Spring has sprung, which got us to thinking about advertising in the great outdoors. The standard-bearer in outdoor advertising is the billboard, and it’s one of the hardest mediums to use effectively. Your message has to reach someone who’s 400 feet away, racing down the road at 65 miles an hour, navigating traffic, watching for road signs, and probably singing way too loudly. Talk about cutting through the clutter.
This isn’t the time for direct advertising. No matter how great your billboard, no one is going to pull over to the side of the road and enter a promo code for 25% off. Your billboard is up against tough competition, which is why it should serve one of four purposes: introducing something new, building awareness, adding reach to a current campaign, or, if your brand is well-known, serving as reminder advertising.
That’s the strategy behind effective outdoor advertising. Now, let’s look at the execution. Here are five tips for creating a better billboard:
Get to the point. The simpler, the better. If your product, service, or brand doesn’t register quickly, it won’t register at all. The rule of thumb is no more than 7 words per billboard. Use just one image, and be sure it’s a relevant one. We’ve all seen the billboards that inexplicably show the owner with his dogs. Unless you’re a dog walker, that image isn’t helping your audience quickly identify your product.
Read me loud and clear. When you’re designing your billboard, aim for simplicity and high contrast. Remember, you want people to easily and quickly see what you’re saying. Start with a simple background and then choose a type color that sharply contrasts it. And for billboards, forget the rule about white space. A billboard with tons of empty space won’t register for viewers.
Location, location, location. When you’re halfway between Columbus and Chicago and surrounded by nothing but cornfields, a gas station billboard that says “Take the next exit” for gas could be a godsend. And it’s a smart way for gas stations to take advantage of the location of their billboards. Think about how location plays into your product. If you can create a compelling connection, you can craft a compelling billboard.
Don’t get too cute. Speaking of smart ways to use a billboard, by all means, be smart—but don’t be clever. This isn’t the time to engage your audience by drawing them into a clever ad. If they can’t suss it out in a glance, your cleverness is worthless.
Walk a fine line. On a giant billboard, the line between bold and obnoxious is a fine one. Your billboard should demand attention, but it shouldn’t be a distraction. A billboard should make a quick impression—make sure you’re making a good one.