For some time, I’ve wanted to prepare an article about bad billboard advertising. Unfortunately, the world is overflowing with examples of ineffective and non-communicative text. So the first lesson is that creating great billboard advertising is a difficult creative challenge. It’s easy to spot bad ads, there are plenty of them. Perhaps this is because billboard advertising looks deceptively simple to do. (But it isn’t.)
Because it’s brief (or should be), some advertisers mistakenly believe that outdoor advertising is a do-it-yourself opportunity. In fact, creating a successful message for a billboard is exceptionally difficult. What’s more, billboard advertising isn’t a fit for every hospital or healthcare marketing plan. (More than a few “bad billboards” have been hastily created simply to populate an overly ambitious or lengthy contract or “showing.”)
The overarching industry term of art that includes billboards is now “out-of-home” (OOH) advertising or out-of-home media. That includes dozens of formats, placement locations and sizes, from the classic roadside banner to printed or digital displays. Here are some of the key considerations for creating effective OOH ads:
Know your billboard locations. Buying billboard exposure is all about being seen. Unfortunately, not all locations are equal…and you may have some stinkers along with the gems. Know what, where and when you messages are posted. Are they illuminated? Are they easily visible? Does the demographic profile of the audience/traffic mean you’re reaching ideal consumers?
Bring home a meaningful benefit. The truth is, nobody cares about what you are selling. But everyone pays attention to what they need, want or desire. Deliver an idea that helps the reader, or delivers a benefit they can use.
We’re talking six words or less. (By the way, that was six words.) If you can’t communicate a significant idea in the flash of a half-dozen words, keep working on it. On average, signs along the road will be read in six seconds (maybe 10)—hence, six words or less is best. If you have a lot to say, billboards may not be the best way to communicate. Which leads us to…
Use graphics; show what you can’t say. Visual elements communicate quickly and effectively with the reader’s brain. Text, images, graphics and color work together in an instant read, especially when traffic flys by at 55-plus MPH.
It’s rude but true: KISS! “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is the irreverent reminder about simplicity. Billboard readers don’t have time to decode or untangle overly clever text, much less remember the big idea. Avoid clutter and confusion.
Bold is memorable. Consider how a “break-the-rules” approach can grab the viewer’s attention and communicate quickly. Dull and boring are rarely seen, seldom remembered and never effective.
Billboards are a reinforcing media. The effectiveness of outdoor advertising often comes from being a secondary—not primary—element in your media plan. There are creative exceptions, but billboards do their best work in support of other elements. Rarely, if ever, will they drive direct response.
On the plus side, billboards can be a highly effective marketing tool in reaching, reinforcing and sustaining ad messages. On the downside, outdoor advertising may mean a lengthy contract term, and/or the expense of changing the ad message.
Remember that outdoor or out-of-home advertising isn’t a fit for everyone. Plus, it’s a creative challenge to get it right and be effective. But, where the fit is right, outdoor enhances the message and helps produce meaningful results. And experienced help is available. For the greatest effectiveness—and to protect your outdoor investment—get professional advertising help creating and placing OOH ads. We can help with that. Give us a call at 800-656-0907.