Billboards as a Marketing ToolTheir underestimated impact?By Bruce Dickson, Tourism Development Solutions Roadside v Virtual Reality: While Internet marketing continues to see dramatic growth, it still pays to recognize the immediate impact and potential instant benefits offered by well executed, well managed & aesthetic use of billboards - with their equally instant, ‘on the road’ marketing messages.For destinations and attractions the issue is not so much one of competing advertising choices, but using both to great complementary effect. (Assuming highway regulations permit their use.)Multiple roles of tourism billboardsDestination billboards can serve to:•Spark or prompt a spontaneous decision during a traveler’s current trip. That unplanned (and more often than not minor) detour to visit. The signage basically helps them to ‘exit and experience’.The planning need: Identify the various logical entry ways, but also the important functional and non-inhibiting entry and decision-making points, for a destination or attraction. (Including key junctions, borders, town bypass points, alternative route options for same direction of travel, bridges, etc.) Factor this into billboard selection, particularly their location and position in relation to vehicle flows and direct driver/passenger sightlines. •Define a ‘place’ - e.g. New York Times Square and Tokyo Downtown. (Day & night, in these locations they assume an iconic role.)•Remind and reinforce. Keep a destination or attraction in the mind, increasing brand awareness over time and influencing future decisions. Example: When used where people live, or at a prominent location for a targeted geographic or demographic market - to
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influence their planning (or at least their set of considerations) and factor more strongly in their final choices between other destination options.•Provide direction to people already heading your way. (Directional billboards are often purchased for a 12 month period and placed within 50 to 100 miles from the attraction.)Success in these roles is closely connected to:•Location and visibility;•Design impact and ‘keeping it simple’;•Content impact and freshness. Key issues with outdoor advertisingSome criteria for use in evaluating your billboard:•Car travelers normally have between 3 to 6 seconds to read a sign. •Billboards need to be easily legible in less than 8 seconds at speeds over 65 mph (105 kph).•Because of the ‘drive-by’ time challenge, design and content issues are paramount.•Instant impact and immediate communications or impressions are needed. Put the ‘benefit’ upfront.•Include too much text and your sign’s content will be either not read or not absorbed.•Good sightlines between the traveler & the billboard’s position (relative to the road) matter•Where more than one billboard is present along a roadside site, each is competing for attention. •Too many competing billboards on the one site can mean failure to see, read or absorb any! And the closer they are placed together, the more the likelihood none will succeed.•A seasonal approach may be valuable - e.g. use of the billboards during ski season to remind people in key markets/cities that the opportunity or experience is now available, or soon will be, to aid their advance planning.•At their best, billboard designs should not become ugly additions to the urban or natural landscape. By reflecting a level of good design & aesthetics and appropriate placement, they can greatly increase their appeal and impact.
“Too many competing billboards on a site can mean none succeed."
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