Why Is McDonald's America's #1 Billboard User?

For decades McDonald’s has ranked at the top of billboard users in the U.S. Day in and day out, they are the benchmark of a strong user of the outdoor advertising medium. But why are they so aggressive with this form of advertising? And what lessons can be learned from this?

Traffic is a huge part of their business

McDonald’s is a fast food restaurant and, as such, are heavily vested in appealing to cars on the road. Many times it’s strictly an impulse purchase, as a driver suddenly decides “I want a sweet tea” and gets in the drive-thru lane. But the bottom line is that cars on the road are the key target of McDonald’s and they are aggressive in reaching this audience with billboards.

They have a huge number of locations

McDonald’s has a large number of locations across the U.S. – over 14,000 of them. As such, and with their focus on reaching drivers in their cars, they require a huge number of billboards to reach this market. That’s why they are such a huge billboard user; because they are a huge company with a ton of locations. Additionally, if the driver doesn’t stop at the McDonald’s near the billboard, they may well stop at the next one they pass, so the billboard has still done its job.

They have a simple message

Billboards do not have a lot of words on them – they can’t due to size constraints. As a result, they favor advertisers that have simple messages that do not need a lot of description. Most McDonald’s ads are just a photo of a food product and a price, or a simple slogan like “I’m Lovin’ it”. This makes them the perfect fit for this advertising medium.

And that’s the type of advertiser you should be looking for

All of the positive attributes discussed above extend to many other advertisers, in both the fast-food arena (Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Arby’s, etc.) as well as the lodging (Holiday Inn, Motel 6, etc.) and gas (Conoco, BP, etc.) sectors. And these make for the best advertisers for billboards, as they match to the product well and, if you can get them on your sign, may renew for decades.


McDonald’s is a top billboard advertiser in the U.S. for many good reasons. And these same reasons translate to similar advertisers which should be a top priority to get up on your sign. Successful advertisers renew for years, pay on time, and just make your job more pleasant.

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.