Advertising Information

The Skinny on Billboards

Several years back the billboard people put a bigpicture of "Sharlene Wells, Miss America" onbillboards all over town. She was everywhere. Theclever use of the girl had two purposes; the firstwas to cover up all the unsold boards. The secondwas to show the effectiveness of billboardadvertising.

Surveys were conducted before and after the onemonth showing of Sharlene's pretty mug. Before,only 1.5% of people surveyed could recall her namewhen asked "Who is Miss America". After, thenumber jumped to an amazing 12%.

The billboard people pointed to this example asproof of the power of outdoor advertising. It gavethem the open door to pitch hundreds of potentialnew customers.

If you bought 50 billboards in your town and usedthe Miss America approach, people would surelyknow your name, too.

Here's the skinny on outdoor advertising;billboards.

You MUST Plan AheadFirst, outdoor is not a "quick fix". If sales aredown, you can't quickly put up a few boards toboost the numbers. You must plan ahead. Lead timeis not short when using outdoor. The best use ofboards is for image building and brand awareness.They are not cost effective for one time onlysales or non-repeating special events. Billboardsare image builders. Using billboards is akin toTV, it can mean you have "arrived" as a formidablebusiness.

Most are sold for a minimum of one month. You paytwice. First for the board location and second forthe media used to put your ad on the board, paint,paper or plastic.

PaintsPainted billboards are the oldest form of outdooradvertising. They are painted with specialoutdoor paint that is weather resistant. Someoutdoor paints are specially formulated to resistfading. Painted billboards are also known as"painted bulletins" but most commonly as "paints".

PapersPoster Boards may be the best known. We have allseen the billboard guy hanging off the ladder withthe swirling wallpaper-like panels being pushedinto place with the big glue broom.

Poster Boards are printed on 8 to 30 sheets ofheavy paper, depending on the size. Posters with 8sheets (6 x 12 feet) are called juniors. Regularboards use 30 sheets and make a 12 x 25 foot sign,counting the heavy metal frame. They arecalled 30-sheets.

Some old timers refer to poster boards as "papers"and "paper bulletins". Papers look good for abouta month, depending on the weather. Nothing looksworse than an old paper board, unattended for longperiods where the wind and weather has ripped andtorn the panels torn away revealing layers of oldsigns.

PlasticAll the rage now is the use of vinyl on boards.This allows for better color, longer life and veryfine graphics. If vinyl boards had been availablewhen they did the Miss America test, people wouldstill be in love with the lady on the board.

Vinyls are printed with a special printer, notunlike your computer printer. Once sprayed withthe ultra-violet finish coat, vinyls can last foryears. Vinyls are easy to spot. They look brighterand better than traditional paper boards, Wind hasa tendency to get under them can make them ripple,as they are normally not glued to the surface, butattached at the edges. These are called "flexvinyls" and can be moved from board to boardwithout damage. Some vinyls are slipped over oldpaper boards like a sack and you can see theoutline of the paper board's metal boarder underthe vinyl.

Bulletins are the giant boards you often see alongInterstates. They can be as big as 20 x 60 feet oras small as 10 1/2 x 36 feet. Many of these largeboards are supported by one huge metal pipe in themiddle. Rotary bulletins are the same as bulletinsbut are moved every 60 days (hence the termrotary).Some bulletins are painted, most useplastic.

ShowingsBoards have ratings like TV shows, called GrossRating Points (GRP). Each board has a trafficcount, and when divided by the population, theresult is a GRP. Billboard sales are usually madein GRPs. Meaning you buy a 25 showing or a 50 or75 or 100 showing. A 25 showing would mean that atleast 25% of the population would see one of yourboards at least once a day. A 25 showing couldtake one board, three or many, depending on thetraffic count and the population. It is possibleto buy only one board, but not cost effective.After you decide to use outdoor, you have to payfor printing the paper or vinyls and they usuallycome in units of 10.

The best goal is to get a 100 showing. Studieshave shown that in a 100 showing, advertisers canreach 88% of the adults 28 times a month. In a 50showing, advertisers can reach 83% of adults 15times a month.

CostFor example, a recent 50 showing in Salt lake Cityincluded 84 boards and cost $22,512 for one month(the 1- Month Rate). Buying that many boardsbrought the cost per board to under $275. Don'texpect a rate this low for smaller markets or aone or two board buy. In most cities the averagebillboard costs $400 to $600 a month.

Some board locations are stacked. Opinions vary asto whether top or bottom position is better. Someboards are "tri-vision" mechanically turning smallpanels to reveal 3 different ads every 30 seconds.

There are other forms of outdoor. The giant singlepole super boards along the Interstates are bestused for spur of the moment sales "next exit" and"clean restrooms".

Small 4x8 painted boards stuck on a post in afarmer's yard must be fixed and redone by youregularly. Let it sag or fall over just once andyou image can go with it.

Here are BIG Mike's Tips for Better BillboardAdvertising.

+ 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.

+ Don't 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 ol' same ol'.

+ Use the rule of never more than 8 words and one

picture. Remember, most readers will be zooming

by in a car or truck.

+ Don't put your picture on the board. Remember

the cardinal rule of sales. It's not all about

YOU,it's all about THEM.

+ Make outdoor a budget item and plan in advance.

Spend most of your time working on the concept


design, 'cause once it's up there, it can't be

changed and will been seen by everybody.

Final ThoughtFYI - Miss America 2004 is Ericka Dunlap.

For more about advertising, get my article"What the Newspaper Won't Tell You"

2005 BIG Mike McDaniel All Rights ReservedMike@BIGIdeasGroup.comBIG Mike is a Professional Speaker and SmallBusiness Consultant with over 30 years experience,

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