Billboard Mastery Podcast: Episode 28

What To Do When Everybody Wants Your Sign

Some billboards require a lot of effort to find an advertiser, and with other signs the advertisers flock to you. So what do you do when there’s a bunch of advertisers wanting your sign location? In this Billboard Mastery podcast we’re going to review some strategies to maximize your income when you’ve come across a really hot, in-demand location.

Episode 28: What To Do When Everybody Wants Your Sign Transcript

It's great to be popular, but being highly in-demand can often be a problem for a billboard owner, we're not used to being someone who is sought after by a number of advertisers, we're typically more prone to be after trying to find the advertiser that fits on the sign. This is Frank Rolfe the billboard Mastery podcast, we're gonna talk about what happens when you have a billboard that everybody wants. Now, let's first talk about what makes a billboard so very desirable. In my career, I often would find signs that were uniquely, uniquely attractive for advertising, the first one I ever had that was that manner was a giant sign that I built in Garland, Texas, 120-foot tall, 20 x 60 phase. It stood out above all signs, literally, it was two times the size and two times the height of all of the competitors, as a result, everybody wanted to be on that sign. I had another one when I built a sign in Denton, which had an absolutely killer head-on, lengthy exposure from the street, the street curved to the left, and as you were driving that sign stuck in the middle of your windshield for an insanely long period of time, totally clear view, not a tree, not a power line, nothing to block that visibility.

When you have those kinds of signs, once it stand out from the crowd, coupled with terrific locations, maybe in an area where there's no other signs allowed, maybe an area where you've got so many advertisers at the next exit, suddenly you realize you have something special, this is not a normal sign and you can't really treat it like a normal sign, when you have that type of property, what you're gonna wanna do is, you're gonna wanna figure out How do I maximize, How do I harness this unique level of demand? Well, the first thing you can do is obviously see if you've got lots of advertiser, who wanna be on there, how many advertisers can you stick? How many can be on there at one time? Well, the natural obvious resource would be an LED sign, therefore, I can sell the Ads space perhaps eight seconds per advertiser, and in some cases, that is the best thing to do. However, as we all know, LED signs can be very, very expensive. And they don't last forever. If a big capital call every seven to 10 years to replace that LED sign and LED its hard to rent the space, it's kind of unique item, it's like having almost a billboard radio station, and it maybe just beyond your economic capability, hundreds of thousands of dollars are required to build an LED sign, and you may just say, Well, I don't wanna take that much risk and you don't have that much capital.

Another other option I do is called Tri-vision, this is an older technology that stems all the way back into the 1980s. It's basically three panels, imagine triangular panels on the sign that rotate every so many seconds or minutes based on however you have it set up, so in that way, you can have three advertisers on the sign, so there's an option, not nearly as expensive as LED, or we could also just have two advertisers on the side, we can take the side and split it right down the middle, and we can break it instead of having one 14 x 48 phase, for example, we could have two 44 x 24 phases. You see that all across town, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that if you were gonna rent the whole sign to an advertiser for $2000 a month, and you find that you can chop the sign in half and it's rent each side for $1800 a month. So much demand, while $3600 are way better than $2000, so clearly, you would do that. So that's the first thing you have to question is, can I go ahead and put multiple advertisers on the sign? If the answer is Yes, that's one way to maximize your rent. Another way is just to ask the moon for the Ads space itself, all the other signs may be charging $2000 a month, and you say, My sign is special, and I want $5000 a month just for that one phase, that's what I did in my giant sign, I did on my 120-foot tall, 20 x 60.

My Ad rent on that sign was over twice what all the other signs were charging, I was twice as big, twice as tall, and it cost twice as much. So that's another option. You can charge more for your sign than anybody else is, so that's attractive. What else can you do with the sign, that's hotly in demand? Well, you can offer other terms that you find attractive beyond just price, you might say on a really hot sign, well, if you want the sign, here's the deal, you have to sign a three-year lease or a four-year lease or whatever length you want, and you might say, Well, if you want this sign, I'm going to require you to pay a year in advance or two years in advance, or you could reduce down the amount of cost you have into by telling the advertiser, I'm only gonna change your Ad once every 18 months, the bottom line is you hold all the cards when you have those very, very hot signs, the problem is, a lot of others don't take advantage of it. Some people will build a sign, it's got uniquely great visibility, curve in the road, tall big, everything's great, they'll charge the same rent as they deal on every other sign.

Now, that's not smart. So when you have a unique sign with lots of demand, you need to acknowledge that you need to say, Wow, I've got a hot property here, and since I have such a hot property, I demand that I get more money for it because mine is unique. Mine is highly desirable. Mine is one that all advertisers want, and if you play your cards right, you can achieve that, but you have to understand it on the front end and plan accordingly, also, don't forget, if you have a sign that's better than the rest, to get their location, you can also pay more money for it. A lot of times people don't realize that if you're gonna go ahead and charge twice the rate, well, you can pay twice to ground rent to you, that may help you get that sign to begin with. Now, what are the attributes when I'm looking at building a sign that would make me say, Well, I think this one is unique, number one, Scarce City, how many signs are there on that road? And if you say, Well, there's only two. Well, then, if you build one, then you each have a third of the entire market, so scarcity is important, another one is size and height, signs that are bigger, signs that are taller, well, those are also highly more prized by advertisers, so that's definitely a good side to anyone as far as a sign that's gonna be attractive to people, another one is unbelievable visibility, curve in the roads that are by far the outstanding example.

The best signs in the United States by far, are those that as you're driving down the highway, sit right in the middle of your windshield for long periods of time, that way the advertiser believes his Ad is seen and seen and seen and seen and seen and seen and seen, and the impact of visibility might be five times more. I think my sign in Denton, honestly, considering 500 feet is the normal length of time that was exposed, I think that sign was maybe 10 times longer, you could literally see that sign for better mile away, now you couldn't read the words on it. That's a problem, but otherwise, you can see it and your brain started to wonder, what's that thing say when you were really, really far back? Also when you have signs that are really in demand, don't forget you have options, even if you're a small operator with only a handful of signs, those really hot signs, you can go to Ad agency with those, you can hit advertisers you normally wouldn't hit with those things, and you'll still find lots of demand. At the end of the day, advertisers, they're not impressed by the size of the sign company, they're impressed by the quality of the billboard, if you have something that's exceptional, then they're gonna look you are offering is being better than all the others, they don't care that you may only have three billboards and you're competing with Lamar or Clear Channel who have thousands.

The bottom line with all is, having a highly in demand sign is great, it's wonderful. Relish it, embrace it. Harness that fire power to make that sign the most profitable it can be. This is Frank Rolfe, the Billboard Ward Mastery podcast. I hope you enjoyed this, talk to you again soon.