Billboard Design Rules that the Pros Sometimes Forget

By: Selena McIntyre

Have you ever had an ad designed by a professional that was completely terrible and did not produce any results? If so, you’re not alone.

We recently had a client purchase several billboards, but when the vinyls (she ordered through someone else) were put up she was extremely unhappy at the quality and design of the ad. She thought that we did not install the vinyls correctly, but actually the vinyls were designed to look old, torn, and imperfect. The creative did not follow any of the rules and it was very hard to believe that this artwork came from a large national company.

Unfortunately, this happens on a regular basis so that’s why I think it’s important for every marketing person and or business owner to know the basic rules of billboard advertising.

Rule #1 – Effective billboards are short, sweet, simple and to the point. Passing motorists are limited to the time they can see your billboard and they can’t safely read very much. They also can not read small copy (less than one foot tall) when “flying” by the sign.

Rule #2 – All billboard words should be at least one foot and 6 inches tall in order to be legible from the road. If your sign is close to the road, please do not ignore this rule, it still applies. Also if your sign is further away (higher than average) from normal, your copy should be bigger than this.

Rule #3 – All graphics need to be large enough to be seen at fast speeds and far distances. I generally try to make graphics as tall as the billboard with an exception to directional information.

Rule #4 – Use contrasting colors like yellow and black or red and white. Do not use colors that are similar to each other like blue and purple or orange and red because it will be hard to see two different colors from a distance.

Rule #5 – Make sure your ads appeal to your target market. Use colors, graphics and words that they will be interested in. Make sure your target market can understand your ad also.

Rule #6 – All effective ads must have a smooth flow. When someone looks at your ad you want them to see one thing first, then another item second, and so on. You don’t want them to get lost in your ad and not know which way to look next. If this happens, they will stop looking at your ad!

Rule #7 – Getting attention is the most important thing your ad needs to do so it won’t be overlooked. You can get attention in several ways, but the best advice I can give you is to be creative and do something out of the ordinary.

Rule #8 – Once your ad has captured attention, your next step is to create an interest in your product or service. Your main goal here is to make your product stand apart from your competition. Use benefits to tell your target market what’s in it for them; do not bore them with the facts. For example, instead of saying “product xyz reduces fine lines” say “xyz will make your skin look 10 years younger.”

Rule #9 – Create a desire for your product. Give your audience a small taste of your product or service. But don’t give away too much information because the goal of your ad should be to get people to request more information.

Rule #10 – Call to Action – Don’t leave your audience hanging; tell them what to do next. For example, “Call Now”, or “Visit our website.”

Hopefully this article will teach you how to tell the good designs from the not-so-good designs so your ads will stand out in a crowd.

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6 Responses to “Billboard Design Rules that the Pros Sometimes Forget”

  1. John Taylor Says:

    Interesting blog post. What would you say was the most important marketing factor?

  2. Selena McIntyre Says:

    I think that the most important marketing factor is to design ads based on what type of advertising they are being used for. Because the ad that brought in lots of calls from a flyer won’t work on a billboard because it has too much information to be legible. So many people think that if an ad works in one place, it will work for another and the truth is that the ad concept may work, but it will have to be revised to fit different types of advertising in order to still be effective.

  3. Tony Says:

    Great Article , thank you . I will be sending a book mark of this to all my prospective clients. It is so difficult sometime to convince them that : ” Your fantastic print ad which yielded hundreds of calls and sales, will not work on a billboard!!” Often we try to help the clients to achieve the best results with their media spend, only to have them turn around and tell you what ‘they want’ on the billboard. Instead of what they want ‘AS A RESULT OF’ the billboard advertising.
    Well done,

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