Effective Billboards 101

Billboards may look like the perfect place to wax eloquently about everything your company does. But don’t pen your great American success story just yet. In the case of billboards less is more.

Despite the size of the canvas, the fewest words have the most dramatic impact. There is a tendency for people to think of a billboard in the same manner they do a print ad. The result? A big mess with everything in it but the kitchen sink. In fact, there should be no more than seven to eight words on a billboard.

Because you only have a little over two seconds to capture a driver’s attention, billboards should not be used as the primary engine of an advertising strategy. They’re more of a recall medium, designed to piggyback on an overall print, broadcast or online advertising campaign. The billboard needs to be a part of a family of advertising mediums. If “Joe Consumer” reads a full-page ad in the newspaper and, as he’s barreling down I-75, sees a billboard carrying the same – or similar – message, something will click. And if the message is delivered well, it will etch a lasting place in the consumer’s mind.

However, it’s not only the words that need to be finessed – it’s the colors and the visuals. If you’re attracted to rich tone-on-tone colors in your home, save it for your bedroom not your billboard.

A billboard’s colors need to be high contrast, such as yellow and black, which are best for visibility. A case in point is pest control giant Truly Nolen, whose corporate colors are black, yellow and red. They’ve built an image across the country with a brand and image building campaign using three simple words on their billboards. Other ways to put billboard advertising to use is as a directional: next exit, turn left. Photography’s doable but the image better be strong.

However you convey your billboard message, remember this colloquialism that speaks volumes in the world of advertising: short, sweet and simple.