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Look Up: In the Digital Age, Billboards Are Far From Dead

Electronic billboards in Times Square. Billboard companies are flourishing, in part because “you can’t TiVo a sign,” said James Goss, a managing director at Barrington Research. Todd Heisler/The New York Times

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When Axl Rose ended a 23-year feud with his former Guns N’ Roses bandmates, Duff McKagan and Slash, and agreed to reunite with them onstage in 2016, the band unveiled its North American tour in an unusual way. There were no news conferences, talk-show chats or photo ops. Instead, flashy electronic billboards featuring the band’s logo and famous song titles began popping up in major cities across the country.

The ads created buzz on social media, with fans posting photos of the billboards on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, and ticket sales for the band’s shows took off.

“It’s what we call a reveal, where you give hints that start to build excitement and questions, and with social media, these things have a tendency to catch fire,” said Scott Wells, chief executive of Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, which handled some of the band’s billboard campaign.

The billboard strategy seems almost retro at a time when much of the marketing world is focused on mobile devices and social media. But Guns N’ Roses isn’t alone. The Rolling Stones used a similar billboard approach to tease fans before the band’s 2015 summer tour.

A version of this article appears in print on , Section B, Page 4 of the New York edition with the headline: Look Up: In the Digital Age, Billboards Are Far From Dead.

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