Exploring the Impact of North Carolina Billboards

Billboards have been a fixture in the North Carolina landscape for well over a century. These large outdoor advertisements have been used to promote everything from products to political candidates to social causes. However, as the use of billboards has grown, so too has the debate over their impact on the environment, the economy, and the community as a whole. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the various ways billboards impact North Carolina.

The History of Billboards in North Carolina

Billboards have played an important role in the advertising industry for centuries. In North Carolina, the use of outdoor advertising can be traced back to the late 1800s. The first billboards were erected to promote tobacco and other agricultural products, which were major industries in the state at the time.

Early Beginnings of Outdoor Advertising

The concept of outdoor advertising can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Greece. However, it wasn't until the 19th century that billboards began to emerge as a popular form of advertising in the United States. In North Carolina, the first billboards were erected in the late 1800s and were primarily used to promote tobacco and other agricultural products.

As the popularity of billboards grew, so did the need for regulations. In 1907, North Carolina became the first state to regulate outdoor advertising. The state's Highway Commission was given the authority to regulate the size, location, and content of billboards along highways and other major roads. This was a major step in ensuring that billboards were not a distraction to drivers and did not detract from the natural beauty of the state's landscape.

The Golden Age of Billboards

The 1920s and 1930s are often referred to as the "golden age" of billboards. During this time, large, colorful billboards became an iconic symbol of American culture. Advertisers began to use clever slogans and eye-catching images to capture the attention of passing motorists. In North Carolina, billboards promoting everything from soft drinks to roadside attractions dotted the landscape.

One of the most famous billboards of this era was the "See Rock City" billboard, which was erected in 1936 near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The billboard featured a hand-painted image of a barn roof with the words "See Rock City" painted in large letters. The billboard became so popular that it was replicated across the country, including in North Carolina.

Modern Billboard Trends in North Carolina

Today, billboards in North Carolina are as ubiquitous as ever. However, the types of advertisements displayed have changed over time. While billboards promoting products such as tobacco and soft drinks were once commonplace, they have largely been replaced by ads for cell phone providers, car dealerships, and other services.

One trend in modern billboard advertising is the use of digital billboards. Digital billboards allow advertisers to display multiple ads on a single billboard, which can be rotated every few seconds. This allows for more advertisers to use the same billboard space, increasing revenue for billboard companies.

Despite the changes in the advertising industry, billboards remain an important part of the landscape in North Carolina. They provide a unique way for businesses to reach potential customers and for travelers to learn about local attractions and services.

The Economic Impact of Billboards

Revenue Generation for Local Businesses

One of the biggest arguments in favor of billboards is their ability to generate revenue for local businesses. By advertising on billboards, companies can attract new customers and increase sales. In turn, this can help boost the local economy and create jobs. In fact, according to a study by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, every dollar spent on outdoor advertising generates $5.97 in economic output.

Small businesses, in particular, can benefit greatly from billboard advertising. By reaching a wide audience with their message, they can increase brand awareness and drive traffic to their stores. This can be especially important for businesses located in areas with heavy foot traffic or high levels of competition.

For example, a small bakery in a busy downtown area could use a billboard to advertise their delicious cupcakes and draw in customers who may not have otherwise noticed their storefront. This increased foot traffic could lead to more sales and help the bakery establish a loyal customer base.

Job Creation in the Advertising Industry

Billboards also play an important role in the advertising industry. The companies that create, design, and install billboards employ thousands of people across the country. In North Carolina alone, it's estimated that the billboard industry employs over 1,500 people.

These jobs range from graphic designers and copywriters to construction workers and installers. By supporting the billboard industry, communities can help create and sustain jobs in a variety of fields.

Additionally, the billboard industry often works closely with local businesses to create custom advertisements that reflect the unique character of the community. This collaboration can help businesses establish a strong connection with their customers and further boost the local economy.

Effects on Property Values

Some critics argue that billboards can have a negative impact on property values. However, studies have shown that this is not necessarily the case. In fact, in some instances, the presence of billboards can actually increase property values. For example, if a billboard promotes a local attraction or event, it may draw people to the area and increase demand for nearby properties.

Furthermore, the revenue generated by billboard advertising can help fund community improvement projects, such as parks, schools, and public transportation. These projects can in turn help increase property values and improve the overall quality of life in the community.

Overall, while there may be some debate over the impact of billboards on property values, it's clear that they can have a positive effect on the local economy and job market. By supporting the billboard industry, communities can help create jobs, boost local businesses, and improve the overall quality of life for their residents.

The Environmental Impact of Billboards

Energy Consumption and Emissions

One of the biggest environmental concerns associated with billboards is their energy consumption. Most billboards require electricity to function, which can lead to increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. However, some companies are beginning to explore alternative sources of energy for their billboards, such as solar panels and wind turbines.

One company that has been at the forefront of this movement is Clear Channel Outdoor, which has installed solar panels on many of its billboards throughout the United States. These panels are able to generate enough energy to power the billboard and even provide excess energy that can be sold back to the grid.

In addition to solar panels, some companies are also exploring the use of wind turbines to power their billboards. Lamar Advertising, for example, has installed wind turbines on some of its billboards in Pennsylvania.

Light Pollution and Its Effects on Wildlife

Another environmental concern associated with billboards is light pollution. Because billboards are often illuminated at night, they can disrupt natural habitats and alter the behavior of nocturnal animals. In some cases, this can even lead to changes in migratory patterns.

One study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley found that light pollution from billboards can have a negative impact on the reproductive success of songbirds. The study found that birds exposed to artificial light at night had lower levels of melatonin, a hormone that plays a key role in regulating reproductive cycles.

However, some companies are taking steps to reduce the impact of their billboards on wildlife. Outfront Media, for example, has developed a "lights out" program for its billboards in certain areas during certain times of the year to minimize the impact on migratory birds.

Waste Management and Recycling Challenges

Finally, billboards can also contribute to waste management and recycling challenges. When a billboard is taken down or replaced, the materials used to make it may not be easily recyclable or biodegradable. As a result, they may end up in landfills or as litter on the side of the road.

However, some companies are taking steps to address this issue. Lamar Advertising, for example, has developed a recycling program for its billboard materials. The company is able to recycle up to 90% of the materials used in its billboards, including vinyl and aluminum.

In addition, some companies are exploring the use of biodegradable materials for their billboards. Clear Channel Outdoor, for example, has developed a billboard made from a biodegradable material called Greenboard. This material is able to break down naturally over time, reducing the impact on the environment.

Overall, while billboards do have an impact on the environment, there are steps that companies can take to reduce this impact. From exploring alternative sources of energy to developing recycling programs and using biodegradable materials, there are many ways that companies can make their billboards more environmentally friendly.

The Social Impact of Billboards

Influence on Consumer Behavior

Billboards have become a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives, lining highways, dotting cityscapes, and even appearing in rural areas. They are designed to capture our attention and promote products or services. But do they really work?

Research shows that billboards can have a significant impact on consumer behavior. By displaying ads for products and services, billboards can shape people's perceptions and influence their purchasing decisions. In fact, some studies have shown that outdoor advertising can be more effective than other forms of advertising, such as TV or radio. This is because billboards are often seen by people who are out and about, actively engaged with their surroundings.

However, not all billboards are created equal. The effectiveness of a billboard depends on a number of factors, including its location, the design of the ad, and the target audience. A well-placed billboard with a clear and compelling message can be a powerful marketing tool, while a poorly designed or poorly located billboard may go unnoticed.

Public Perception and Controversial Content

While billboards can be an effective means of advertising, they can also be a source of controversy. Some ads may be deemed offensive or insensitive by members of the community. In some cases, this has led to calls for the removal of billboards or the implementation of stricter regulations governing their content.

For example, a billboard advertising a weight loss supplement featuring a thin, attractive model may be seen as promoting unrealistic beauty standards and contributing to body shaming. Similarly, an ad for a fast food chain may be criticized for promoting unhealthy eating habits.

On the other hand, some controversial ads have sparked important conversations and raised awareness about important social issues. For example, an ad campaign featuring a same-sex couple may be seen as promoting acceptance and inclusivity.

Ultimately, the content of billboards is a reflection of our society's values and priorities. As such, it is important to have an ongoing dialogue about what types of messages are appropriate and beneficial for the community as a whole.

The Role of Billboards in Community Aesthetics

Finally, billboards can also have an impact on the aesthetics of a community. Some people view billboards as eyesores that detract from the natural beauty of an area. However, others argue that billboards can be used in creative and artistic ways to enhance the visual appeal of a community.

For example, a billboard featuring a local artist's work or promoting a community event can add a unique and engaging element to an otherwise mundane landscape. Similarly, billboards can be used to promote environmental causes or highlight the natural beauty of an area.

Of course, the impact of billboards on community aesthetics is subjective and depends on personal taste. However, it is important for communities to consider the role of billboards in shaping their visual identity and to work together to create a cohesive and appealing environment.

The Legal Landscape Surrounding Billboards

Zoning Regulations and Restrictions

The use of billboards is heavily regulated at the local and state levels. Zoning regulations and restrictions are in place to determine where billboards can be erected and what they can advertise. For example, in North Carolina, billboards cannot be located within 660 feet of a scenic byway or historic district.

These zoning regulations and restrictions are put in place to preserve the aesthetic appeal of certain areas and to protect the historical significance of others. They also aim to reduce driver distraction and promote road safety.

The Highway Beautification Act and Its Implications

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 also has implications for the use of billboards. This federal law provides funding to states for the removal of billboards along interstate highways. It also regulates the size and spacing of billboards along these highways.

The act was created in response to concerns about the negative impact of billboards on the natural landscape and the safety of drivers. It aimed to reduce the number of billboards along highways and to promote the preservation of scenic beauty.

Recent Legal Battles and Their Outcomes

Despite these regulations, there have been several recent legal battles over the use of billboards in North Carolina. For example, in 2018, a group of residents sued the city of Asheville over a proposal to move a billboard to their neighborhood. Ultimately, the residents won their case, and the billboard was not moved to their neighborhood.

Similar legal battles have taken place in other parts of the country, with residents and organizations fighting to protect the natural landscape and historical significance of their communities.

It is important to note that while billboards can be a valuable tool for advertising and marketing, they must be used responsibly and in accordance with local and state regulations. By doing so, we can preserve the beauty and safety of our communities for generations to come.

The Future of Billboards in North Carolina

Technological Innovations in Outdoor Advertising

As technology continues to evolve, so too will the way that billboards are used. Already, companies are incorporating digital screens and other high-tech features into their billboards. This trend is likely to continue as advertisers look for new ways to capture the attention of consumers.

One exciting development in the world of outdoor advertising is the use of augmented reality (AR) technology. AR billboards use sensors and cameras to interact with the surrounding environment, creating a more immersive and engaging experience for viewers. For example, an AR billboard for a car company might allow passersby to "test drive" a virtual car or customize the color and features of the vehicle in real-time.

The Rise of Digital Billboards

One of the biggest trends in outdoor advertising is the rise of digital billboards. Unlike traditional billboards, which display static images, digital billboards can be updated in real-time to display new ads. This makes them a more flexible and dynamic advertising medium.

In addition to their flexibility, digital billboards also offer advertisers more precise targeting capabilities. By using data analytics and GPS technology, companies can display ads that are tailored to the specific demographics and interests of the people passing by the billboard. For example, a digital billboard in a college town might display ads for local bars and restaurants during the evening hours when students are likely to be out and about.

Potential Changes in Legislation and Public Opinion

Finally, it's worth noting that the future of billboards in North Carolina will also be shaped by changes in legislation and public opinion. As concerns over the environment, public safety, and community aesthetics continue to grow, it's possible that we could see stricter regulations on the use of billboards.

On the other hand, some argue that billboards can have a positive impact on local economies by promoting tourism and attracting business to the area. For example, a billboard advertising a local attraction or event might encourage out-of-town visitors to stop and explore the area, boosting the local economy.

Ultimately, the future of billboards in North Carolina is uncertain. However, one thing is clear: as technology continues to evolve and public opinion shifts, the way that advertisers use billboards will continue to change and adapt.


Billboards have long been a part of the North Carolina landscape. While they serve as a valuable advertising tool for businesses and a source of revenue for local communities, they also raise concerns about their impact on the environment, property values, and community aesthetics. As we look to the future, it will be important to strike a balance between these competing interests and find ways to mitigate the negative impacts of billboards while preserving their value as an advertising medium.

Billboards in North Carolina

North Carolina

  • State in US
  • 10,383,620
  • Population
  • Area
  • 48,619
  • Square Miles
  • Population Density
  • 213.6
  • People per square mile


  • Age
  • 38.9
  • Median age
  • Sex
  • 51.34%
  • Female
  • 48.66%
  • Male
  • Race
  • 21.04%
  • Black
  • 9.59%
  • Hispanic
  • 2.92%
  • Asian
  • 62.66%
  • White


  • Income
  • $30,737
  • Per capita income
  • Poverty
  • 14.04
  • Persons below poverty line
  • Transportation to work
  • 24.81
  • Mean travel time to work


  • Households
  • 4,011,462
  • Number of households
  • People
  • 2.5
  • Persons per household
  • Marital status
  • 50.95
  • Percent Married
  • Fertility
  • 4.8%
  • Women 15-50 who gave birth during past year


  • Units & Occupancy
  • 4,684,962
  • Number of housing units
  • Value
  • $180,600
  • Median value of owner-occupied housing units
  • Owernship of occupied units
  • 65.14
  • Owner occupied
  • Geographical mobility
  • 15.1
  • Moved since previous year

North Carolina at a glance

There are at least 23,717 billboards in the North Carolina area. Check out the breakdown from our inventory!



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