I have noticed a new trend in billboard advertising recently. I’m sure the ad industry wizards have their name for this but I don’t know what to call it. (And I’m sure they won’t like what I am about to say about it but that’s life.) The reason I mention this trend is because it provides a good example of what I consider bad advertising. And I think we can learn some things by analyzing it.
The trend I’m talking about is to have a clever or cute phrase on the left side of a billboard and the company’s logo on the right side, so small that it’s hard to see. I’ve seen this on at least a dozen billboards around the Twin Cities, so, in my opinion, it’s a trend.
Here’s why I think this is ineffective advertising.
First, the sentence is usually hard to read. Fancy fonts and low contrast with the background are typical. They usually look like they were designed for a magazine.
Second, the text is usually cute or clever or catchy (or at least its supposed to be) but none of it has been memorable enough for me to remember the products. Nor have any of these billboards compelled me to rush out and buy whatever the sponsor company is selling. I can’t even remember the names of any of the companies on these billboards.
Third, in all cases the logo of the sponsoring company is small and not easily viewed. When you’re reading a magazine or watching a TV commercial you might take the time to look over the entire ad. However, when you’re zipping by at 80, (uh, I mean 55) miles per hour, you probably won’t take the time to thoroughly review the entire billboard.
With billboards, you typically are trying to increase awareness of your brand. Because it’s a fast format your best bet is to simply remind people you’re still there. You really don’t have time to educate them about anything new. It’s what my friend Lonny Kocina (www.publicity.com) might call a “reach and touch” advertisement (as opposed to a “reach and teach” ad).
Billboards that try to be too entertaining or clever at the cost of clarity are a waste of the advertiser’s money. They’d be better off simply putting their company name and logo in the middle of the billboard as big as possible. At least then people who see know who paid for the billboard.
Of course many of us will never use a billboard to promote our businesses. So, why all the commentary, you might ask? Because I see some lessons here that apply to all local marketing.
First, use your media appropriately. If your medium does not give viewers much time then make your message easy to read and digest quickly.
Second, cute and clever usually don’t pay the bills. Most of your local marketing dollars are better spent informing, educating, increasing awareness and developing relationships with potential customers. Cute and clever can generate maintain awareness but they can also backfire so, I would be very careful with that strategy.
Third, be proud of your name, your logo and your brand. If you’re going to spend the time, energy and money promoting your business then let the viewer or reader know who you are. Don’t hide your logo or make it hard for people to find. It’s not funny or clever to make people hunt for your logo or company name. They won’t. They’ll move on and you’ll have wasted your money.
Keep your marketing goal crystal clear at all times. Test everything you do against this goal. Don’t get sidetracked by trying to be funny or clever. It almost never moves you toward your goal. Stick to the basics. You’ll be more likely to accomplish your goals within the budget you set.
Have you seen examples of this new trend in billboard advertising? Or have you seen other advertising goofs that make you cringe? If so, please let me know. Thanks for reading!