How to Create an Effective Billboard

billboard printing

As the digital revolution has fragmented, revolutionized, and sometimes marginalized traditional media, there is one medium that has remained relatively unscathed and virtually unchanged: ye olde billboard. Known as outdoor advertising in the jargon of the industry, billboards still provide an effective channel for reaching the masses Even as the Internet and social media have taken the lead in defining the “new rules of marketing,” billboards still surround us with a ubiquity that irritates purists who long for a clean city landscape and gratifies marketers who see measurable results from their outdoor advertising. When they do it right. So how do you do it right? Here are six basic rules to follow when creating a billboard:
Six words or less. To state the incredibly obvious: we are on the move when we read billboards and have less than three seconds to take in your message. I see way too many boards out there with way too much copy. Concision is tough for most, seemingly impossible for some, but headlines that are small paragraphs won’t get read. If your brand, product or service is so complex that you can’t make a six-word impression, stay away from billboards.
There’s only room for one hero. I saw a billboard the other day that had 5 different elements, all presented equally, all competing with each for your attention as you’re driving by. Don’t do that. Choose a main call to action and make that your dominant element; everything else should exist to gain attention to and support your hero.
Your billboard is not a direct-response medium. Billboards covered with phone numbers, physical addresses and web addresses won’t make an impact. Outdoor advertising is a secondary medium, ideal for brand-building, creating name recognition, and supporting a campaign. When you want a more intimate conversation with your target audience use print advertising, television, radio, direct mail, e-mail blasts and the Internet to do that heavy lifting.
Be smart, not clever. A boring billboard will be ignored. A billboard that’s trying to be too clever will be lost on the audience. Complex visual metaphors, inside jargon and esoteric references will only have people scratching their heads and dismissing you. Leave a lasting impression by being smart, keeping it simple and demonstrating that you understand the problem your target audience is trying to solve without trying to describe the problem.
Don’t say it, show it. When creating a billboard, start with this fundamental premise: a billboard is a visual medium. But don’t make the mistake of treating it as just a large print ad. How can you use the space you have to get people’s attention and make an impression? Get creative, while following the rules above.
More is better. In our market one billboard will cost an average of $1,200 per month, plus production costs. But one billboard is not going to be very effective. Billboards are a mass market medium, but they need support. You want as many eyes on your board as possible and one location is going to limit you to only those travelers who use that route. If your budget will support it, buy at least three billboards and choose their locations wisely. If you understand your target market you’ll have a fairly good idea of where they live and work, so buy billboards located on the routes they travel. If your budget won’t support three boards in a multi-month campaign, place your buy for every other month rather than trying one board every month. You’ll be surprised at how many people tell you they saw your billboard even when it isn’t currently up.

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