The Skinny on Billboards

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 advertising.

Surveys were conducted before and after the one month showing of Sharlene's 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 new customers.

If you bought 50 billboards in your town and used the Miss America approach, people would surely know your name, too.

Here's the skinny on outdoor advertising; billboards.

You MUST Plan Ahead First, outdoor is not a "quick fix". If sales are down, you can't 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 business.

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.

Paints 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".

Papers 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 called 30-sheets.

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 signs.

Plastic 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 board's metal boarder under the vinyl.

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 plastic.

Showings 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.

Cost 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. Don't 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 "clean restrooms".

Small 4x8 painted boards stuck on a post in a farmer's 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 Mike's Tips for Better Billboard Advertising.

+ 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

until

replaced.

+ 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

bigger

+ 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

and

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

changed and will been seen by everybody.

Final Thought FYI - Miss America 2004 is Ericka Dunlap.

For more about advertising, get my article "What the Newspaper Won't Tell You" MailTo:[email protected]

©2005 BIG Mike McDaniel All Rights Reserved [email protected] BIG Mike is a Professional Speaker and Small Business Consultant with over 30 years experience, http://BIGIdeasGroup.com

Subscribe to "BIG Mike's BIG Ideas" Newsletter MailTo:[email protected]

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