Really Bad Billboards: Six Classic Outdoor Advertising Mistakes

outdoor advertising billboard Outdoor advertising—billboards in particular—seem to be more popular than ever in many hospital marketing and advertising plans. You don’t have to drive far to survey the crop of ads for hospitals (brand and ED wait times), service lines (specialists and clinics), and individual doctors or groups with hospital-connected practices.

Admittedly, billboard advertising is a creative challenge. Many things can go wrong, and unfortunately…often do. Really bad billboards are easy to spot; opportunity is lost, and a serious slice of budget is down the drain.

There are about 80-zillion possible mistakes that cause outdoor advertising to fail. But in our experience, here are some of the most common problems to avoid:

Use too many words. The toughest challenge with billboards is to effectively present your message in six or seven words, tops. Longer than that and it’s cluttered, can’t be read and doesn’t communicate. If you can’t say it simply, start over or don’t use billboards.

Include the entire visual “kitchen sink.” Clutter is the sure sign of an amateur effort…maybe born of a fear of wasted space. At 60 miles an hour, the viewer’s eye doesn’t know where to focus and shuts down. White space is your friend; confusion is the enemy.

Try to please everyone. The boss expects the logo, the doctor wants his picture, the expensive new techno-device has to be seen, the service line is a group of doctors, we’ve got a great staff here, and don’t forget the web address and phone number. Instead, focus, simplify and present only one idea.

Double-up. Use your brochure cover art as a billboard. This should be painfully obvious, but if it’s a good brochure, it’s probably not good billboard art. These are two distinctly different, and individually unique, animals.

Just one posting location is enough. For effective reach, outdoor advertising requires multiple locations, particularly with a sizeable service area. A posting near the hospital for the benefit of patients and your internal audience is a nice-to-have. But your plan needs several carefully selected locations.

Try to do-it-yourself. A serious investment in outdoor advertising requires professional guidance and experienced talent. Some of the most obviously bad billboards can be traced to a well-intended D-I-Y creative effort—a misguided attempt to save money that backfired.

Billboards are tricky business…

It’s tough to do it right, and if you need help with hospital outdoor advertising, please give us a call today. And for additional reference, read this additional article: Billboard Basics: The Challenges of Outdoor Advertising in Healthcare.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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