Billboard Mastery Podcast: Episode 76

Helping Advertisers Get Creative

A billboard is only of value if it makes money for the advertiser, and that requires a good marketing message. But how do you help the advertiser to get “creative” in the correct way to market their product or service? In this Billboard Mastery podcast we’re going to review some constructive techniques to create successful ad campaigns.

Episode 76: Helping Advertisers Get Creative Transcript

When you own a billboard, renting the ad space and putting that add up on that sign is very suspenseful, because you need that ad to really pull, to really do well for the advertiser if you wanna have any hope of renewal, or in some cases, even get paid. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery podcast. We're gonna talk about helping advertisers create good ad copy for the billboard. Now, I've done thousands of advertisements for advertisers, and you can spot the winners from the losers pretty rapidly. So what makes an ad work? Well, the first thing which you know on the frontend when you [0:00:44.7] ____ sold the ad, is if you can use the words "exit now" or "next exit" or somehow so the sign has a very close proximity to the exit. Because for billboards, that's the most powerful tool. You see those little signs called logo signs, they're on every interstate highway today at the exit, they tell you every restaurant, every hotel, every attraction at that exit. Why aren't they 20 miles earlier? Because being at the exit is the big part of the power of signs. So the first item is, can you put "exit now?" And if you can, put that prominently on the ad, because that is the key driver.

Another item is, let's use good graphics. Now, today, billboards are printed on vinyl. There was a time in which they were painted by hand. When they were painted by hand, you were very limited in the scope of what you could put on the sign. It was very, very hard to paint a human face, very hard to paint an accurate looking car, terribly hard to paint food. So by and large, billboards of the olden days were just words, nothing but words. Today, of course, there's no reason to hold back like that. You can put anything on there, you can have a photo of a person, a photo of a car, a photo of a bountiful feast at McDonald's. It's not hard to do at all. So let's get a really good graphic. Signs that have really good photographs pull infinitely better than those that have none, so that's another mark of a good ad.

Next, having just a few words on there. Some say you should not have more than seven words, that's sometimes hard with some advertisers to pull off, unless you have massive national brand recognition like McDonalds, who could get away with just saying, "McDonald's, exit now," and you already know the menu. But keep the number of words as brief as possible. And because the number of words is brief, let's make sure that we've got those words really, really big. You typically don't wanna have any copy on that billboard that is not at least 18 inches high, otherwise it's very, very hard to read from the road. And also, we've gotta have good contrast on that copy or you can't read it.

So we've gotta have words that are in contrasting colors to the background. Studies have been done on this, and here's what they found. They found the number one best combination is black letters on a yellow background. Number two, yellow on black. Number three, black on white. Number four, white on black. Number five, white on red. Next, red on white, and so on and so forth. But you have to have very high contrast. You cannot have brown letters on a tan background, your eye will simply not be able to differentiate the letters and you won't be able to read it. Now, those are all the fundamentals, but how do you come up with the actual ad, the concept, the idea of what you're doing? Well, that's called creativity. And what you have to do is you don't know that advertiser's business that well, they know everything about their business. If you meet with a franchisee from Dairy Queen, they can tell you exactly how many Blizzards they sell, and what size they are, and which ones they are, and which are the most popular and what times of the day people wanna come by and buy the ice-cream cones and all of that. You've gotta get in the head of your advertiser, you gotta find out what they know about their business, so you can use that in the ad.

And I've found the best way to do that is, when you go to meet with the advertiser, is just to take a blank sheet of paper with a box that you drew, the dimensions of the sign, and say, "Hey, let's get creative with this. Tell me what we gotta put on here, what's your number one seller, what's your number one most profitable product you really, really wanna promote?" They know the answers, but you gotta pull it out of them and figure out what it is, and then as you get them, start putting them on the paper, mocking up different ideas for them. You'll notice that McDonald's typically only advertises its big sellers. What are their big sellers? Well, their biggest seller obviously are hamburgers, but they also do relatively well with things such as coffee and breakfast. The whole breakfast menu has been a huge hit for McDonald's. You wanna put your most important products, obviously, on the sign. If you have a country western store that wants to put up a billboard, they probably wanna have hats or boots on that thing, not belt buckles, not socks. So make sure the advertiser focuses and asks them questions like, what is your number one selling product? What is your most profitable product?

Now, as far as fancy slogans, cute slogans are fine and everything, but the problem is, when you put those on the sign, it adds more words, which means the size of the other words goes down. So make sure that anything you put on that sign is vitally important, and make sure that everything the advertiser comes up with, you helped them figure out in this creativity mode, fits as a unified thing. So if we're doing the country western place, let's put the name of the store on there, prominently, the exit number on there, prominently. And then, what is their number one product? And they say, "Well, our number one product is Tony Lama cowboy boots." Great, let's put a picture of the cowboy boots, the real cowboy boots, not a cartoon, the real cowboy boots on there, or maybe a bunch of pairs, so people know there's a wide selection. What about price point? Is that important? And they'll say, "Yeah, well, we've got Tony Lama cowboy boots starting at $49." Okay, let's put a price explosion on there, $49.

The key thing you have to tell the advertiser is, they have to think like this billboard is a giant salesman, standing by the road, making the same sales pitch over and over and over, thousands of times a day, every day of the year. If you had a real person out there screaming at the people going down the road, what would they scream? What would the ultimate sales pitch be for your business? That's what you have to distill with him, that's what you have to figure out, because that's what the sign is, it's just a big salesman. If a big salesman doesn't have a good sales pitch, he won't sell anything. But that's where you gotta get their mindset going. So we've got the sign, the sign is your salesman. The sign structure belongs to me, but you're renting it from me and the salesman is gonna say anything you want to that traffic. What is the message, the most important message you should convey? And once they tell you what that message is, it's up to you to try and figure out the best way graphically to make that have all the other features we talked about; contrast, size of words and all that. They can't figure that part out. But you've gotta get from them the grain of sand that creates the pearl that makes that sign highly successful. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this, talk to you again soon.