Radio Hed: The Billboard Test

Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

I don’t like billboards because they obstruct my view of the scenery, although sometimes that scenery is merely the side of another building.

I do like the economy of words it takes to communicate on billboards. I notice as I drive along this great nation’s highways at the maximum speed allowable, that many billboard messages don’t work. They have too many words, too many images and too much detail for someone to catch at a glance.

We do that with our commercials. They go by quickly. Our audience is distracted. They’re driving, listening to their GPS, texting, reading, eating, styling their hair, talking on the phone, conversing with passengers and making hand gestures to other drivers. How do you expect them to “get” your commercial?

Make it simple. At highway speeds a billboard has to register with the observer in about 2 seconds. A maximum of 7 words is recommended. Although your spot might be 15, 30 or 60 seconds long, try summarizing its message in 7 words.

If you can describe the idea of the commercial in 7 words (or so) it will work.

Good billboard writers also take into account the location. The surroundings will often dictate or suggest copy that will get attention and be memorable.

Same thing with radio. Does your spot run in the news, during a weathercast or a feature, in a sportscast, surrounded by music, at a fixed time, at the beginning, middle or end of a stop set? Craft it to take advantage of its surroundings.

Here are a couple of 7 word lessons from the world of billboards:

• Keep your advertising message simple and memorable.

• Make your commercial work with its surroundings.

© 1997 - 2010 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

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