Does your billboard pass the 70 mph test?

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Billboards are a wonderful thing. First of all, they are big which means that they are pretty hard to ignore. Second, they provide you with something to do in an otherwise uncommitted moment of driving or while you are waiting for the light to change, when your mind is generally free to read and hopefully absorb the message.

Billboards are, however, a fairly high-dollar item in your marketing budget, with costs running from several hundred dollars to over $1,000 per month with most board companies requiring contracts that last several months or longer. As with any form of marketing, the consideration of whether to do a board or not isn’t really a matter of “what does it cost” but rather “what does it return?” For a billboard, the return typically is measured in the number of “views” or the number of times someone drives by and sees your message. In a high-traffic area, the number of views can be quite substantial, numbering into the thousands per day.

Knowing that boards can be expensive and needing to provide a strong return on your investment, it is critical that the board have very strong graphics and provide a very clear message. The measure of whether you’ve succeeded in developing strong design and messaging for your board is judged by what we call the 70 mile per hour test. Here’s how it works…

Hop into our virtual car and let’s take a road trip to, let’s say, Baton Rouge. (seatbelts on please) So there we are, cruising down I-10 at the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour, and our eyes are momentarily drawn to the right as we pass a billboard at, you guessed it, 70 miles per hour. Basically that’s about all the time we had to read that board as we whizzed by. It’s roughly equivalent to the time it takes to snap your fingers once. Not a lot of time, is it? But that’s the point.

For a billboard to be effective, our car riders must be able to completely absorb the message, in its entirety, within a very, very compressed time frame. This condition has everything to do with how the message of a billboard is designed. So here are the rules that will help your board pass the test.

1. Less is more. Because boards are fairly expensive, the temptation to “get your money’s worth” by loading the board with twenty bullet points of information is strong. Don’t do it. Keep the message very simple and very easy to understand.
2. Understand that the primary thing a billboard can do for you is create a general awareness that you exist, not necessarily to advertise a specific thing. Sure you can do a board to support your March Madness Sale, but what do you do with the board on April 1st? The point is that boards have a long shelf life and, accordingly, are best used to simply say, “We are here! We are here! We are here!” versus trying to advertise something that has a definite expiration date.
3. Identify yourself immediately. It amazes us how times we see boards that do a beautiful job of conveying a message but relegate the basic brand identity to some small corner of the board. Big mistake. Doing so simply tells the market to do, well, nothing. If you want a good example of strong branding on boards, look for the beer boards. There is absolutely no doubt when you approach these boards that the sponsor is Miller or Bud or whatever because the branding is so dominant. Whether you like beer or not, these boards are a good example of strong branding using billboards.
4. And finally, ask for something. It’s called a “call to action” and you cannot assume that the reader will get it. But don’t forget the 70 mile per hour test. What you ask them to do needs to be very clear and very direct. Good asks include, “Call 800-888-8888 today!” or “www.callusnow.com” or something that the reader can grasp quickly.

Ready to get on board? Give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our request form now.

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