Memo From Frank
I just completed another Billboard Boot Camp in St. Louis. This is the two-day immersion event, held over a weekend, in which I show everyone how to identify, evaluate, negotiate, decide the size and height, decide on the structural details, build, rent the ad space and operate billboard signs. We only do it once or twice a year, and the class is capped at only 10 people. Some of our graduates from this weekend have gone on to pretty big things, including Steve Balaban from Canada, who built a virtual empire there. If you are interested in attending this class – the only one of its type in the U.S. – when it comes up again, contact Brandon at (970) 856-4070.
The Secret To Knowing Where To Place A Billboard On A Property Is “S-S-S”
Where is the best place to put a billboard on a property? This is a common question from people contemplating building their first sign. The answer is the three “S” – Spacing, Setbacks and Survival. And this simple formula always will take you to the right spot.
Ever since Ladybird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act became law, the Federal government has restricted billboards to a given spacing between signs (it varies by state). The proximity to the next billboard over is going to have a lot to do with determining where the sign can fit on the property. Sometimes you have a lot of latitude and you can put the billboard at either end of the property. Other times, the spacing will dictate a narrow range of where the sign can go – in some cases, the sign has to be deliberately built to be more narrow, just to fit it in, by removing catwalks and pulling the lights in.
Every city and state has setback requirements. These are typically a required number of feet that you have to be back from the highway right-of-way, as well as from the side property line. You cannot violate these mandatory distances. When you overlay the setback and the spacing requirements, you now know exactly what the confines of the property are concerning where the billboard can go.
Now comes the hard part. A smart billboard owner is able to look into the future and figure out where the safest place on the property is to place the billboard. But where would that be? The answer is: wherever is the least likely to ever be developed. Typically, that’s in a property corner. Better yet, a property corner that is next to a ravine, or creek, or some other geological formation that makes development unlikely. The absolute best place is within the setbacks for building development (not billboard, but building). The safest location for a billboard would be those cases in which the building setback is, say, 50’ from rear and side property line, which means the billboard could safely sit in a spot that no development could ever touch by law. This is why we call this “survival”, as the whole point is to make sure that your billboard will be up and running to the end of time, regardless of what happens on the property below.
Correct placement on a piece of property is critical. Follow the three “S” – Spacing, Setbacks, and Survival – and you’ll do fine.
Why Do I Teach About The Billboard Business?
At every Boot Camp, I get asked why I teach about the billboard business. The answer is simple: I like to see people succeed using systems and information that took me 15 years to learn and develop. When I sold out to what is now Clear Channel in 1996, I realized that all that information that I labored over would be thrown in the trash. That’s why I wrote the book “Big Bucks from Big Signs” – because it really bothered me that I was literally destroying 15 years of hard-earned experience and knowledge for no good reason. Once I wrote the book, I found I really liked the positive feedback from people who were able to make money with that information, and that lead me to write the course and then the Boot Camp. Every time somebody tells me that the built or bought a billboard as a result of what I’ve taught, it gives me a huge amount of personal satisfaction. I intend to keep writing and teaching about the business until I die.
The Lost Art Of Concealing Billboard Poles
Back when billboards were first built, the billboard company made a concerted effort to beautify the area by hiding the unsightly poles behind lattice work or shrubbery. Sadly, this has become a lost art, as billboard companies no longer seem to care about how things look from the ground. That’s why this billboard in St. Louis always gets my attention, because the billboard company has planted a row of evergreen trees to hide the poles and give the neighborhood an aesthetic boost. If you look at old photos of billboards in Los Angeles in the 1920’s, you’ll see that the sign company went so far as to often attached Grecian icons to the poles to make them look architecturally important – like the columns at the capitol. It’s a shame that nobody cares about this type of thing anymore. However, you may one day find an opportunity to build a billboard that is only possible if you can screen the poles from view with landscaping – so don’t forget about that option. It might come in handy some day.
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