How To Rent The “Impossible” Billboard

Not all billboards are created equal and some have some really big hurdles to get over in order to find a suitable advertiser. These hurdles can include poor visibility, low traffic count, bad demographics and other features that make them less than appealing to most advertisers. However, every sign has a logical user if you think hard enough. So how do you rent the “impossible” billboard?

What does the sign have to offer?

Every billboard – without exception – has some purpose as long as it can be seen from the road. So the first step is to accurately enumerate what the good points are. These may include that it does reach a certain number of viewers per day and, as a result, will be beneficial to some user if you can simply match that location with the right client.

Who needs those customers?

If the sign can be seen and you know what road it’s seen from, the next question is “who needs these customers”? There are advertisers who need to reach every strata of society and every geographic spot. If you have a sign in a blighted industrial area, there are still advertisers who might want to reach this traffic such as an injury attorney or an urgent care center.

At what price will the ad pay for itself and make a profit?

This is the big one. No advertiser will pay to be on a billboard unless they can get their money back with a profit each month from selling their goods or services. This means that your price on the sign has to make it compelling and profitable for the advertiser. A sign with a lot of problems has the ability to still be attractive if the price is right – and that means low. So how low can you go? This will be a function of your operating costs like ground rent, as well as the amount of capital you spent in buying or building the sign.

A sample case study

I have owned many “impossible” signs over the years, most of which I discovered abandoned or bought for a really low price. One example is a sign I purchased on a really old highway above an abandoned car wash. The neighborhood was lousy, the location was lousy, the traffic count low – just nothing good you could say about it. Except that I was able to rent both sides of the sign to an injury attorney that actually got clients from that area. All I could get was $200 per month per side, but all I had in cost was the ground rent at 20% of revenue, and I had the advertiser pay for their ad production. So it made about $300 per month on a $1,000 investment.


Even the most “impossible” signs can be profitable if you acknowledge their limitations and price them correctly. Don’t second guess some of these opportunities and write them off without giving them at least some cursory diligence.

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.