5 Key Elements of a Successful Billboard Campaign

by Corey Philip
December 12, 2017


You see them everywhere. They’re on highways, side streets, and the sides of buildings just about everywhere in the country.

But do they work?

Although billboards are traditionally one of the more popular methods of advertising, the rise of digital marketing has changed the landscape.

However, that doesn’t mean that there is no place for billboard advertising. In fact, this study found that 71% of Americans consciously look at billboards as they’re driving, and many of these people learn about an event or a restaurant that they later attended.

You just have to make sure that you’re doing it right. If you understand these 5 key elements of a successful billboard campaign, you’ll realize much higher returns on your investment.

    1. If You’re Using a Phone Number, Make Sure to Track It

      Where I see so many people failing in their advertising campaigns is that they aren’t tracking the sources of their phone calls.  You need to track everything if you really want to hammer down your marketing costs. If you have three different marketing campaigns running at once, it’s important that you know which ones are working. While you may not have been able to track phone calls from your billboards before, the times are changing.

      For me, I use a program called CallRail to track where people are getting my phone number. What CallRail does is it generates several phone numbers for you to use on different campaigns. For example, their entry-level option provides you with 10 different phone numbers. If you plug just one of those phone numbers onto your billboard ad, you can then track all of the calls that you receive from people who saw your billboard.  You’ll then get an accurate idea of which ones are working the best.

    2. Keep it Simple

      Too many people try to get cute with their billboard. While you certainly want an interesting design, it’s important that you keep everything on your board simple and easy to digest. The industry best practice says to keep your billboard advertisement limited to just six or seven words since your viewer is in a moving vehicle. They have an estimated six seconds to digest your message. That’s why I also recommend staying away from highways. The faster that someone is driving, the less time they have to digest your ad.

      For those in the service industry, this means that you shouldn’t be trying to advertise 20 different services.
      Instead, focus on one simple message. If you’re adding paragraphs to your billboard, they aren’t going to get read. If your message is too complex to convey in just a few words, you should probably stay away from billboards altogether.

    3. Cluster Your Billboards

      One billboard usually isn’t enough. While billboard advertising certainly isn’t cheap, it also isn’t effective to use just one board. The whole point of billboards is to get as many eyes on them as possible, and it’s really tough to do that if you only have one out. Experts rate billboards on a scale called the Gross Ratings Points (GRP). This scale runs between 1-100, and it’s based on factors like visibility, traffic, location, size, and so on.

      If your billboard advertising campaigns score a 50 on the GRP scale, it means around 50% of the population in a given area will see your billboard at least once per day.

      Ideally, you’ll score a 100.

      To do that, you need multiple billboards in one tight area. You need drivers who frequent an area to see your billboards ‘everywhere’. While you don’t actually need them everywhere 5 billboards in a 3 mile radius will give that impression to residents of that area. They’ll notice one as they drive to work, and then again as they drive back, and then another one when they go to dinner.

      Humans notice patterns, and this repetitive billboard, will stand out over the 1 time billboards that get passed by day after day as people say “hey there’s that company again”.

    4. Get Creative

      Creativity is important.

      It’s how you get noticed (or ignored). Since people have such a limited time to see your billboard, it’s important that you grab their attention immediately. I saw one the other day that worked really well. While I was driving down the street, I saw a billboard advertisement that was upside down for a local home service company called BEST Home Services. My first thought was that some poor guy was about to lose his job (maybe he’s not so poor if he’s putting on billboards upside down).

      However, it hit me about a minute later.

      As I continued driving, I saw another billboard from the same company that was positioned correctly. Their scheme is to grab your attention with the upside down billboard and then hook you in with the second advertisement.

      It certainly worked on me.

      A few other things that you could do are to go with a 3D ad, create something with moving parts, find a way to have people interact with it, or even work some animation into the design. The point is to do something that catches your audience’s attention and draws them in.

    5. Test Your Idea

      Now that you know the most important rules, you’ve created your billboard ad. Now, it’s time to test it before you go live. A simple way to test your billboard is to do the “arm’s length” test. To do this, print your ad out onto a business card-sized piece of paper.

      Once you’ve printed out your ad, hold it out at arm’s length.

      What does it look like?

      Check to see that the colors work, the message pops, and it’s easy to understand. Can you digest it in 5-10 seconds? If so, your billboard ad should be ready to go.

The Takeaway

Although digital marketing has taken the world by storm, there’s certainly still a time and place for more traditional advertising methods like billboards. You just have to make sure that you do it right. With some modern technology, a creative design team, and some strategic planning, there’s no question that you can still make the return on your investment worth it. If you’ve ever created a billboard advertisement, want to learn more, or have any questions, be sure to leave us a comment in the comments section below!

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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