Using Billboards to Steal Customers’ Attention

By Rachel Bonnette, Marketing Director, Foster Marketing

In a world overwhelmed with Facebooking, Pinning, Emailing, Tweeting, Sharing, Following and all things online, a few traditional advertising techniques are still alive and well. Remember that eye-catching design or the catchy phrase on that billboard the last time you traveled down I-10? That’s right: billboards are still stealing attention and raking in sales for businesses across the United States.

Outdoor advertising had a 3.5 percent increase in revenue in the third quarter of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, adding up to more than $1.6 billion, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. These opportunities are everywhere, including 158,868 billboards, 4,900 digital billboards, 165,606 poster billboards, 33,336 junior billboards and 4,029 wall spectaculars around the country.

Why do we recommend billboard advertising to our clients?

In an area like Houston, billboards reach millions of travelers every day. With an engaging message, companies can quickly capture the attention of potential customers in an instant. What else are you going to see when you’re stuck in traffic on 610, I-45 or I-10? Focusing on that instant is a must in billboard advertising because two to three seconds is all you have to win viewers over. And, we always say “First, you have to grab their attention.”

Over the past 30 years, Houston politicians have reduced the number of boards in the city from 10,000 to 3,000, making the ones left standing even more valuable than before. Less clutter means more attention on your message. But what do you include in that message?

How do you grab viewers’ attention?

When it comes to billboards, your message must be short (seven words or less), sweet (inviting and intriguing) and to the point (tell how what you are presenting impacts the viewer).

Short time span, high frequency rate.

While the viewing period of your billboard message may only last a few seconds, viewer frequency is often very high as commuters travel many of the same routes daily as they head to work, school, the grocery store and gym.

In addition to your message being seen frequently, billboard advertising also allows you to strategically position your message. Whether a directional board near your manufacturing facility or a board targeting your market in the heart of Houston’s Energy Corridor, you can select the location that will attract the type of viewers you want your message to reach.

A “rotary plan” can also help enhance the viewing of your message. In this arrangement, a company purchases three boards in a central area each featuring a different message. Every month or two, board number one is moved to site two, bulletin two to site three and so on. This allows three different messages to be seen by using one board.

Focusing on the target audience in a given area is just as important as assessing the physical condition of the area where your board will be. Consider any construction taking place during the span of your messages display, the height of trees, etc. It is important that your board is (and remains) visible. Preferably, a board should stand alone. If it’s joined by too many other boards, the one closest to the road has the best chance of being seen. Too many panels, too close together, lead to viewer confusion.

Some may consider billboard advertising as an outdated or ignorable media — but there are a wealth of possibilities to liven up any billboard message, including cut outs, extenders, embellishments and even digital displays. Digital billboards allow you to animate and update your ad frequently. Think about that last time you were stuck in traffic or sitting at a stop light. What were you doing? While you are staring through your car window waiting to continue your drive, you likely saw an animated or static billboard with a message designed to make an impression on you in three seconds or less — whether you consciously remember it or not.

Billboards as a social tool

As powerful as billboard advertising’s potential, Foster Marketing has developed another advantage for this form of advertising. As a matter of course, we receive an on-location photo of any recently installed billboard as proof that the signage was posted as expected. We can then provide a social media post with the new billboard and location to showcase a client’s geographic reach. And, you guessed it, the posts capture online attention. Similar posts have skyrocketed in views and likes — some reaching as many as 1,400 views while other posts only reach about 350 views.

And social media isn’t the only good pairing for billboard advertising.

According to the UK’s Radio Advertising Bureau, pairing billboard and radio advertising can be a winning partnership. While radio messages have the ability to target a specific audience at a relevant time, billboard messaging can be positioned to be geographically relevant to an audience. The two media formats can also work together to maximize timing and location to breed even more successful results. For example, radio spots targeting a Hispanic audience could play off a directional board strategically positioned near highly Hispanic areas of a city.

Key takeaways:

  • Pick an ideal location with the amount and type of traffic you want.
  • Keep your message short and make it eye-catching.
  • Cross promote your billboard efforts on radio and social media.
  • Work the repeat viewer factor as travelers will pass multiple times a day.

In recent years, outdoor advertising has come to fill a new need. With the growth of self-serving information in an instant on the internet, manufacturers have lost some of the value of the in-person sales where a salesperson can “sell” his or her recommendations. Advertising has been called upon to fill the gap by preselling the customer — if the prospect is exposed to the advertising prior to making the actual purchase, the advertiser has a better chance of being remembered.

While there is an increased emphasis on cell phone and tablet use, we should remember that customers are being more mobile because they are traveling, which makes billboards an attractive option for gaining their attention as they zip along.

Thought provoking? For more of this type of thinking, call Foster Marketing today at 281-448-3435 to schedule a meeting.