Incorporating billboard campaigns into your marketing arsenal can be a powerful way to make a statement about who you are as a business, what distinguishes you from the competition and even what direction you are headed down the road.
The key to a successful billboard campaign? A succinct and sharply focused message, says Dave Clark, President of the Clark Communications Group, a lighting-focused ad firm. “You have to have a very simple statement, a very focused single point of what you are trying to get across,” says Clark. “Typically, people driving on the Interstates or highways have five or six seconds to get [the message].”
Following a total-loss fire in early 2009, Cleveland Lighting reopened a brand-new showroom in its original Lyndhurst, OH, location in November. One month after its grand opening, the showroom decided to purchase its first billboard on the bustling 480 bridge to announce its return. “We felt it was more critical now than ever to really gain that presence and let people know we’re back,” says owner Matt Bursky. “We thought it would be invaluable, and it’s proven to be invaluable.”
The showroom’s first investment in this medium has paid off with increased store traffic from both local and out-of-town customers, says Bursky. The billboard also featured the store’s new logo prominently. “This was really about re-branding our name. We kept it very simple. New logo, typeface of name, tagline of ‘You never shopped for lighting like this before,’ our phone number, city and web address,” he says.
Before putting up a billboard, showrooms should make sure they have a “real strong reason to be out there,” says Clark. “Usually, your product is a good thing to show. Stick to five words or less for the message, highlighting the primary thing you want people to think about you.” Some ideas are: biggest selection, lighting expertise, convenient location and competitive pricing. He also recommends that showrooms list a website to drive online traffic as well. An example of a Clark-created billboard for Connecticut Lighting Center is shown here, emphasizing the store’s expertise and highlighting manufacturer partner Quoizel.
Placement is also important. Clark recommends you send someone personally to drive the route where the billboards will be. “What you are looking for primarily is a right-hand read, where you have a fair amount of viewing time — at least six seconds — and you want a high-traffic area.”
Standard “bulletin boards” usually measure 14 by 48 feet on Interstate highways, with some “poster boards” on secondary roads within cities measuring 12 by 25 feet. Billboards can be pricey, with most costing $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the market, Clark says. “You can’t really pull off a grand identity campaign with one or two billboards. You have to have market penetration, so the cost can be prohibitive.”
Inline Lighting & Electric Supply Co. in Alabama knows a thing or two about market saturation. The Huntsville location signed on to a “billboard blitz” campaign a few years ago: 12 billboards dispersed across the town, with locations rotating occasionally, for three months. The showroom saw a significant increase in traffic and sales as a direct result, says Harvest Fest III, who is in charge of sales. The store currently has another billboard, located on a busy main road in front of its competitor. “I think it’s definitely steered business here,” says Fest.
Inline also occasionally runs an advertisement on an electronic billboard, a fairly new option that appears to be catching on slowly, says Clark. “They are less expensive to do because they don’t have to go through all the final production costs, and it does allow you to change promotions on a regular basis.”
Because billboard campaigns are meant to be used as “identity builders,” most showrooms end up investing in multiple billboards. Clark advises against going the billboard route if your campaign includes several specific promotions and events that must be regularly updated.
Clark recommends partnering with manufacturers and using co-op dollars to fund the billboards. “That way, you help build their brand along with yours,” he says.