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AMiable Solution #241: A Big Deal



Even if you’ve never driven south on I-95 toward Florida, you’ve probably still heard about the South of the Border billboards. Featuring a cartoon character named Pedro, these outdoor advertisements have drawn more than 8 million travelers off the interstate and into the Hamer, SC, tourist attraction for more than 40 years.

Designed by South of the Border’s owner, Alan Schafer, himself, the billboards stretch from the Virginia/North Carolina state lines to the South Carolina/Georgia state lines and number around 175. At one point, the company says, there were as many as 250 different billboards between Philadelphia, PA, to Daytona Beach, FL.

Considering billboard advertising? You don’t have to go to such extremes to see results. But there are tips and tests you can perform to increase your odds of gaining the brand awareness and exposure your billboards are meant to create.

First, determine if billboard advertising makes sense for your company. Maggie Aland, author of fitsmallbusiness.com’s article, “How Much Does Billboard Advertising Cost?” (February 15, 2017), suggests asking yourself the following two questions: 1. Can we make our pitch in 8 seconds or less?, and 2. Does our product appeal to the mass audience? If you can’t simplify your product or your pitch enough for a drive-by reading, then you’re probably better off sticking with a medium that provides more space for copy. Similarly, if your product is relevant to only a small fraction of the folks passing by, you’re wasting your money.

Second, keep it simple. Ideally, your billboard should include six words or less. Make your message clear, avoiding any complicated messages. Also, opt for clean, uncomplicated designs. Remember: the goal is to build your brand or support a campaign, not necessarily generate a response (unless, of course, you’re right off the interstate and ready for visitors). How do you know if your design works? Paul Suggett suggests in his article, “10 Steps to Making a Great Billboard Ad,” doing an “arm’s length test.” To confirm that your text can be read and understood by motorists passing by at 55 mph or more, print your billboard in business-card size. Then, hold it out at arm’s length. If your text and your message are clear, you’re good to go. If not, it’s redesign time.

Finally, make sure you can commit to a legitimate test. Billboards aren’t cheap (just ask South of the Border, which devotes much of its $40 million advertising budget to billboards!), and one won’t have as much of an impact as many.


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