Some Basic Ground Rules for Billboard Advertising

There are rules to guide us in the finite world of billboards. Below are a handful that were designed to be followed. And meant to be broken.

  • The "Six Words Or Less" Rule. Touted as the industry average for successfully getting your message across to zooming commuters. Less is better. But if you need a paragraph to explain what your company does, you may want to skip billboards for your company.
  • The "If You Can Show It Rather Than Say It Then Show It" Rule. If you’re selling duct tape that holds up to the toughest challenge, then show your duct tape holding up your billboard. Getting visually creative can make a message much more memorable.
  • The "Keep Your Illustrations and Images Relevant" Rule. If it moves your message forward use it.  If it doesn’t, don’t. This goes double for all the attorneys and real estate agents who, for whatever reason, insist on having their glamour shot take up half the board. We choose professionals because they’re reputable. Now because they’ve got a new toupee.
  • The "This Is Neither The Time Nor Place For Direct Response" Rule. Outdoor is a brand building medium, a supporting character – and not a capabilities brochure. Jamming up your board with your phone number and web address and physical location can turn a message from important to impotent in a heartbeat. If you’re a lawyer and your number is 444-4444, fine. Otherwise, let’s keep it clean.
  • The "Billboards Are A Campaign" Rule. One board in one place doesn’t help anyone. You want your message to get out there and stick? Don’t be stingy, buy in bulk and splurge!
  • The "Don’t Make Me Think" Rule. You’ve got about six seconds. So be clever, be creative, but be clear. And save your abstract thoughts for people who aren’t speeding over the limit.
  • The "Right Colors and Right Fonts Are Everything" Rule. You can’t choose the lighting for your billboard, so make sure the colors and fonts and font sizes keep it bright even at night. Black lettering on a yellow background? Aces. Green lettering on a red background? A pair of twos.
  • The "Stand Over There To See If This Works" Rule. Is your billboard layout clean, clear, visible? One great way to find out is to print it on a standard sheet of paper, have a friend hold it up and then see how it looks from across the room (roughly simulating the same perspective between board and driver). If you’re squinting, rethink it.
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