My love/hate relationship with billboards.
Seriously, who likes billboards anyway? Living and working in Vermont, one of four states that actually bans billboards, it’s a bit ironic that I have any affection for them at all. Billboards are eyesores that dot our highways and mar the landscape.
So why does part of me love them? As a marketer, I find that creating effective billboard advertising is one of the ultimate challenges. Talk about grabbing someone’s attention! Your audience is zipping by your message at 60, 70, even 80 mph, and they don’t really want to read or see what you’ve got to say in the first place. They would much rather be listening to the radio, talking to their fellow passengers, on the phone, or, dare I say, texting than reading your message.
A person travelling in a car at 60 mph, for example, 480 feet from a billboard utilizing 48” font (that’s a whopping four feet!) has 5.1 seconds to read your message. Even assuming your message is clear, concise, and you use appropriately contrasting colors, 5.1 seconds is not a whole lot of time to get someone’s attention and impart any sort of brand proposition or call to action. So why is it that there are so many crappy billboards out there?
I don’t know about you, but when I read a good magazine I’m constantly impressed with the number of provocative and eye-catching ads. Getting someone’s attention in a magazine ad is also no easy feat. Good billboard advertising follows, or should follow, the same adage that applies to every advertising channel—know your medium, understand how they will view your message, and do everything humanly possible put yourself in their shoes and give them a reason to read your words. Channel surfing with the TV remote and flipping through magazines present their own challenges for advertisers, but understanding the nuances of advertising to a highly fragmented group of consumers hurtling down the roads at speeds of 88 feet per second is a whole different ball game.
You better have something good to say and a great way to present it if you want this distracted driver’s attention.