Measuring the Impact of Billboard
Advertising with Social Media

Case Study | Clear Channel

While we’ve long had the ability to estimate the reach of a billboard, print ad, radio spot, or TV commercial, it’s difficult to report on the exact number of views or total impact of a media buy.

Clear Channel Outdoor, one of the world’s largest out-ofhome (OOH) advertisers, often faces the challenge of accurately reporting ROI for their clients. Luckily, social media and traditional advertising are no longer mutually exclusive. With the unprecedented virality of one rapper’s OOH campaign, Clear Channel was able to utilize social data to quantify success and illustrate the tie between traditional forms of advertising and social reach.


Traditional forms of advertising present marketers with an important problem:
how do you know when your efforts are effective?

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Drake and His Hometown Billboards

In November of 2015, Drake, one of today’s biggest superstars, took the OOH industry by storm and launched a billboard that exceeded all expectations. Using the below to promote his new album, Views, the Toronto rap mogul sent conventional wisdom packing as his modest one-month, one-billboard media buy became the most viral billboard of 2015.

Placed beside one of Toronto’s busiest highways, the mysterious billboard created considerable buzz within hours of posting. The creative was simple and enticing: three words, one number, and one graphic.

Without an explicit mention of Drake or his album, fans immediately tied this to their beloved hometown star and were taking notice on Twitter and Instagram. Local news and radio stations quickly started sharing photos of the cryptic message as well. By the next morning, huge media outlets like MTV, Billboard Magazine, Time, and GQ had published articles about Drake’s billboard.

While it was apparent that the billboard had all his fans talking, not only in Toronto but across multiple countries, Clear Channel needed a way to quantify this virality. They turned to their friends here at Sysomos for our expertise in social data.

There’s no way we would’ve gotten the type of coverage on this if we didn’t engage Sysomos and have a credible third-party analytics firm conduct research and present compelling figures. We knew the billboard was off the charts viral, but what does that mean without the social data to back it?

Chris Advansun – Head of Digital and Social

Quantifying Social Impact

Conducting a thorough analysis of the billboard’s social impact across earned, owned, and paid channels, Sysomos analyzed the social data in many ways, including number of impressions, mentions, gender breakdown, sentiment, influencers, and location. The report provided both a high level view of the social data, as well as more in-depth analysis, such as the exact dates and times of peaks in social chatter and what those peaks were attributed to.

This data was hugely valuable for Clear Channel as they were able to share the report with Drake’s team and present figures that proved success. With just one billboard, Drake’s team was elated to learn they reached 86+ million earned impressions within the first week on top of the great coverage from over 15 major news outlets.

Take Two

After the success of the first billboard, Universal Music Canada and OVO, Drake’s management company, approached Clear Channel about a second campaign. Knowing the social reach they could obtain, this new campaign would pull out all the stops to maximize publicity and social engagement. Clear Channel and Drake’s team utilized the social insights from the first billboard to build a data-driven strategy for the second campaign. The team focused on optimizing three things: timing, location, and creative.


As the NBA All-Star weekend was set to take place in Toronto, this meant an influx of big-name athletes and celebrities. Given Drake’s close relationship with Toronto’s own NBA team, the Raptors, and his status as the unofficial king of Toronto, the situation was perfect for his campaign to generate huge word-of-mouth activity.


The first billboard was placed next to one of Canada’s busiest highways which was great for visibility, but not ideal for snapping shareable photos. This time, the billboards were plastered strategically throughout Toronto closer to pedestrian-concentrated areas that were more friendly to being able to share on social while on the go.


The creative team covered the city with cryptic images alluding to the release of his album. Not only did the images translate well into user-generated content, but they also provoked conversations between fans who were dying for more information about the album release date.

The Results

Like the first billboard, the second campaign was a major success for all parties involved. Clear Channel turned to Sysomos yet again for a full social report to measure the reach of the campaign. The billboards were amplified to over 127 million impressions in a week and garnered attention from both social influencers and major media outlets. For Clear Channel, Sysomos’ social analysis of the campaign had huge benefits:


5,260 Combined mentions on social channels


127.2 Million (42.2M on Twitter, 85M on Instagram)


3,691 (on Twitter)


3,393 Mentions (February 10, 51% of overall content)

  • Media Coverage

    On top of the earned media, Clear Channel was able to pull data from Sysomos’ reports when pitching media for additional coverage on the campaign. This helped lengthen the online life of the campaign past the initial social spikeand amplify the geographic reach.

  • SEO

    The media coverage of Drake’s campaign often contained links to Clear Channel’s website, driving web traffic and improving SEO.

  • Sales Growth and Lead Generation

    The first Sysomos social report was published on a gated landing page, leading to 35 new emailsubscriptions and 4 new enterprise sales leads. Clear Channel will also use this case study withexisting and prospective clients to prove OOH advertising has the potential to spark enormousamounts of social engagement and live far beyond its physical placement.

  • Social ROI

    Sysomos’ social reports were crucial in proving the ROI of both campaigns. Clear Channel was eager to share thereports with OVO and Universal Music Canada to show the tremendous value of the campaigns. This data played alarge role in the reason why Drake’s team chose to double-down on OOH advertising and launch another campaignwith a budget significantly larger than the first.

  • Specific Asset Sales

    The geo-analysis in the Sysomos report indicated that a specific OOH asset within Drake’s second campaign generateda disproportionate amount of user-generated content and social conversation. This asset was noticed, mentioned,and photographed more than any other – an important insight that has helped Clear Channel position the effectivenessof this placement to other advertisers. This location is currently booked solid.

  • Brand Awareness

    Clear Channel was able to prove that OOH advertising can be a platform for propelling earned media and socialengagement. The success story of Drake’s viral billboard campaigns not only boosted their brand awareness, but alsoallowed Clear Channel to illustrate the correlation between OOH and social and bring this important positioning tothe marketplace.


Earned media, or word-of-mouth marketing, is arguably the most powerful way to reach an audience today. We often think this is reserved for digital and social advertising, but the success of Drake’s OOH campaigns shows how traditional forms of advertising can be just as successful in driving online conversation and boosting your brand’s social share of voice. Social strategies play a valuable role throughout your marketing and advertising mix. All forms of content, whether it be print, broadcast, or digital, have potential for earned media, and as brands focus on creating interactive and shareable content, social engagement and reach will follow.

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