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Outdoor ads a way to reach customers tuning out TV, radio

Satellite radio with no commercials is increasingly popular. Not everyone takes the daily newspaper. And people are tuning out television ads by using devices like TiVo to record favorite shows for viewing later – without the advertisements.

“Megamarketers can hit no better than 15% of the population with an ad on prime time television,” says Tommy Teeple, chief marketing officer for Lamar Advertising, one of the largest outdoor advertising firms in the country. “That is far less than the 40% they used to reach with a prime time TV ad in the mid 1980s.

Coca-Cola recently did a study published in BusinessWeek that showed, due to media fragmentation and growing use of devices like TiVo, many people are skipping ads altogether.”

That makes outdoor advertising important particularly since many billboards average 10,000 to 30,000 impressions per day.

“A huge amount of people are going to drive by it,” Teeple said. “The wonderful thing about outdoor is it basically supports all the other media. It catches the people who missed TV or radio spots.”

Teeple offers some creative dos and don`ts: For a board to really work effectively, you need one single compelling image. And you want to keep the words to six or less. Keep in mind you are appealing to the driving public with only six to seven seconds to digest the message.

“People sometimes make the mistake of trying to reproduce an ad that would run in print on a billboard,” Teeple said. “And that is not the effective way to use outdoor. The effective way to use outdoor is to make sure the board compliments the other media you are using. For example, if I saw a billboard for Winn-Dixie that said ‘Everyday Low Prices,’ that should jar my memory to recall an ad I saw in the newspaper today that Winn-Dixie has 12 packs of Coke for ‘x’ dollars. Outdoor jolts my memory of the advertisement I read in the newspaper that day. Now I want to stop before I get home. Once I get home, I’m not going back out and fight traffic to get to Winn-Dixie.”

A new development with outdoor advertising is video boards. These 14- by 48-foot billboards broadcast the equivalent of a television image.

“Obviously, because of legal restrictions, you can`t run actual television advertising on the side of the interstate,” Teeple said. “But what we can do is actually rotate the image. Typically what happens in every marketplace you have a location that everyone wants and only one person can get. When you replace that with a video board, you can have anywhere from five to 10 advertisers using that board. The message is alternated every 11 seconds. People buy it like they do television. You can buy prime time, weekday, weekend, or become an anchor and have your image displayed every other image.”

Lamar has installed the pricey video boards – the cost runs about $500,000 – at a number of locations across the country. But they aren`t yet in Mississippi.

John Stribling, president of Sunbelt Outdoor Advertising, Flowood, agrees that outdoor advertising is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach customers.

“People are traveling more miles,” Stribling said. “They are spending more time in the car. Outdoor advertising is a pretty effective way to reach them.”

Often what advertisers find works best is a mix of different medias. For example, an advertising agency will come up with a campaign for a casino that mixes newspaper, radio, television and outdoor advertising to get the message across.

Outdoor advertising can be broken into two categories. There is generic outdoor advertising and directional outdoor advertising. Businesses like casino, hotels and gas stations use directional advertising.

The technology has changed dramatically from the old days when painters climbed up on a ladder and painted by hand. These days everything is done on a computer and printed out on vinyl. Stribling said the vinyl costs about the same as it used to cost to have a painter do the sign, but it lasts longer.

“The final product is much better,” Stribling said. “You can also add a uv coating to make the sign last longer.”

The billboard industry is becoming more regulated. Stribling said the highway department recently passed an ordinance that all billboards on state highways must be permitted by the state. No new stacked signs can be constructed, and the Mississippi Department of Transportation has also reduced the size and the height of the signs that can be built now.

“Some municipalities don`t like billboards,” Stribling said. “Individual cities have often become more restrictive. Some don`t allow you to build new billboards at all. Brandon and Madison have a moratorium on new signs.”

But creative minds find other ways to do outdoor advertising.

“Today`s outdoor advertising trends include advertising on 18-wheelers, box trucks and personally owned automobiles,” said Cindy Hodo, co-owner of Quest Group, an ad agency with offices in West Point and Jackson. “Inflatables come in many shapes and sizes and draw attention.”

Hodo said billboards are becoming more creative with 3-D designs and electronic boards. She adds that the double-stacked billboards used as one design are very effective and allow for better layout and messaging.

One example she gives of particularly effective outdoor advertising is Abner`s Famous Chicken Tenders, which has a marquee they change out on a regular basis.

“The messages are humorous, adding a fun approach to something as basic as a chicken tender,” she said.

Hodo`s advice is to keep all outdoor messaging simple.

“Outdoor advertising gets results for image messaging, the tourism industry, political and special event promotions,” she said. “Executing creative ideas will draw attention to the client`s company or event. Hot air balloons are unique and memorable. Airplane banners work well for large outdoor venue events. From inflatables to marquee messages, incorporating a little humor goes a long way.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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