Now Hear This

Hey, is that billboard talking to you?
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Consider it the latest wave in billboard advertising. As commuter traffic increasingly grinds to a halt, the $2 billion-plus billboard industry naturally looks to position itself as the advertising medium that all eyes are upon. Yet seeing is no longer the entirety of believing--not when "talking" billboards are beginning to stir up a marketing storm.

"As far as I'm concerned, putting sound to billboards is as obvious as putting it to movies," says Andrew Milder, president of Business Broadcast Systems in Los Angeles, which helps usher billboard advertisers out of the silent era. "You're not going to have 100 percent listenership like you do in movie theaters--but it's certainly worthwhile."

What exactly is a talking billboard? Through the use of text, these billboards direct commuters to tune in to a specific frequency on their radio dials. Generally effective within a one-mile radius, the FCC-approved frequency plays a commercial message that's 30 seconds to a few minutes in length. "It's not like a regular radio station," says Milder, who recently worked on a nationwide billboard campaign with underwear giant Joe Boxer. "We're not trying to get people to tune in for hours on end."

When people do tune in, they'll hear anything from daily jokes and entertaining skits to phone numbers to call for more information on the sponsoring company. Not only does Milder think talking billboards are effective for virtually any type of business, he also believes the advertising vehicle itself is gaining momentum. Assures Milder, "It absolutely will become more commonplace."

Quick Tips

A brief marketing brush-up

Talk the talk: What's one of the key secrets of getting through to reporters? Speak to your audience. If you're talking to a business reporter, use hard numbers--dollar growth, financial projections, initial investment, number of employees and the like. If you're talking to a tech editor, talk about how your company uses technology to improve sales. TV and photo editors understand visuals, so use phrases such as "picture this" to better communicate your idea. If you tailor your pitch to each specific reporter, you'll create a better rapport and improve the chances of seeing [your product or service in] print.

Sell the American dream: Know the value of "Made in America." The USA name retains tremendous selling power in much of the world, so promote your company and products as American. Put a "Made in the USA" label on all products, and tout the fact that your company is U.S.-based in all your written communications, marketing materials and ads.

Kid stuff: Many companies have found that if they put a widget that appeals to children in their product's package, the parents will follow. Fast-food franchises learned this trick a long time ago. Their smartest marketing ploy has been the invention of the "kid's fun pack" meal. Each month, a new, inexpensive plastic toy is bundled with a child-sized burger-and-fries combination to draw kids and (drag) parents in for a meal. To get in on the action without shelling out a lot of cash, partner with a children's business or toy manufacturer that can provide you with goodies.

Excerpted from 303 Marketing Tips Guaranteed to Boost Your Business (Entrepreneur Media Inc.).

Contact Source

Business Broadcast Systems, 1801 Ave. of the Stars, #1220, Los Angeles, CA 90067, (310) 441-1943

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