Billboards should have no more than 9 words. That includes all the required language. Why? It is simple: you only have seconds to read a billboard, so it must be short.
If you can’t say your message in 5-6 words and then list your company name, you should not use a billboard. I love billboards because they are the Vine of print—they’re short, quick and pack a powerful punch. Sometimes the name of the company says it all, like “Family Beer & Liquor.” It says, “the family that drinks together, stays together” without saying it.
A couple of other things about billboards:
- Vinyl fades in the sunlight. Don’t use light colors that will appear to fade faster. Also, don’t leave a vinyl up for too long and ignore it.
- Digital billboards are not the same optics as vinyl or paper boards. Treat the different media outlets differently in terms of color and contrast.
- Digital billboard is a big TV screen. You can see different colors better at different times of day depending on the light, so change up your message from day to afternoon to night.
- Put a face on a billboard, not the person’s body. If the face is too small, it will never been seen or recognized. I always feel people are selling clothing when they put people in their billboards—big shirts, small faces.
- Do the across-the-room test. Print out your billboard and put it on the wall across the room. Anything you can’t read will not be read by the driving public, so take it off the board.
Billboards are a very old advertising medium. Yet they are as relevant today as they were when the first humans scratched “MacDonald’s Next Exit” on a rock on a trail for the bathroom-deprived traveling public.