Your Billboard is Showing
Several years back the billboard people put a big
picture of "Sharlene Wells, Miss America" on
billboards all over town. She was everywhere. The
clever use of the girl had two purposes; the first
was to cover up all the unsold boards. The second
was to show the effectiveness of billboard
Surveys were conducted before and after the one
month showing of Sharleneís pretty mug. Before,
only 1.5% of people surveyed could recall her name
when asked "Who is Miss America". After, the
number jumped to an amazing 12%.
The billboard people pointed to this example as
proof of the power of outdoor advertising. It gave
them the open door to pitch hundreds of potential
If you bought 50 billboards in your town and used
the Miss America approach, people would surely
know your name, too.
Hereís the skinny on outdoor advertising;
You MUST Plan Ahead
First, outdoor is not a "quick fix". If sales are
down, you canít quickly put up a few boards to
boost the numbers. You must plan ahead. Lead time
is not short when using outdoor. The best use of
boards is for image building and brand awareness.
They are not cost effective for one time only
sales or non-repeating special events. Billboards
are image builders. Using billboards is akin to
TV, it can mean you have "arrived" as a formidable
Most are sold for a minimum of one month. You pay
twice. First for the board location and second for
the media used to put your ad on the board, paint,
paper or plastic.
Painted billboards are the oldest form of outdoor
advertising. They are painted with special
outdoor paint that is weather resistant. Some
outdoor paints are specially formulated to resist
fading. Painted billboards are also known as
"painted bulletins" but most commonly as "paints".
Poster Boards may be the best known. We have all
seen the billboard guy hanging off the ladder with
the swirling wallpaper-like panels being pushed
into place with the big glue broom.
Poster Boards are printed on 8 to 30 sheets of
heavy paper, depending on the size. Posters with 8
sheets (6 x 12 feet) are called juniors. Regular
boards use 30 sheets and make a 12 x 25 foot sign,
counting the heavy metal frame. They are
Some old timers refer to poster boards as "papers"
and "paper bulletins". Papers look good for about
a month, depending on the weather. Nothing looks
worse than an old paper board, unattended for long
periods where the wind and weather has ripped and
torn the panels torn away revealing layers of old
All the rage now is the use of vinyl on boards.
This allows for better color, longer life and very
fine graphics. If vinyl boards had been available
when they did the Miss America test, people would
still be in love with the lady on the board.
Vinyls are printed with a special printer, not
unlike your computer printer. Once sprayed with
the ultra-violet finish coat, vinyls can last for
years. Vinyls are easy to spot. They look brighter
and better than traditional paper boards, Wind has
a tendency to get under them can make them ripple,
as they are normally not glued to the surface, but
attached at the edges. These are called "flex
vinyls" and can be moved from board to board
without damage. Some vinyls are slipped over old
paper boards like a sack and you can see the
outline of the paper boardís metal boarder under
Bulletins are the giant boards you often see along
Interstates. They can be as big as 20 x 60 feet or
as small as 10 1/2 x 36 feet. Many of these large
boards are supported by one huge metal pipe in the
middle. Rotary bulletins are the same as bulletins
but are moved every 60 days (hence the term
rotary).Some bulletins are painted, most use
Boards have ratings like TV shows, called Gross
Rating Points (GRP). Each board has a traffic
count, and when divided by the population, the
result is a GRP. Billboard sales are usually made
in GRPs. Meaning you buy a 25 showing or a 50 or
75 or 100 showing. A 25 showing would mean that at
least 25% of the population would see one of your
boards at least once a day. A 25 showing could
take one board, three or many, depending on the
traffic count and the population. It is possible
to buy only one board, but not cost effective.
After you decide to use outdoor, you have to pay
for printing the paper or vinyls and they usually
come in units of 10.
The best goal is to get a 100 showing. Studies
have shown that in a 100 showing, advertisers can
reach 88% of the adults 28 times a month. In a 50
showing, advertisers can reach 83% of adults 15
times a month.
For example, a recent 50 showing in Salt lake City
included 84 boards and cost $22,512 for one month
(the 1- Month Rate). Buying that many boards
brought the cost per board to under $275. Donít
expect a rate this low for smaller markets or a
one or two board buy. In most cities the average
billboard costs $400 to $600 a month.
Some board locations are stacked. Opinions vary as
to whether top or bottom position is better. Some
boards are "tri-vision" mechanically turning small
panels to reveal 3 different ads every 30 seconds.
There are other forms of outdoor. The giant single
pole super boards along the Interstates are best
used for spur of the moment sales "next exit" and
Small 4x8 painted boards stuck on a post in a
farmerís yard must be fixed and redone by you
regularly. Let it sag or fall over just once and
you image can go with it.
Here are BIG Mikeís Tips for Better Billboard
+ Buy at least a 50 showing and do it every other
month. Many times if the board is not sold after
your time runs out,it will remain up for free
+ Be sure some if not most are lighted locations.
+ Choose stand alone rather than stacked
if you have a choice.
+ Donít let the board salesperson select
the locations for you.
+ Buy vinyls instead of paper or paint and bleed
the graphic off the edge (so it wraps around the
back of the board). Makes you ad look even
+ Keep the concept short and clever. Offer a
solution to their problem, entice them with
something new. Avoid same olí same olí.
+ Use the rule of never more than 8 words and one
picture. Remember, most readers will be zooming
by in a car or truck.
+ Donít put your picture on the board. Remember
the cardinal rule of sales. Itís not all about
YOU,itís all about THEM.
+ Make outdoor a budget item and plan in advance.
Spend most of your time working on the concept
design, Ďcause once itís up there, it canít be
changed and will been seen by everybody.
FYI - Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs.
For more about advertising, get my article
"What the Newspaper Won't Tell You"
©2005 BIG Mike McDaniel, All Rights Reserved
BIG Mike is a Business Consultant and Professional
Speaker. His BIG Ideas Group helps business grow
with promotions, special reports, mastermind
groups and seminars. http://BigIdeasGroup.com
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