Driving the highways of North America provides a remarkable education for marketers. In particular, mile-after-mile of outdoor signage (billboards ) show us how advertisers deliver their marketing messaging in both effective and ineffective ways. With the tremendous marketing training resources available online and offline, and often at very reasonable costs, marketers with a budget should have no excuse to spend their marketing dollars on just plain BAD ads.

What makes a bad billboard?

On a recent trip from San Diego to Houston I was bombarded with useless signage that displayed

  • unreadable font styles and colors
  • text that’s much too small to be read
  • too much text
  • and my personal favorite – confusing messaging – leaving viewers who may care bewildered and uncaring

So, what makes a great outdoor ad?

On the other hand, there are some truly effective marketers entertaining us out on the road and those providing a valuable service by giving us their message in an effective and easy to process manner. Drivers are looking for products and services – so make it easy for them.

Here are some tips …

  • Keep it short – in fact try to keep the message to 5 words – 8 at most!
  • Be clear and concise – you can still be confusing using only a few words – so make sure people can INSTANTLY understand what you’re trying to say – 80 MPH is pretty fast and doesn’t leave a lot of time to process. The more simple the concept, the
  • greater the impact.
  • Simple and BOLD fonts – san serif is best.
  • Capital letters are hard to read – stick to lower case.
  • Yellow makes a great accent – but a terrible font color – stick to primary colors with depth – red is always safe
  • Frequency is critical. One billboard along a 100 mile stretch is like 1 drop of water in the local swimming pool.
  • Humor can be effective, but can also backfire – so be cautious.
  • Think outside the box and add something to your design like an add-on – there are some fabulous ones out there. I particularly like the spicy chickens and of course, the success (and 911 calls) from the man maneequin and bear sitting on the BMW billboard will be case studied for years to come (see photo below).
  • Save marketing budget or get twice the frequency by partnering up with another relevant business. And, if you sell major brands (online or offline), you may be able to access “co-op” dollars from them to appear on your billboard.
  • Include a “call to action.” What do you want them to do – call, text, visit your website or exit now? What are they likely to have access to in the car?
  • Follow the 3-Step Marketing Model – (Step One) Identify your IDEAL BUYING customer, (Step Two) Craft a Message that Speaks to your IDEAL BUYING Customer and (Step Three) use this effective tactic ONLY if it reaches your IDEAL BUYING Customer – otherwise, use these same best practices for other platforms.

Here are some of my favorite examples of the good and the bad which just may provide you with some business marketing ideas …

Billboard-Humor-Houston-Trip

Short and great humor gets big marks for an effective billboard campaign.

Don't think that everyone has your same sense of humor. Is it worth it to eliminate 51% of potential customers - unless, of course, you're not going after women at all.

Don’t think that everyone has your same sense of humor. Is it worth it to eliminate 51% of potential customers – unless, of course, you’re not going after women at all.

This is really thinking outside the billboard advertising box!

This is really thinking outside the billboard advertising box!

Terrific add-on to this already cleverly written billboard.

Terrific add-on to this already cleverly written billboard.

Exit NOW ... not Exit Here, Exit in 2 miles or just plain Exit ... Exit NOW!

Exit NOW … not Exit Here, Exit in 2 miles or just plain Exit … Exit NOW!

Could just be me - but this one takes WAY too long to get. Confusing and ineffective.

Could just be me – but this one takes WAY too long to get. Confusing and ineffective.

Keep in mind that ALL of these billboard advertising tips also work as best practices for most ad campaigns using a variety of platforms – radio, tv, print, online display, emails, etc.!  I’d LOVE to see any of your favorites – so please, send them my way!

All the best to your marketing success.  Now … go get at er!