Roadside billboards are a big deal. It is a marketing person’s dream to put their company’s advertisement up on a billboard above a high-traffic highway corridor. It is, therefore, unusual to see a billboard in such a place that has a stale message. However, one billboard in San Fransisco, off of US 101, has a Toyota Supra advertisement on it from nearly three decades ago.
The Toyota Supra
The Toyota Supra has always been a car associated with performance. Some might even equate it to a Japanese muscle car. The Supra was originally the performance trim for the Celica back in 1978. It later became its own model in the Toyota lineup in 1986. The fourth-generation of the Supra was introduced in 1993.
The 1993 Supra
Earlier this year, someone spotted a billboard with the 1993 Supra advertisement. Then it quickly disappeared. Just recently, it has again reappeared and someone snagged a picture of it to share with the rest of the world.
The investigation begins
It turns out that at the bottom of the billboard, there is a nameplate. That nameplate spells out that the billboard belongs to Clear Channel Outdoor, formerly a part of the IHeart Media network. That was enough information for the digging to begin. So, our friends at The Drive did some investigating regarding the old advertisement. When they finally reached someone to talk to, the story was pretty surprising.
“We got in touch with CCO Regional President Bob Schmitt, who finally revealed the truth: Billboard ads used to be hand-painted, and the 1993 Supra image has survived because it was the last painted one before the company switched to vinyl prints on that particular display. Rather than wasting paint to blank out the canvas, the company decided to leave up the A80 Supra as the base for all future ads. And so it will stand forever—or at least until some executive declares that it’s time for a digital sign there.”
We did our own investigating and found that billboard signage and billboard murals began being painted back around 1800s, often for circus or theater advertisements. But, the more popular the media became, the more advertisers flocked to it. As time progressed, the hand-painted billboards gave way to a less costly and time-consuming media known as vinyl. The advertisement would be printed on vinyl banners and placed over the billboard space. This left whatever was underneath the vinyl to be protected from weather and UV decay. So, some original artwork may still survive under modern vinyl banners with advertising campaigns.
It is a recurring appearance
Apparently, the 1993 Toyota Supra reappears only while the current advertiser’s sign is being changed out. The process takes about two hours. It also happens two or three times a year. So, this was just a case of somebody snapping a pic within that small window of time. In either case, it is probably not that unusual for the locals to see the old Supra. For the rest of us out-of-towners, it is an oddity.