Stacked Signs: A Primer

What’s better than one billboard? Sometimes the answer is two. “Stacked” billboards – like the one shown above – are a common sight on some sections of highway in the U.S. But why aren’t all signs “stacked”? And what are the things to watch out for with these unusual units?

What is a “stacked” sign?

A stacked sign is basically any billboard that has two different ad panels that are facing traffic in the same direction at one time. There are typically vertically stacked but on there is one company that has experimented with horizontal stacking. Typically, each ad panel is 10’ x 40’ or so in size, and they are typically always on a steel monopole. They are very common on highways in the southern U.S.

What are the benefits?

The origin of stacked signs was a technique to double the revenue over a traditional billboard that has only one ad face. The basic premise is that most billboard advertisers only have a set amount they can spend, so you can double that amount by placing to ads on each side of the sign. That’s literally the only reason to do a stacked sign, as there are numerous problems with the concept as discussed below.

What are the negatives?

Stacked signs come with a number of complications including:

  • Association between the two ads can cause some advertisers to refuse to appear on the other sign. For example, there’s no way a restaurant will take the upper or lower ad with a mortuary on the other. While some advertisers are a neutral (like a car dealer) most have some type of baggage.
  • The upper billboard and it’s catwalk and lights cast a shadow on the lower during the day, and the lower does the same on the upper at night. There’s really no way to get around this structural issue.
  • To get the permit to build a stacked unit, you have to use two smaller ad panels than the one larger one that would be possible if it only had one ad face. This sometimes makes the stacked ads significantly smaller than their competition on the other signs.
  • Stacked signs are considered “ugly” by many people, and may cause some pushback by the property owner who does not want one on their property.
  • Stacked signs are very expensive to build. Figure on nearly double the normal price due to the extreme engineering and windloads.
  • Although they do often have two times the revenue, they also have considerably more operating costs since you have two times the electrical usage and ad installation costs. Run the numbers and make sure that the net income actually warrants the additional construction cost.


Stacked signs may be a solution to increase revenue in markets with advertisers of limited resources. However, they do have complications and cost issues that should definitely be considered before you commit to going in that direction. After all, it’s all about the return on investment, not just how many ad faces you can hang on a pole.

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.