Buzzing by Billboards

April 20, 2009

In terms of traditional mass media, I think billboards along commuter routes are smart.  Aren’t the roads about the last place where you can find a steady stream of folks whose eyes are somewhat paying attention to what’s in front of them — not counting the absorbed cell phone gabbers.

I know in some parts of the country billboards litter the roadside. But here in the Providence-Boston area the board count is quite reasonable, giving a good message a decent chance of making an impression.

Advertisers have to resist the temptation to load ‘er up. Although for a publicity stunt I once pitched a board that consisted of HUNDREDS of words. The idea was that people’s curiosity would be piqued so much by the massive blob of type that they couldn’t sleep until they found out what the massive blob of type said. Soon, some crack investigative reporter would get to the bottom of it and run a story that told all, including a cleverly embedded, irresistible advertising message… Freakin’ genius I’m telling you… quickly shot down  by the guy on the other side of the table.

One that I’m proud of had one word. It ran for about 1 1/2 years and helped drive $40 million in legitimate mortgage business for a single-location credit union (no sub-prime stuff for these great folks) that was also a late-comer to the competitive mortgage business. Luckily they didn’t say no.

sfcu-mortgage-billboard_sized1The board itself became  a house under construction of sorts with real wood roof framing and a 9-foot fiberglass construction man.  The thing generated buzz, got media coverage and was even the subject of a high school physics lesson — something about calculating weight and mass or something…

Not the best picture, but since this board was right along the highway in Fall River, MA, I took it from the relative safety of a parking lot where the cell-phone gabbers were less likely to swerve onto the shoulder and wipe me out.

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2 Responses to “Buzzing by Billboards”

  1. adchick Says:

    Nice. I usually hate boards, but is very cool.

  2. andywebb Says:

    Hi Adchick,

    Yes, certainly mass advertising is often ignored or loathed (but we knew that when we signed up for this mission). This one caused a lot of double-takes from people who thought it was a real guy up there — the surprise was evidently positively received, which allowed the sales message to hit home.

    If anyone has links to other boards (or other outdoor) that worked, I’d love to see them.


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