How much of your outdoor advertising message is really getting through?

In outdoor advertising, this is what is effectively known as an “impression”.

My personal pet peeve. Have you ever driven by one of those digital billboards, and it changed just as you were reading it? Those boards are typically up for about 8 seconds. If you didn’t see it at just the right time, you’ll miss it. That’s why your message has to be simple. 8 words or less. Big words. Four words is great. “Tastes Great. Less Filling.” Two words is better. “Less Filling”. Before digital boards, you only had 8 seconds to get your message across. Nowadays, you need to deliver your message in just TWO.


You need to get your message across in two seconds. You don’t need a list of benefits. You don’t need your address and phone number. Unless it’s unusually easy to remember. For example: “1-800-GET-HELP” or “CAR WRECK? Call 999-9999”. It’s good if the message and your web address are one and the same: like “GET2COLLEGE.COM”.

Billboards in prime locations can deliver over 100,000 impressions and up, every hour, 24/7/365. It’s a hard working medium for sure, even on slow days. Worth every penny if it’s done correctly. But. If there’s a lot of info, or if the words are really small, it’s money completely wasted. Just like any advertising, it needs to break through the clutter to work well.

Here’s an example of how Cossette Advertising made the medium essential to the concept. The digital process allows the message to change at the push of a button, any time of day, so in the example above, the board is showing during the sunrise, which happens to be the time you are most likely to purchase an Egg McMuffin. It has no headline— it’a much stronger without one.

There’s an old adage that goes something like this: “How do you carve a statue of an elephant? Get the biggest granite block you can find and chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.” That’s what you have to do with your messaging. Narrow it down to the essence of the message.
In the example at left, Chipotle literally whittled away the extraneous words.

The billboard at right, by Y&R Chicago, is an example of a “spectacular”. It involves a custom construct, typically protruding from the top, creating a 3-dimensional effect. In this case, the construct takes advantage of the physical infrastructure, placing an enormous hand holding a Craftsman wrench in front of the support column. Anyone driving by this can’t help but notice. It commands attention–DARES you not to look.

The Craftsman logo almost looks like an afterthought, but by setting it to protrude on the top left, it stands out cleanly without interfering with the message.

The headline, only four words, has a double-meaning: “Trust in yourself” and “Trust in Craftsman tools” The customer is wielding “Trust” like a giant sword.

It doesn’t even HAVE to be a traditional billboard. This Alaska Airlines plane has become a flying billboard. It’s a good example of Marshall Mcluhan’s “The Medium Is The Message”. The characters are embedded as the Disney brand. The headline and the logo are secondary— and not really needed. If you take them away, the message is still clear.

Ad Agencies Reinvented.

This is nothing new. From Burma Shave signs to the Mad Men heydays to the current digital diversification, agencies have always had to evolve to remain relevant and cost-effective. What remains a constant is the power of creative ideas and innovative means of communicating easily understood and persuasive brand stories—two disciplines Broderick Advertising can deliver, no matter the medium.

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