17 May 2012

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Maximizing billboard advertising.

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In Friday’s business section of the Richmond Times Dispatch, there was an article on the new digital billboards along interstates 64 and 95 for the Greater Richmond Chamber promoting Richmond as a city that supports entrepreneurs and start-ups.

And this week we are excited to be designing a new digital billboard for a client.

Since billboards seem to be a recurring theme this week, I thought I’d take this chance to talk about the basics of effective billboard advertising.

Billboards are a great way to gain brand awareness in any local area. They are best used as a secondary medium to reinforce other existing marketing efforts.

The most important rule I learned about billboard advertising was that you only have 6-7 seconds at best to communicate. That isn’t much time. Messages need to be concise, clear and easy-to-read.

A billboard is not the place to communicate more than one main message. As a rule, the headline should be no more than six words. Leave the more complex messages to the other mediums of communication. Do not expect people to read sub-copy or long website addresses. It must be short and easy to remember. Drivers shouldn’t be encouraged to take their hands off the wheel to jot down a web address or phone number while driving. That could result in a very negative brand experience.

There is a joke in the advertising field about clients always asking to “make the logo bigger” in layouts. If there is one takeaway from a billboard it should be the company name or product name. It is important that the logo be clear and discernible from a distance. So in this case, the logo should be larger with greater prominence in the layout than would be normally used for an ad.

Don’t be too clever. Cleverness can lead to confusion and a missed opportunity. A billboard should be smart and easy to get. If visuals are used, keep them as simple as possible and don’t make them dependent on the copy to pay it off. The consumer wondering what the billboard meant is not a positive brand message.

Location, location, location is not only a phrase real estate but for billboards as well. Know exactly where your billboard is going to be. Drive past it. Is it easily visible? Is it competing with other billboards? Who drives past it? Rural areas are often cheaper but they don’t have the reach that more urban ones will. So, unless the business is focused primarily in one rural area, you would be better served with an urban placement.

There are many different types of billboards, each with special design standards. If investing in a billboard space, it is worth the money to hire someone with experience in the field to ensure it is designed to maximize the investment.