Billboard Monthly

June, 1st 2015

Memo From Frank

Like most people, I do most of my driving in the summer. I often drive five to ten hours at a time. And I see a whole lot of billboards across America. As I go, I see tons of opportunities, such as abandoned billboards or walls that would be perfect for wallscapes. I see vacant signs that should be occupied. I see expanses of frontage that should have billboards on them. The bottom line is that there are thousands of billboard opportunities in every state, and it’s crazy that nobody is taking advantage of them. Maybe you should be the person to do it. All you have to do is learn the laws and start making a list of opportunities and then work that list like a maniac. That’s how I became the largest private owner of billboards in Dallas/Ft. Worth – one sign at a time.

Why Wallscapes Have The Highest Returns Of Any Type Of Billboard

wallscape billboard

If I was on a game show and had to guess which billboard makes the most money to the investor, I would always guess the wallscape. Why is that? Because wallscapes couple large size and hot location with no structural cost – a potent combination.

Historical precedent

Among the first billboards ever created were wallscapes. The reason was simple: back then, nobody knew how to hold up a billboard since there was little metal and few telephone poles around. The early signs were simply wallpaper over brick or wood walls, installed by “bill posters”. This was standard fare in the 1800s. As you can see in the photo above, wallscapes were extremely common in early America, from the 1800s to the 1920s.

Some of the highest rents in the U.S.

Wallscapes, based on location, command some of the highest rents in the U.S. There are units on Hollywood Blvd., for example, that rent for $50,000 per month to movie studios promoting various actors and pictures for the Academy Awards to movie-studio executives driving to work. The majority of the most expensive billboards in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and other urban markets, are wallscapes. One reason is their sheer size, some wallscapes cover the entire side of buildings. The other reason is that they sometimes go where no other billboard can – in areas so dense that there is no room to install any poles to erect normal billboards.

The wall does all the hard work

The expense of building a billboard is 99% the mechanical ability to hold a giant surface up in the air with the force of wind pushing on it. Since the wallscape’s vinyl gets to “piggyback” off the structurally strong wall of the building, it only has to worry about sticking to the wall – not to hold it up. If you had to build a free-standing structure to hold up some of the large wallscapes out there – up to 100’ by 100’ and larger – it would cost maybe $200,000+ just to build the support structure. So wallscapes are basically a way to “cheat” the system by attaching an ad to an existing support column.

No size limitation

Wallscapes are some of the largest billboard advertisements in the world. Since wind load and collapse are of no concern, the only limitation, in many areas, is the size of the wall. It is not uncommon to find wallscapes that are 50’ x 100’ – that’s almost ten times the size of normal signs. There are wallscapes that can be seen from airplanes. Since advertisers love sensational sizes and memorable impressions, that’s part of what makes wallscapes so valuable.

But wait – don’t wallscapes have to meet the maximum size regulations, just like any other billboard?

That’s a question that I hear all the time. You would think that would be the case, except for a couple loopholes that sign owners take advantage. First is the fact that, in most states, if you can get 660’ from the right-of-way of the highway, there are no size or spacing requirements under the Federal Highway Beautification Act of the 1960’s. Since these walls are so large, a 660’ setback is not a big deal. The other loophole is that many cities actually waive these requirements on wallscapes, as they feel that these type of advertisements actually revitalize blighted areas and put something attractive on otherwise bland and unattractive walls.

Vinyl made it all possible

It’s important to note that the real story behind the profitability of wallscapes is the invention of printing ads on vinyl. Prior to that, these advertisements all had to be hand-painted, which was incredibly expensive. It could cost up to $50,000 to hand-paint a single wallscape, which now might cost $5,000 to print and hang a vinyl. So really, the profitability of wallscapes was one of the biggest winners by the change from hand-painting billboards to printing on vinyl. In some cases, in fact, vinyl is what made some wallscapes possible, especially in those cases in which the vinyl goes over windows while offering the occupants to see out.

Conclusion

Wallscapes are amazingly profitable. Most people forget about these sign types when they were building their portfolios. Don’t forget about wallscapes when you are out and about. When it comes to making money in the billboard business, they are often the superstars.

Why The Maverick Always Wins And The Herd Ends Up Losing

wild horses billboard

Photo Credit Kirsten Reynolds

If you are a horse with some cowboys chasing you, then the worst thing you can do is follow directions. Those horses that refuse to do what they are told are called “Mavericks”. They run free in nature, and approach life on their own terms. Those that do exactly what the cowboys want ended up herded into corrals and lose all their freedom for the rest of their lives. So there are times when following the pack can definitely be to your detriment.

Building billboards is the same

When I told people that I was going to build some billboards, they thought I was absolutely nuts. “You’re wasting your time” people told me, along with “you’ll never be able to compete with the big companies”. That’s the same kind of thinking that horses must have when they’re being herded up. They think “what’s the point of fighting the system – I can never win”. If that’s true, then how do you explain all those successful “mavericks” out there, from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates?

You don’t have to bet the ranch, either

One of the great things about the billboard business is that you build it in bite-sized pieces, not one giant risky play. You can build it without hurting your day job – nights and weekends is just fine. You control the time you spend and the size your grow. If you do it right, there’s really no way you can fail or embarrass yourself.

What are you waiting for?

One of the worst things you can do when you’re getting rounded up is to wait too long before taking action. There’s an old saying “think like a man of action and act like a man of thought”. Note that you have to combine thinking and action to succeed. If you always think “OK, I definitely need to do something tomorrow” you might go forever and do nothing. There’s virtually no risk involved in starting a billboard business, so what’s holding you back?

Conclusion

You have multiple paths you can follow in life. Don’t go down a certain path just because others have before you. Be a maverick and you have a much better chance of hitting your goals.

How You Can Survive Retirement With Billboards Better Than Virtually Any Other Plan

Studies have shown that more than 40% of U.S. workers have less than $10,000 in savings. The average social security check in the U.S. is $1,200 per month. Given these two realities, how can the average American survive retirement or, more importantly, enjoy happy retirement years? One answer is by building billboards. And for many people, that’s the best plan out there, for a number of reasons.

Modern theories on retirement are bunk

Financial advisers try to con you into believing that you can save $50 per month for your whole life and it will compound into $1 million by the time you’re 65. Let’s set the record straight on that once and for all. That theory is predicated on investment interest rates of 8% per year compounding. You actually can only hit around 2% on average in CDs, and then you have to pay income tax on that. So the truth is that, if you save up $50 per week for 45 years, you’d have saved around $117,000. And that does not even include that other little problem called inflation. Inflation has been going up at the rate of about 2% per year, about the same as the interest rates. So that $117,000 you saved will be nowhere worth $117,000 45 years into the future. The bottom line is that those type of investment strategies are a fraud and not based on fact. And even if you did save a million – which is impossible – you’d only get around 2% interest on that, which amounts to $20,000 per year. So what can you actually do to pay for your retirement?

You have to follow an unconventional path

The only hope of having a good retirement is to dispel these untruths and take a more unconventional path to creating a stream of income. One of these unconventional paths is to build billboards. You can start it now – by spending time outside of your day job on a regular basis – and then really turn up the heat when you retire. You will need to look at this effort as a long-term plan, just as you do with the $50 a month concept, only with expectations of a much bigger reward at the end.

How can you match the power of billboards to fund your retirement?

You can build a wooden billboard for around $4,000. You can rent both sides and create an income stream of around $3,000 per year. That’s around an 80% return on investment, compared to about 2% in CDs. The net effect is that you’d have to have invest for 40 years at 2% to match what that billboard makes in one year. If you need to supplement your social security by $40,000 per year, you’d need to build 13 billboards at a cost of around $50,000. That same $50,000 at 2% interest would net you a total of $1,000 per year.

Conclusion

If you have been examining retirement options, don’t be fooled by the traditional path of saving. It won’t work. You have to do something unconventional. One of the best options is to build billboards, so you should definitely give it some research. It may be the best strategy you have.

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