People viewing billboards will not have a lot of time to take them in because they are on the move. The industry average states that people have 6 seconds for reading a billboard. This means that you need as few words as possible to get your message across. You could push to a few more than 6 words depending on how easy they are to read and their length.
The rule of thumb for billboards is that less is more when it comes to words. Headlines which are small paragraphs will not be read. This means that if you are advertising a complex product, service or brand you should stay away from billboards.
Get Noticed Without Being A Distraction
Billboards are generally aimed at cyclists, drivers, pedestrians and bikers. This creates an interesting dilemma for advertisers because you want the billboard to be noticed, but you do not want to be responsible for any major or minor accidents. The iconic “Hello Boys” Wonderbra advert was guilty of this and will always be remembered for this.
The drivers passing the billboard were so fascinated with Eva Herzigova’s cleavage that they crashed into medians, poles and each other. Being distracting is a good medium for certain types of advertising, but is something that should be avoided with billboards. It is important that you find the balance between being noticed and being distracting.
This Is Not The Place For Direct Response
There are a lot of billboards which are covered is phone numbers and website URL’s, but 99% of the people who see these adverts will not call or visit the website. Billboards are actually a secondary advertising medium and ideal for brand-building or supporting another advertising campaign. You should not be doing the heavy lifting with the billboard. If you want to initiate communication with your target market use print advertising, television, direct mail and websites.
Billboards are the wrong advertising medium for anything other than a quick message or reminder. Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule that you need to be aware of. This is when your phone number or website is the headline of the adverts and makes sense as such.
Be Smart But Not Too Clever
If you have a dull billboard it will be ignored. A smart billboard is able to grab attention and make a lasting impression. However, a billboard that is trying to be too clever will generally be lost on the target audience.
Your billboard should not leave people scratching their heads and wondering what is going on. You should avoid any complex visual metaphors. Many people state that advertising should be like a puzzle where the audience has a sense of fulfillment when they figure it out. However, billboards need to be simpler than this. You should be smart and funny, but not give the audience a puzzle they have trouble solving because you are in the business of advertising not showing how clever you are.
More Billboards Are Better
Using a single billboard is not cheap, but it will not be very effective either. Billboards are mass market medium and they need support. You will need to have more than one because you want to reach as many eyes as possible. Every billboard will have a GRP or Gross Rating Point score based on visibility, location, traffic, size and more.
The rating will be on a scale of 1 to 100. If the billboard has a 50 rating, it means that at least 50% of the population of the area will see it at least once a day. If you have only one board, you will be seen by fewer people than if you have 4 or 5. Ideally, you would want a billboard with a 100 rating, but this will not be cheap. You will need to pay tens of thousands for a 50 rating for a month and in major metropolitan areas, this price will increase.
Show It Don’t Say It
You need to be creative with the ideas for your billboard. A flat billboard is the industry standard, but you do not have to stick with this. You could use a 3D billboard with moving parts or one that people interact with. There is no reason to stick with the large simple print advert if you do not want to. This will be your chance to do something memorable and eye-catching.
A benefit of being creative is that it will generate additional press for free. An example of this is a simulated crash billboard which received major coverage from news stations. The price of the 3D board was little more than the price for a standard billboard, but it paid for itself with the thousands of PR impressions that it received.
Avoid Repetition Of Any Kind
A billboard or hoarding board is a premium space that you can work with. A billboard costs a lot of money to put up and keep up so you need to use every bit of space wisely. If you use headlines that explain your visuals, you are wasting words. If you have imagery that is dull or unrelated to your product, you are wasting space and your opportunity. Being concise is everything when it comes to advertising on a billboard.
Keep It Simple
A billboard is a quick read. Most people will see the billboard while driving past it at 55mph so you need to ensure the message gets across in the most effective manner. This is not the place for you to explore complex layouts or for your copywriters to wax poetically about your product. The billboard should be a punch in the face and the simpler it is the more powerful the punch will be.
Be Aware Of Logo Size
One of the most common client feedback comments in advertising is to make the logo bigger. The reason for this is easy to understand. The client is paying a lot of money to advertise their brand and they want the viewer to walk away with it firmly implanted in their brain. However, there is a balancing act which has to be played.
If the logo is too large it will distract from the message. If it is too small, the advert will have no brand connection. Sometimes not showing a logo can be a powerful piece of branding. Chivas Regal whiskey once had adverts without any labels or logos because people who know them know.
Do An Arms Length Test
If you have followed all the rules of billboard advertising, you should have a clean, concise advert which is interesting and should work. To ensure that it works as it should you need to complete a quick test. Print the billboard on a business card and hold it at arm’s length. Are you able to get everything that you had displayed on your large monitor? If not, you will need to refine the advert. When completing this test, you need to remember that you only have 5 to 10 seconds to get your message across.