization of Billboards
1913-1921: A Responsible Industry
1925-1934: More Associations and Mergers
1940's: A Presence in Times of Trouble
1950's & 1960's: A New Look
1965: Protection for the Industry
1960's & 1970's: New Audience - New Message
1980's & 1990's: Technology Advances into the Future

 

1835-1870: The Start of Outdoor Advertising

In 1835 Jared Bell printed 9x6 posters advertising the circus and theatre, outdoor advertising’s first clients. In 1846 Richard Hoe developed a better press called the Napier Cylinder that printed larger sheets. This paved the way to billboards, as the size of the billboard was now only limited by the surface to which it was attached.

By 1867 advertisers had already begun leasing space on the sides of buildings and fences and Bradbury and Houghteling of New York initiated a nationwide painting and posting service for advertisers.

By 1870, nearly 300 small sign-painting and bill posting companies existed.

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1872-1891: The First Associations

On August 27, 1872, the International Bill Posters Association of North America was formed in St. Louis. Three years later, Michigan formed the first state outdoor advertising association with regulatory, marketing, and fraternal concerns. Indiana, New York, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin were to follow.
On July 15, 1891, the International Bill Posters’ Association, the affiliated state associations, and a growing number of manufacturers were ready for a strengthened national association. The groups met in Chicago and formed the Associated Bill Posters’ Association of the United States and Canada. Their purpose was “to promote a greater understanding of the poster medium, to provide and expanded nationwide organization for coordinating the services offered by member companies, and to continue to address the ethical concerns of the country and the possibilities that the poster in some future standardized form could act as an advertising medium for manufacturers.”

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1900: Standardization of Billboards

By 1900 a major step towards the standardization of billboards occurred – a standardized structure was created to hold posters of three, eight, and sixteen sheets (each measuring 42 x 28”).
This structure allowed boards to become a recognizable part of city landscapes attracting advertisers like Palmolive, Kellogg and Coca-Cola.

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1913-1921: A Responsible Industry

In 1913, the association established an education committee to serve a public relations role.  Public service advertising became a common practice and was seen as a responsibility of the industry.  Messages on the boards ranged from inspirational to social concerns – including Adolph Treidler’s war poster Have You Bought Your Bond? which made history as the first government-sponsored poster produced after the United States entered the war.   It is estimated that the outdoor industry donated more than $1.5 million in advertising space to the cause of World War I.
Through the billboard industry’s involvement in WWI, it became obvious how persuasive the outdoor industry was. 

In 1921 the Federal Highway Act brought the addition of newer and better roads, which led to billboards having more space to fill and more messages to send.  Tire manufacturers, clothing, home appliances, and vacations spots all competed for the attention of drivers on the newly paved highways across America.   Across the country, “loyalty posters” were erected promoting Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts, church attendance, traffic safety, and other worthwhile messages.


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1925-1934: More Associations and Mergers

In 1925 the Poster Advertising Association and the Painted Outdoor Advertising Association merged and became the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
Also in 1925 the first major merger of outdoor advertising firms occurred between the Fulton Group, a considerable number of modest-size companies, and the relatively large and well-known Thomas Cusack Company of Chicago.  They combined to become the General Outdoor Advertising Company (GOA).
On March 13, 1931 Outdoor Advertising, Inc. was formed which focused on the advertisers by giving them “all the cooperation and facilities needed to develop a wider, more intelligent, and more profitable use of outdoor advertising.”  The OAI was mainly concerned with selling the concept of outdoor advertising, as opposed to the National Outdoor Advertising Bureau, Inc. which was focused on buying outdoor advertising and inspecting for compliance.
In 1934 the Traffic Audit Bureau was established to provide advertisers with the necessary data for determining the size of the audience viewing its billboards.

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1940's: A Presence in Times of Trouble

During the 40s, the race for billboard space was on.  With the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II in progress, the U.S. government needed a means to encourage participation in the war effort.  In response, the industry created 17,000 poster panels for the use of the American Red Cross and its War Fund campaign.  With this campaign, the Red Cross received the most complete coverage ever by the billboard industry.
 
By the end of 1943, the outdoor advertising industry had contributed nearly $22.5 million worth of posters to the education, publicity and recruitment of the war effort.

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1950's & 1960's: A New Look

1950s - The trend of the cutout image extending above the billboard itself took the industry by storm.  Many of these billboards have withstood the tests of time and are today structures that people recognize and associate with the cities that welcomed them years ago.
Also in the fifties, the “full bleed” board became popular.  With no frame, this style allowed segmented boards.  Panels could be rotated from site to site in a city or region.  This breakthrough not only permitted most boards to be painted in the studio, but the advertiser was also assured a wider viewing of any given campaign.
Late 1950s, a three-dimensional effect was popular.  This look used various types of plastic materials to create one-of-a-kind designs that were popular through the end of the decade.
The 1960s began with billboards using much stock design and typography.  Creativity was the buzzword of the sixties, and it was apparent on the nation’s outdoor advertising.  Outdoor advertising utilized simplified designs, reduced text, and memorable humor to persuade its audience.

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1965: Protection for the Industry

In 1965 the Highway Beautification Act was signed into law by President Johnson.  Its purpose was to limit billboards to commercial and industrial areas in order to provide control on Interstate and Federal-Aid Primary highways.
 
It required states to set size, lighting and spacing standards and to date it still requires payment of just compensation for the removal of lawfully erected signs.

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1960's & 1970's: New Audience - New Message

1960s - With young people not following in the footsteps of their parents and marrying young, the stereotypical portrayals of families no longer worked in ads.  The young, single person was the new consumer that advertisers had to target.
During this time, billboards were especially used to introduce the new fast food, drive-thru window to the country.  The Golden Arches, Colonel Sanders and Wendy’s were all introduced to the world through billboards.
The sixties were also a time that recording studios took advantage of the exposure of billboards.  Larger cities boasted full-size photos of stars advertising movies and new releases.
In 1972, tobacco advertising was banned on broadcast media leaving print and outdoor as its most popular venues.
The 1970s offered billboards to a new group of advertisers.  Health food, exercise facilities, weight-loss centers, insurance agencies, hospitals, and churches all began to include billboards in their advertising efforts.  Fuel conservation and military recruitment again joined the public service side of outdoor advertising.  During this time motorcycle advertising was also popular, with Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki all using the outdoor advertising medium.

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1980's & 1990's: Technology Advances into the Future

The biggest change in billboards since their creation happened with technology.  With the rise of computers in the 1970s, the practice of hand-painting billboards began its demise as computer-painted billboards become more prominent.

The 1980s brought "wordless" boards to the forefront, which were extremely successful for clients such as Nike, McDonalds and Honda.  Automobiles began to show up on billboards everywhere with manufacturers introducing new models of cars to the country.

This decade brought the use of advertising on buses, trains, cars, etc. to the forefront of outdoor advertising.
In 1990, revenue from the outdoor advertising industry was nearly $1.5 billion and billboard companies were annually donating more than $140 million in free space to charitable organizations.

In 1999, tobacco advertising was banned from billboards.

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USA Today Article April 7, 2010


Grandad Bandit hunted by FBI and Billboard Companies