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Billboard Monthly

April, 1st 2012

How To Name Your Billboard Company

I Am Still Amazed When I See Bad Billboard Designs. You Would Think That Just About Everybody In The Business At This Point Knew The Basics. But Apparently Not. So Here’s A List Of The General Design Guidelines That Every Good Billboard Must Follow.

Naming your billboard company can be one of the most decisions you will make. A good name seems to lead to success, and a bad name normally guarantees failure.

So how do you correctly name your billboard business?

It needs to be, essentially, just one word.

Since the beginning of time (or at least the 1920s), billboards have been identified by a one-word name placed beneath the advertisement and centered from left-to-right. This one-word nameplate is called the “shield”. And it is placed on what is called the “skirting” of the sign.

So any good name for a billboard company should initially revolve around one word that is favorable for a shield. For example, your company could be named The Arkansas Company, and your shield would say “Arkansas”. Or, with that same shield, the company could be called Arkansas Outdoor Advertising. Or Arkansas and Associates Outdoor. But the essential part of the name is that one word that will go on the shield.

That one word needs to set the right tone.

You want a name on your shield that is strong and gives off a positive impression. You will soon be known as the “guy from __________” by your landowners and advertisers – so make sure that you pick a name you would want to be described as and identified with. Using a name that is already known and trusted by the general population is always a good one. For example, my first billboard company was called “Chase”, which I used to gain some of the respectability of the bank by that same name. Since a billboard guy is always in the field, and meetings are never held at this office, your clients will only know you by your company name, and a favorable impression will increase your odds of success.

Never use your name.

When you are trying to start a billboard company, it is very important to appear bigger than you really are, to give your clients reassurance that you will be able to deliver on your promises financially. There is no better way to appear like a small-time operator than naming the company after yourself. Your clients will immediately know, after meeting you in the field, that if the name of the company is the same as your last name, then you are a one-man band, and not a bigger concern. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule – look at Foster & Kleiser, Lamar and Eller Media. But most of the household names are not last names , such as Clear Channel, CBS, and Fairway. Other than ego, there is no business advantage to using your name, but a lot of negatives, so it doesn’t make any sense to go that route if you want the best odds for success.

Make sure the name is easy to pronounce.

In the course of your career, you will be saying that name a thousand times a day “this is John Smith from Fargo Outdoor”, so make sure that it does not wear you out. It should be a couple syllables and no tongue twisters. If you cannot say the name ten times in a row, quickly, without screwing up, then find something easier. You clients will have as much trouble with saying the name as you will.


A good billboard company name gives a positive first impression, is easy to pronounce, and suggests that the company is larger than it really is. Since it is a competitive world out there, you need every advantage you can get – and there is no greater initial advantage than a good name.

So think carefully before you print those business cards or paint that first shield. Name yourself for success and you will be glad you spent the time and thought doing so.

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Memo From Frank

The first quarter of 2012 is over. That’s a good time to look over your goals and see how you are doing on achieving them. Every year, in December, I write out my goals for the following year. I then compare, throughout the year, how good a job I’ve done of meeting my goals. If you have not started the practice of drafting and following goals, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. I get great reassurance from having a map of what I’m supposed to do all year, and then even better reinforcement from making sure that I’m following that map. It’s never too late to start the habit of setting and monitoring goals. I’ll never forget my first goal in billboards: to locate and build one sign within 12 months. And I’ll never forget my second goal of finding and building ten billboards. Goals are a great tool – I can’t live without them and neither should you.

A Billboard Story

Back in the old days, when all billboards were hand-painted, the skill of the sign painter was all-important. Most any of the painters could do simple lettering without a problem, but when it came to pictorial painting – pictures of humans, etc. – there were true craftsmen and then there was everybody else. You either could paint a realistic face or you couldn’t. So when we received the artwork on a billboard for an advertiser that featured a 16 foot tall female model holding the product, we were extremely concerned. We didn’t have anybody we knew that could make a success of such a job. So we hired one of the pictorial painters best known for such a masterwork. The female model in the artwork was a shapely blonde. So you can imagine our horror when we went by to check on his work and there was… a 16 foot tale shapely brunette. I immediately called the painter and he told me that he liked brunettes better – he thought they were sexier – and refused to put blonde hair on her. So I had to hire another painter to paint her hair back to blonde.

And that’s why printing vinyl is the greatest invention in billboard history!

A Groundlease Negotiating Tip

Whenever you are presenting a lease to build a billboard, always try to make the ground rent sound as high as possible. If you are going to pay $100 per month, instead offer $100 x 12 = $1,200 per year. If it’s a 10 year lease, you could offer $1,200 x 10 = $12,000 payable in annual installments of $1,200. Sometimes the presentation is as important as what is presented. This is the same sales techniques that private planes use to sell – in reverse – where they tell you that it doesn’t cost $5,000 to fly the private jet from point A to point B, but that it only costs $5,000, divided by 6 hours, divided by 60 minutes = $13 per minute, and then divide this by 6 passengers so they say “it costs less than $2 per minute to fly on our private jet”. But if you offer a larger figure – annually or longer – make sure that you have the ability to cancel the lease and not pay the balance, if you need to get out of the deal.

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