How to Design the Perfect Billboard Advertisement 

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The concept of ‘standing out from the crowd’ is central to the purpose of advertising, as brands look to leverage various channels to compete directly with rivals and claim a viable share of their target market.

This also at least partially explains the reason why some brands leverage videos to optimise their reach on social media, as this type of material boasts the highest levels of engagement despite comprising just 3% of total content.

Interestingly, out-of-home (OOH) and billboard advertising can also help you to stand out from your competitors, especially when utilised as part of an integrated campaign. But what exactly can billboards achieve and how can you design a knockout billboard for your brand?

Write a Great Headline

In many ways, a great headline and OOH ad starts with a detailed and informative creative brief, which provides crucial building blocks in terms of demographics, purpose and the unique selling proposition of a particular product or service.

A marketing team or studio can then bring these elements together in a single and persuasive advert, which features concise copy and a seamless link between the words and imagery on show.

From here, there are other steps that you can take to craft a great headline for your OOH ad. 

These include:

Understanding your Audience and Location

Ultimately, the headline copy that you use must resonate with a specific target audience, and you may find that you need to create various iterations of content as part of a larger campaign.

Similarly, the location in which your outdoor ad will be erected is an incredibly important consideration, as you’re bound to incur fluctuations in terms of footfall and the amount of time that passers-by are exposed to your advert.

This is particularly true if you use digital billboards, as these channels require advertisers to share space with alternative brands. 

As a result, their ad will be rotated during each sixty-second period, with its content only visible for 10 seconds at a time.

This will have a direct impact on the nature of your headline and the way in which you communicate your primary message, with concise copy written in an active tense most likely to grab the attention of customers and create a genuine sense of urgency.

Distinguishing between Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Messages

When marketing a product, brands often develop different tiers of marketing message based on the target market and the unique selling proposition.

There’s an important reason for this; as it enables marketers to tailor their messaging across a host of different channels, from social media platforms to long-form blog posts and 30-second television slots.

In the case of billboards, the combination of text and imagery places certain restrictions on the length of copy, forcing writers to minimise the number of characters that they use without compromising on the quality of the ad.

With this in mind, it’s absolutely imperative that you distinguish between primary, secondary and tertiary messages from the outset, as this enables you to have a structured approach to your work and create copy that targets audiences in the most effective way possible.

Start Writing and Don’t Censor Yourself

Self-censorship is a significant issue for writers of all descriptions, as this can prevent them from exploring creative themes and realising a brief to its full potential.

This can take numerous forms, from instinctively rejecting ideas without consideration to becoming preoccupied with creating clever and amazing headlines from the outset.

To avoid this, you need to clear your mind and actively begin the process of recording your ideas, writing down any themes or concepts that initially pop into your mind. 

You should also constantly refer to a product’s key selling points and the fundamental components of a campaign, as this enables you to hone your ideas and evaluate them in the correct context.

Most importantly, penning these ideas freely and reviewing them may open up your mind to new concepts and themes, while ultimately ensuring that you create the best possible headline for your campaign.

Be Concise

It’s fair to say that not all billboards have been created equal, from 16-sheet posters to 48 and 96-sheet adverts (which provide a larger-than-life marketing presence at the side of major roads).  

Regardless of the size of the billboard that you use, however, it’s important to note that we tend to consume this type of messaging when we’re out and on the move.  

So, although this allows marketers an opportunity to target customers at a time when they’re most likely to engage with brands (such as during the daily commute or a day’s shopping), there’s a relatively limited window in which to promote products or present clear messaging. 

In fact, six seconds is touted as the industry average for reading a billboard, so it’s important to design adverts that are both compelling and easy to comprehend.  

Concise written messaging is central to this, and as a general rule, your billboard should contain no more than seven or eight words.  

There’s some flexibility here depending on the precise presentation of the billboard and the size of the font that you use, but keeping the total number of words to a minimum will help you to achieve the optimal impact. 

Designing Perfect Billboard Artwork

The next step is executing truly knockout and effective artwork for your billboard. 

Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

Optimising Colour, Font and Photography

We’ll start with the individual visual elements of your billboard; namely colour, typography and imagery (or photography).

We’ll cover each element briefly below, while asking how you can optimise their appearance and make them work for you!

Billboard Colour

Ideally, you’ll utilise colours that can reflect your brand’s visual identity, but as a general rule, you should focus on one or two bold shades that can be combined to draw the eye and capture attention. 

Try to create a contrast between the colours that you deploy and your backdrop too, making your ad easy to read and process at a glance. 

We’d definitely recommend that you avoid white backgrounds, as their brightness may distract from your core content and messaging while failing to engage the imagination of customers.

Typography

In terms of your written content, this must be easy to read both up close and at a distance. 

To achieve this, your font should be a minimum of 18 inches in height on large format 48 and 96-sheet billboards, while we’d also recommend using Sans Serifs fonts that are clean, crisp and typically offer increased legibility at a distance. 

Your font size should also increase by at least one inch (or 72 pt.) for every 10 feet of viewing distance, while you should avoid using all caps as this diminishes your ad’s contrast and can decrease readability by as much as 10%.

Photography

Most billboards use high quality photographs as imagery, and it’s important to utilise clear pictures that clearly show what you’re promoting. 

A good way to achieve this is to use large images of smaller objects, while focusing on high-resolution pictures that will appear sharp and bright even at a distance.

 Also, try to avoid using overly complex imagery or pictures that clutter your space, as you don’t want to confuse the minds of customers or detract from your core, primary messaging.

Recognise the ‘Rule of 3 Visuals’

The latter point leads us neatly onto the importance of simplicity when conceiving billboard ads, especially from the perspective of execution and attempting to leverage innovative and creative ideas.

This is underpinned by the so-called ‘rule of three visuals’, which states that people are typically more visually engaged when they see a group of three items. 

This is applied to everything from visual merchandising to marketing creatives, with a view to driving engagement and optimising bottom line conversions.

But what does this mean in terms of billboard advertising?

 In simple terms, it suggests that you should stick to three core visual elements in your creative; namely a single image or photograph, a headline and a reference to your brand’s logo.

Keep Your Advertising Fresh and Dynamic

Billboard campaigns aren’t created equal, as while some run for a short amount of time to promote limited-time promotions, others can last for an extended period of time.

Much will depend on the nature of your campaign and the brand, products or services that you’re striving to promote, of course, but there’s no doubt that you’ll have to regularly switch out your ads and content over the course of longer-term campaigns.

The same principle applies if you erect multiple ads in the same geographical area, which is common when looking to raise brand awareness for local and regional startups.

The key here is to ensure that your ads feature variations on the same visual and creative themes, ensuring that you keep target consumers engaged while simultaneously maintaining a consistent and recognisable brand image.

But why exactly is this so important? 

Well, in instances where target customers see the same ad or creative too many times, they can become fatigued and even blind to the impact of your messaging.

In this instance, ads can simply blend seamlessly into the background, which is always a risk given the way in which billboards naturally meld into their surrounding environments over time.

From a practical perspective, you should consider tweaking your visuals and headline content on a frequent basis, as these elements can be subtly switched and updated without overly compromising the style or purpose of the underlying campaign.

With this type of approach, you can also ensure that your ads remain effective and engaging over an extended period of time, while helping to continually capture attention in line with the number of impressions that you’re able to generate.

The Last Word 

As you can see, there are several factors that come into designing a billboard, and in truth, these represent the tip of a large and omnipresent iceberg that can sink your marketing campaign! 

By following the tips featured here, however, you can avoid the most common pitfalls when creating a billboard ad, as you look to engage your target audience and achieve a viable return on your marketing spend! 

And remember, the team at 75Media is always on hand to help you with any questions you may have when it comes to designing your perfect campaign!

Book your billboard today.
Book your billboard today.

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