Billboard Monthly

July, 1st 2013

Memo From Frank

There has been a lot of publicity recently regarding a billboard in Birmingham, Alabama advertising “Need a Sugar Daddy?” for The city council is trying to get it removed due to 440 complaints they have received. Of course, out of the roughly 50,000 viewers it reaches per day, 440 is not that big a number. And the population of Birmingham is 212,413, so 440 equates to .002 of 1%. But the media reporting over the sign is no doubt causing the advertiser to get a lot more publicity that they could have ever hoped for. And it brings up the question, what is allowable on billboards and who has a right to block it? Under free speech, the content of the billboards has very little to control it, other than obscenity laws and general rules of city ordinance. Although we live in a society that is more and more based on the concept of being politically correct, it is not fair for small groups to block or control the ad messages of legitimate businesses, as long as they meet the law. I was able to survive the economic depression of 1988 to 1992 by renting a significant number of my signs to topless bars. Sometimes we would get complaints, but I would always remind people that the ads were 100% legal and within the ordinance. One of the nice things about billboards is that they have no content to get you to look at them, unlike radio and television, so you can’t threaten to boycott the network, or the other advertisers on that network. But it’s just kind of sad that small groups – 440 out of 212,413 – can even get a city to take notice of anything. Unless I’m mistaken, democracy is built on the majority.

Your Best Advertising Prospects May Be Staring You Right In The Face

If you have a vacant billboard, or one that is approaching the end of your current advertiser’s lease, then you need to be working the most obvious leads in the world – and the every ones that many people never think about hitting. And those the advertisers on the other billboards on the highway, going in the same direction as your sign face.

They don’t need a sales pitch

You can spare them the sales pitch – they already know the value of a billboard, and they already know the B.S. from the last salesman. All that matters are two things; quality and price. If your sign has comparable or superior visibility, then it’s all about price. And sometimes, even if your sign is not quite as good, the advertiser is still willing to move over at the right price. So, as a salesman, you are only fighting a war on one front, and that makes negotiation much easier.

They have proven their ability to pay rent

Any advertiser that is on an existing billboard has definitely proven one thing: they have the ability to pay each month. Particularly with smaller businesses, this is an extremely important trait. You can do all the credit reporting you want, but nothing demonstrates credit worthiness more than current performance.

You can often get a mutli-year lease

When you work out a deal in which an advertiser is going to move from an existing sign to yours at the end of their lease, you often have to wait several months before they can make the move. As a result, you can often get them to sign for more than one year (think two or three) as a reward for “holding the sign open” for them. Of course, in reality, you’re going to find a short-term advertiser to plug that hole before they go up – but don’t tell them that.

They have an idea of what they want on the sign already

< p>One big hold-up to getting an advertisement up on the sign so as to avoid any vacancy is getting their creative completed in a timely fashion. Advertisers who are already up on the sign have proven that they can make a decision on what the ad should look like, and will often use that same design on your sign. This can save weeks of down time, which is very important if you are trying to hit your budget.


When you have a billboard to rent, you should first make a list of all the other advertisers nearby, and see if you can get one to move over to your sign at a certain price. You will be amazed at how well this strategy can work for you.

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