In our continuing discussion on 'old-school' marketing, today we'll discuss billboards. In talking about billboards, I'm taking into consideration everything from transit shelters, to boards on the side of buildings and even messages carved into sides of mountains (or in the case of a drive along the Queen Elizabeth Way entering Toronto, the slight incline of land on the north side of the road/tracks).
Billboards are great if you just want to increase awareness and can do it in 3 seconds. Yes, only 3 seconds. No detailed messages here. No short-time-sensitive offers because the boards stay up for a month minimum. What can a person take in, retain and react to in 3 seconds? Not much, so the message needs to be quick and impactful. Therefore, I would say if one of your objectives is to gain overall awareness of your company or product, a billboard is something to consider.
Recently, I have seen a number of companies that are looking to use billboards as teaser ads leading the reader to a website for more information. Locally we are seeing a campaign that simply says " The Real Issue" and the website therealissue.ca. When your curiosity gets the best of you and you check out the site you'll learn that it was a London-based (London, Ontario, Canada that is) campaign against poverty. We have had the privilege of being involved with Alpha Canada, who's billboards asked the simple question "Is there more to life than this?" and directed the user to the website alphacanada.org. Within 3 seconds whatever you say must raise the curiosity level of the viewer and you need to be able to successfully answer thier questions once they take the time to get to where you have led them.
Location of your billboard is also an important aspect of the success. Be where your potential customer is going to be. Sure the billboard company will come up with all sorts of numbers, what the traffic is and such, but consider your target audience. If you are trying to reach high school students is it wise to choose a billboard on the side of a highway that sees 10,000 cars a day, or the billboard 2 blocks from a high school that sees traffic of only 1000 cars a day. The high school location is better for you. So don't be taken in simply by big numbers.