Experimental Billboard Structure Concepts

Billboards have been around for over 100 years in their modern format. We all know that the industry standards are wooden telephone pole, I-beam or steel monopole structures in sizes of 12’ x 24’, 10’6” x 36’ and 14’ x 48’. But yet there are new ideas that come up periodically as billboard owners attempt to find even less expensive methods to deliver billboard messages, many of which are in ad sizes all their own. So what are these experimental billboard concepts?

Sides of 18-wheelers

You see this concept frequently on interstate highways in Missouri and Arkansas (such as I-55 shown in the photo). I’m not sure were the idea came from, but it’s pretty logical as the truck is a long rectangle that harkens back to the shape of a traditional billboard. Plus they’re really cheap (an old salvaged one is maybe $1,000) and easy to move into position. However, be advised that these meet absolutely no sign ordinance that I’ve ever seen, and these must be “bandit” signs (no permit) as there’s no way these meet sign engineering standards. I’ve noticed that they are always in rural areas which is a good thing because they’re likely to blow over in a tornado.

Metal storage containers

This is a derivative of the 18-wheeler concept, only this time it’s metal storage containers that are used to hang the vinyl advertisements on. They are also cheap and easy to transport, and are probably more stable as they have no wheels and rest directly on the ground. However, the problem is once again that they are almost certainly illegal under most state and local statutes (although I’m not sure if you can engineer a foundation for them which, possibly, would make them able to obtain a permit).

Grain elevators or other large structures

OK, here’s where people can take advantage of a loophole in most state’s sign ordinances. When the Highway Beautification Act came out in the 1960s, the law only controls about 660’ depth from the right-of-way (but check the law yourself). That means that any sign more than that distance off the right-of-way has no rules or requirements. But the problem is that you have to have a really huge sign to be seen from that distance. So what you watch for are giant object you can attach a giant advertising vinyl to. I know someone who mounted a vinyl to a giant grain elevator – that’s sheer genius.

Something that nobody has thought of yet

Is this all the ideas out there? Hardly. There are probably some great alternative billboard concepts out there that nobody has even noticed yet. However, always be mindful of the law and how you fit into that spectrum. Personally, I think that you should be watching for items to place ads on that are big and legal – you would be on pins and needles when you operate a billboard that has no right to exist.


There are alternative methods to constructing traditional billboards. However, some may not work and could have serious legal issues. But if you can find a new method that is able to obtain a permit, then it may be a great way to save money and create a strong income stream.

Frank Rolfe started his billboard company off of his coffee table, immediately after graduating from college. Although he had no formal training on the industry, he learned as he went, and developed his own unique systems to accomplish things, such as renting advertising space. Frank was formerly the largest private owner of billboards in Dallas/Ft. Worth, as well as a major player in the Los Angeles market.