Beginning their rise with the spread of the automobile in the early 1900s and skillfully adapting (like everything else) to the Digital Revolution, billboards might just be one of the steadiest forms of advertising out there. Throughout the years, billboards have become an artform, and one of the cities best known for its creative use of this media is none other than the City of Angels. Outdoor advertising in Los Angeles has always been a hot commodity given the combination of nice weather and sprawling roadways, but these iconic billboards show that good advertising can spread well beyond the I-5.
Rock & Roll
When people think of LA, one of the first things they think of is the Sunset Strip. This 1.5 mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard is known for its record stores, nightclubs, and, you guessed it, billboards. Some of the most iconic rock & roll figures over the years, including the Beatles, Queen, the Doors, and many more, have all had billboards along this well-beaten path. The 1960s kicked off this long run of entertainment promotion, and even today, many aspiring legends are still using the magic of Sunset Boulevard to make their mark. More recently, the likes of Justin Beiber and Billie Eilish have been seen staring down from some of the most photographed billboards in the world.
With its own Fashion District, the infamous Rodeo Drive, and countless LA-based high-fashion brands, it’s no wonder that the fashion industry has also left a mark on the billboard history of Los Angeles. Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Micheal Kors, and countless other big fashion names have had show-stopping billboards featured in LA throughout the decades. Whether it’s a traditional billboard advertising high-end brand names with the help of world-renown models or an LA Fashion Week banner splashed across the side of a building, LA’s haute couture looks and names have made a place for themselves in the city’s billboard history.
Some of you might be wondering, who is Angelyne? But for many, her name is synonymous with billboard advertising. In perhaps one of the most successful personal marketing campaigns of its time, Angelyne, launched her career in the 1980s with the sole use of outdoor-advertising. She started as a singer in her boyfriend’s band, but with the aid of over 200 billboards has become an easily recognizable symbol in LA, even running for governor of California in 2003. The majority of her unique and once ubiquitous billboards have since been covered up, but the stamp they made on the city and culture will remain forever.
As the times change, so do the forms of political and social messaging. In the more recent decades, there has been a massive increase in the use of billboards to inspire social change, and LA is one of the cities leading the nation in this pursuit. From bringing awareness to social issues like homelessness, inequality, and suicide to calling out perpetrators or potential rulebreakers, these powerful messages have been popping up around LA since the 1990s, continually proving that billboards can be used for much more than profit or name recognition. Seen by millions of people, billboards have the power to spark ideas, share information, and incite action, which is just what they’re doing.
If anyone ever doubted billboards as a modern form of advertising, Netflix is sure to be at least one example of just how modern they can be. The online streaming giant has very recently taken LA by storm as it flexes its creativity and knowledge of its audience in some of the newest and most iconic billboard ads in the city. From poking fun at cable TV with lines like “Nice TV, great picture. Nothing’s on.” to playing with expectations and media hype with their “Netflix is a Joke” campaign, Netflix has figured out a new way to engage captive audiences and connect multiple forms of advertising and media. Netflix is just one example of how far billboard advertisement has come throughout the years.
There is no denying the fact that billboards are a large part of the advertising world. They have gone through various phases and uses over the years, but regardless of any technological changes, they remain a driving force in media messaging. From the classic album covers and fashion ads of the mid-20th century right through to the activism and modern marketing strategies of today, LA has seen it all and will undoubtedly continue to turn out iconic billboards for all the city (and all the world) to see.