One of my favorite billboard case studies was the sign I purchased and brought back to life on Highway 75 near Plano, Texas. It’s a perfect example of what smart billboard deals look like and there are similar opportunities like this still available across America if you seek them out.
This sign was more of a “ruin” than a billboard when I found it. The poles were still standing in a farm field, but the plywood panels had fallen off most of it years earlier. It was completely abandoned. Yet the location had potential as Highway 75 is a major north/south artery and the sign was free from any obstructions.
The deal I struck
I found the owner of the farm land, and sent him a proposal in which I would pay him ground rent if he would transfer to me any rights he had in the sign structure and allow me to bring it back to life. But the owner didn’t seem to have much interest, as he would not take or return my call, nor would he respond to my letters. In desperation I went over to his house and rang the doorbell. Still no response. After I did that three times he finally called me and said “you are really freaking me out by coming to my house and I’ll sign your agreement if you promise not to do that any longer.” He was a man of his word because days later the signed agreement arrived and I never bothered him again. The deal was that he was to receive 25% of the revenue from the sign with a minimum payment of around $500 per month.
Bringing the sign back to life
The poles were in remarkably good shape and all I had to do was replace the plywood sign faces. The sign had no light fixtures – it was about as simple a structure as you could hope for. No surprises occurred and getting the sign put back together was simple and right on budget. My total cost for the sign refurbishment was around $5,000. Not a bad deal for three ad faces – the sign had two stacked north bound and one south band ad faces.
Renting the ad space
With the sign in rentable condition, it was time to get the ad space out the door. I put together an 8 ½” x 11” flyer that had a photo of the sign, a map, a price, and the reasons it was a great value for the advertiser. I also put my phone number up on the sign. Both of the north-bound ad faces rented quickly to homebuilders, but the south-band face was a harder sell. I started to cold call all of the business at the next exit down from the sign and found a hotel that wanted it. So now I was 100% occupied.
Harvesting the profits
Here’s how the numbers worked. I rented all three of the signs for a total of $2,500 per month which, after all costs, yielded about $20,000 a year of net income. And all I had to do once the ads were up were to renew them or find a new advertiser once per year. Since my ad rates were reasonable, and the sign had good visibility, the advertisers stayed on there year after year, which means I had no time required to keep the sign full.
Bringing old billboards back to life can be very profitable. All you need is the opportunity and the knowledge of how to do it. There are many abandoned signs out there, and while you need to follow all state and local sign laws when you find these targets, you can find good sign candidates if you look hard enough.