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  • Steve Olenski

Why Does So Much Billboard Advertising Suck?

Fade in on an episode of Jeopardy!

I’ll take billboards for $1,000 Alex.

This is the magic number when it comes to billboard advertising.’

What is six.’


About year ago Paul Suggett wrote a brilliant post on titled 10 Steps To Making a Great Billboard Ad. The article references the magic number of six when it comes to billboard advertising.

Six words or less is ideal” and “Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard.

Then why does a billboard like this exist?

This billboard is emblematic of the current state of billboard advertising.

Whether I am cruising I-95 in Philly or whatever city I find myself in, more often than not I encounter something like the above or this gem:

All together now: Are you kidding me?

Look at those boards for 6 seconds. Imagine in your car doing 70. What do you recall. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Where do I start?

And I do not mean to pick on these two specific boards but, again, they represent an industry gone awry.

Let me just fire off my thoughts rapid fire:

  • www. on a billboard?What no AOL Keyword? This is 1993 right?

  • Phone numbers. Really? When was the last time you actually remembered a phone number you saw on a billboard? Save your breath. The answer is NEVER! ‘Hang on honey, I need to make a u-turn and pass that billboard again as I didn’t get the full phone number on the first drive by.” Wait, won’t people just Google your name if they want the number?

  • Colors. Look I’m all for colors and contrast but not on a billboard! This is not supposed to be an ink blot test for crissakes! Tell your brilliant graphic designers to put down the pantone book and stick with basic, simple colors.

  • Faces. For those who live in the Philly area and travel I-95 regularly can see a series of billboards promoting a local marketing company. No I will not show them here to protect the identities of the clueless. For whatever reason said company insists on putting the names and faces of its execs on the boards along with their message. Not only that, their faces or in reality the pictures are from their waists up are huge! This just in… No one cares what you look like! Check your ego at the door.

Not every billboard is bad.

Ok yes this is from an iconic brand that has tremendous equity so you can make the point that it’s easier to create a billboard for such a well-recognized brand.


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