In most states, you are not allowed to increase the sign face size – but what about reducing it? In this Billboard Mastery podcast, we’re going to review when it’s advantageous to reduce the size of a billboard and what the ramifications are. While bigger is normally better for billboards, there are certain moments when the reverse is true.
Episode 62: Reducing The Size of A Sign Transcript
Now typically the billboard industry, you want your billboard to be as large as it can be. And many cities and states do not allow you to ever enlarge the size of a sign. But what about making it smaller? This is Frank Rolfe, the Billboard Mastery podcast, we're going to be talking about the rare occasions in which the smart thing to do is actually to make the sign smaller in size, rather than larger. And I'm talking about when you are buying an existing sign, going smaller, and even when you're building one from scratch, and going a little smaller than where you could be. And let's go over why that might be. Well, the main reason you would want to go with a smaller size sign over a larger is because you're trying to deal with some form of obstruction. Let me give you an example. The first time I learned this was I build a billboard on highway 377 and Watauga. That's a city north of Fort Worth, Texas. I had an issue though, because there was a blockage from the roofline of a church. And I still wanted to build a full size sign, the biggest I could build was a 14 by 48 in size. So that's what I did. And the problem was for the moment I built that sign and forever after part of the sign was always blocked by the church, you could not see the full sign because the roof of the church was blocking part of the ad face, it was awkward looking. And it was also meant that part of the face could not be read. Now in retrospect, what I should have done is I should have gone with a smaller ad face. If a guy was something that was more vertically oriented, and not quite so large, I could have gotten around the obstruction. But I was so bullheaded that I wanted to build the biggest sign I could build, I build an inferior sign. And I always had trouble reading it because every advertiser who saw it, thought there was something terribly wrong with it, which there was, it should have been smaller. In other cases, you may be buying an old wooden sign, let's say, and that wooden sign size is not of a normal size today that is used. For example, back in the olden days, when signs were first getting started, people would often build billboards simply based on how many sheets of plywood they had around, and they came up with some strange size. As we all know, today, the standard sizes of the industry are 14 by 4810, six by 36 and 12 by 25. However, back in the olden days back to the in the 50s. And the 60s, lots of advertisers will build their own unique custom creations. And the problem is when you have those size, they do not fit the standard formats that people utilize for vinyl production and from making their advertisements. So as a result, you miss out on a lot of your best advertisers. If you ever go to McDonald's franchise, a little handbook in there of what a billboard is supposed to look like they have some pre printed ads. And what the McDonald's franchisee does is they drop their address in or their exit line into those standard rd pre printed vinyls. They only covers certain sizes, they're not customizable. If your sign size does not fit those normal sizes, here's the problem. They're not going to ever get that sign from you. So sometimes you want to go smaller, simply because you want to make that thing a normal size. If you had a side that was 14 by 40 in size, you probably want to change that to attend 636. Why? It's smaller square footage. But therefore there is already ample designs from the bigger advertisers that can be used. customization and signs is never been a good idea. It always leads to ruin because people don't want to come up with custom creative. There was a sign company in Texarkana and the signs are still there if you drive by them. And for some crazy reason, the guy wanted to build the most horizontal thinnest billboards you've ever seen. So if everyone else's signs were 14 by 48, that He would build His signs, you know, a correspondingly eight by 60 something and they look ridiculous as you're going down the highway. But he thought it was incredibly creative. I remember he had Bryce's cafeteria on most of them. It was great creative for Bryce's cafeteria, they had a pictorial of all the things in their buffet line. But beyond that, it was kind of hard to make sense of it. Remember, we had a car dealership on there once which had horizontal profiles of all the cars of the dealership on it. Okay, that's kind of cool and everything. But he missed out on all of your mainstream advertisers because all their ad agencies all their creative revolved around standardized sizes and he didn't have any another time you might want to go the smaller added faces when you're worried about wind load. If you're buying an existing sign, and you don't really know how well it's constructed, reducing the wind load down helps you a whole lot. Because assuming it was actually engineered which it was supposed to be, and built for 100 mile an hour wind load on that side face, when you take that side face and reduce it, it takes a lot of the pressure off how it was constructed. Sometimes when you see a sign that you might be buying, you can see that something very wrong has happened in its past. Sometimes you'll notice that the sign has been extended in a height, how do you know this, you'll see the sign comes out to a horizontal plate, this bolted onto the column. And that's where the sign the head of the sign used to be mounted. But instead you have a second piece of column mysteriously that rises from that joint may only be five or 10 feet in length. And then the top of the sign is attached to that. Well, what they've done there is they've raised the sign up in the air to try and get around an obstruction. And they probably did it illegally. And they couldn't get the permit originally to make it the height they wanted. So they built it the correct height, got the permit everything fine. And then snuck in later, probably on a weekend and raise it up five or 10 feet in the air. When you do that you put an enormous amount of pressure, enormous amount of load on that pole, about three feet off the ground. That's where all the pressure is. So what can you do in those situations? Again, if you reduce the Add face size down, then you're going to reduce down the wind load, you're going to enhance the safety. Now, is there a problem with making sign smaller? It's a good question because states and cities are so obsessed with sign sizes, that you might think it would be some kind of issue if you do it. But normally the answer is no. While most states and cities have all kinds of penalties, if you try and enlarge it, they don't even Potter anyone ever wanting to go smaller. So you will find almost any rules and regulations on it. Now to be safe, I would ask I wouldn't do it until you know for sure what the rules of engagement are. So I start with your state and then work your way down county and city make sure everything is fine. But I think you'll find most of the statutes do allow you to go smaller. They just don't let you go any larger. Normally, you could have a sign that has a permit for a 14 by 48 Add face, but you could build a smaller face. No issue. They don't really care go bigger than 1448. Huge, huge problem. Smaller, well not gonna get you in trouble at all. But again, verify these things before you do it. But the answer to it all is you're not always best off making the sign as big as it can be. There are certain occasions based on obstructions based on safety on a number of factors, standardization in which you are better off go with a smaller side face if that helps get the job done, and is going to work out for a better investment for you for your billboard. This is Frank Rolfe for the Billboard Mastery podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.