There are two camps of people with opinions on using billboards in marketing: those who believe in building Outdoor Advertising into a strategic media-mix, and then there are those who want no part of it.
No doubt about it: other than adding expense, a great many billboards add nothing of value to a company’s (sales and) marketing efforts, but that’s not the fault of the advertising vehicle. Billboards are powerful marketing weapons – a great arrow in the marketing quiver. It’s the people doing it that are getting it wrong.
Drive a few miles down any major road and you’ll pass countless high-rent billboards that are having absolutely no impact on consumers. There they stand, giant testaments to inferior marketing, happily munching away on a chunk of some company’s marketing budget each month to no avail.
Hint: the graphic artist provided by the billboard company does not have time to create your campaign and make it powerful: that’s a marketer’s job.
Sometimes there is no value to FREE. Graphic artists in a production setting – such as at newspapers and billboard companies – are not paid to produce their best work. They are only expected to churn out ‘production’ work.
Unlike a professional marketer, production artists aren’t invested in building your brand or developing your image because they don’t have the time to be invested in your success.
Nor do they understand your business model, your objectives, or your sales and marketing goals. It’s simply not what they are paid to do.
Everyday some well-meaning businessperson tries to save a few bucks by having the billboard company’s graphic artist create their outdoor ad. If there was a Fairy Godmother of Marketing, she’d magically appear and, giving the advertiser a thunk on the noggin with her Diva of Marketing feather boa, she’d ask, “Okay, so you’re spending $2,500 a month on that board for thirteen installments . . . you couldn’t invest the extra $1,000 one-time to have a first-rate marketing person help you with that? Seriously? How’s that working for you?”
Any mistake in marketing is serious . . . The problem with a mistake in Outdoor Advertising is that it’s a very BIG mistake.
Consider the cost of a single board over the life of the contract as well as production costs for the vinyl. These are generally not small numbers and are often a significant line item in the marketing budget. Other than the fact that misspending is poor stewardship of coveted marketing dollars, it just doesn’t make marketing sense not to do something properly and generate the most interest and enthusiasm for your campaign from consumers .
So why is billboard advertising often a mash-up? After all, there is no secret to successful outdoor advertising. Any marketer worth his/her salt knows the formula:
BIG + Simple + Memorable = SUCCESS
Day after day, millions of consumers blow past costly billboards that are anything but successful, billboards chock full of :
- Too much CopyCOPYcopyCopyCopyCopycopyCPOYcopyCopy
- Busy fonts
- Weak color combinations
- Ho-hum Illustrations
- Complex or baffling messages
The road itself is fighting for a driver’s attention! People are in their cars, flying by these expensive billboards, having a conversation over their cell phone while texting and checking emails, applying their make-up, tying their ties, having breakfast, digging through their briefcases, juggling their Venti Lattes, reading meeting notes, checking Facebook, scanning all 187 XM radio channels, Tweeting . . .
Outdoor advertising is vying for the attention of consumers, and being the nation of AADD people that we are, we’re willing to give outdoor advertising our attention. People like billboards! Consumers are willing to be distracted by an advertiser’s message, but advertiser’s are simply not making it easy for them.
Think of outdoor advertising as Pop-Up windows on the highway of life . . . It’s a marketer’s dream: It’s a life without Pop-Up blockers!
Outdoor advertisers have to use clear imagery to earn a consumer’s attention, and when an advertisers grabs someone’s attention they’re only going to have about six seconds of the consumer’s attention span. But that’s all the time an advertiser needs. Just keep it simple.
Gets the words right: Six words or less are ideal . . . Eight words max.
Every advertiser wants to tell their whole corporate story on a 20’ x 60’ billboard. This is not the place. In Outdoor Advertising, the fewer words, the greater the impact. Six words or less are ideal.
Forgo the fancy fonts and select one that is squeaky clean so that it can as easily be read at 55 mph on the highway as it can standing across the street from the sidewalk. Save the pretty fonts for your wedding invitations and announcements.
Keep the letters BIG. When reviewing the proof of your billboard, pin it to the wall and walk to the back of the room to get an idea of how readable the copy will be when installed. Keep the font-size much BIGGER than you think is necessary. When installed on a 20′ x 60′ board, generally the copy that looked suitable in your office will look considerably smaller.
Next, is the message understandable? This is where the right illustration can – and should – say it all . . . the message and the visual should be as one. When I was with Centex Homes we introduced a special stain-resistant carpet as a standard feature. In our markets, every other builder was making the customer pay for it. One of our campaigns had a tight, larger-than-life picture of a cute, mischievous looking, freckle-faced little boy with a mess of bright strawberry jelly smeared across his grinning little face on a white background. You could just tell from the picture that he had recently enjoyed a jelly filled donut. All we needed to add were the words Stain Resistant Carpeting Included and our logo. Boom. Message delivered. Message received.
BIG. Simple. Memorable. Successful.
Everyone loved the little jelly-faced kid, and we ‘gave away’ a lot of stain resistant carpeting with our homes. We did such a good job of conveying the message to potential customers that eventually our competitors were forced to offer stain resistant carpeting as well. (Now that’s the kind of marketing I love! Get ahead of the curve and make the competition chase you!)
In real estate . . . and billboard placement . . . it’s location, location, location. If you’re opting for a board in a fixed location instead of one in a rotary program, make certain that the board you select is positioned at a good angle to the road so that it won’t be difficult to read. Check for obstructions to the board, such as trees, power lines, utility poles, traffic lights, or even another board or sign. Does the board ‘pop-up’ too suddenly around a bend in the road or after an obstruction so that there is not enough read-time?
Outdoor advertising has always demanded that the marketer keep the message short and sweet.
In today’s very distracted culture where we strive to do more in less time, numerous things fight for our attention every second of the day. Think about the logistics and elements to a successful outdoor campaign: BIG + Simple + Memorable = SUCCESS and avoid the mash-up that is so prevalent in outdoor advertising.
In addition to your web address, consider providing a short code so that people can get a coupon, the special, or information on your product or service right then. Don’t make them wait.
As a final thought, it’s always best to have a second set of eyes proof your copy and artwork. Last week my associate and I spotted a billboard on the interstate that said, “Eat here. Get gas.”
Don’t you just love this business? Happy marketing!
Deborah Fisher thrives in challenging, collaborative environments and most enjoys opportunities that are fast-paced and demanding. Results driven, Deborah provides Fisher & Company clients with unparalleled sales and marketing expertise and business acumen developed over multiple market conditions and selling situations. For more information about Deborah, click here: About Deborah Fisher