Yes, nearly anyone can buy space on a billboard. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as tossing a billboard in your cart and heading to the checkout lane. Buying a billboard takes some know-how.
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You have to understand how they are sold, figure out who owns the billboard you want to buy, and carry out the transaction. This is why most billboard buyers use media agencies like DASH TWO to make buys for them. It’s easier than doing it yourself.
However, if you have a very limited budget or you simply want to do it yourself for kicks, you can purchase a billboard yourself. Here’s an overview of what you will need to do.
What Type of Restrictions Are There on Billboard Advertising?
Before you start planning the creative for your board, make sure your product doesn’t fall under any restricted categories. You cannot use billboard advertising if you sell tobacco — this ban has been in effect since 1998.
In states where marijuana has been legalized, many still ban billboard advertising for dispensaries or other related pot industries, or restrict it in certain locations. Check local restrictions if your business falls into this category.
Vendors may also have their own restrictions based on location or internal guidelines. They can fill you in on those when you contact them.
Finally, all billboards are subject to federal restrictions that prohibit deceptive advertising. So, for example, you can’t claim your energy drink claims cancer, but you can claim it increases alertness.
How Do You Buy a Billboard? Start With Finding the Right Vendor
A common misperception among people who have never bought advertising is that local or state governments own the billboards along their highways.
In fact, billboards are owned by vendors. These companies rent the space to advertisers, either directly or through an agency. A handful of large vendors account for much of the billboard inventory across the country, including:
- Lamar Advertising
- Clear Channel Outdoor
- Outfront Media
There are also many smaller, regionalized vendors.
Do you have a specific location in mind for your billboard? Then you will need to figure out who owns it. Some have signs at the bottom that designate the owner, in which case you can contact them directly. But the majority do not. Agencies often know which billboards are owned by which companies since they have dealt with them before.
If you are not sure where you want to buy your billboard, you can talk to vendors about the available inventory, but you will need to do your own due diligence. Check out the location of the billboard and make sure you get something with good visibility. Often vendors will add these poorly located ones when you buy multiple boards.
Making deals with vendors can be tricky if you haven’t done it before. That’s another reason people go through agencies — they have dealt with these people before and also have other client relationships they can leverage. If you buy a billboard as an individual, you could end up paying higher prices because you don’t have that type of background and know-how to draw on, but it is still certainly possible to do.
How Long Will My Billboard Run?
Most billboards are sold in four-week increments. You can extend your buy beyond that, of course, but whether you should depends a lot on what you’re promoting.
A concert, for instance, has a finite date and time, so you won’t want to advertise after it’s done. But if you want to advertise the opening of a new retail location, you may want to buy your board for 12 weeks or more.
How Much Will My Billboard Cost?
The price of a billboard varies greatly depending on so many things:
- The city the board is located in
- The location of the board itself, whether it’s on an interstate or in the city
- How long you commit for
The bigger the city, the higher the price you likely will pay for your billboard. For example, you will pay more in New York City than you will in a less-populated city such as Indianapolis. If you buy in a small town, the prices are generally quite reasonable and can be less than you’d spend on other forms of local advertising.
But keep in mind, you won’t just pay for the billboard space. You also have to pay to produce the billboard creative. How much that will run again depends on what you intend to do with the board. A good rule of thumb is to figure 50 cents for every square foot. If you get a standard 14-foot by 48-foot bulletin billboard, the vinyl will cost about $336.
However, if you decide to do something a little different with the billboard, such as a build out that goes beyond the dimensions of the billboard, then your production costs will be higher.
Can I Change My Message Midway Through the Campaign?
Yes, you can, although you will have to pay for the additional creative. That will cost a minimum of another $336, depending on what type of billboard you buy.
What About a Digital Billboard?
If you are interested in getting your message on a digital billboard, your options will be more limited. There are a lot more traditional billboards than digital. However, if you have a very short window to advertise or you have digital media already in hand, then digital may be a preferable option.
You can reserve as little as one day for a digital billboard. You can also buy in a network so your message goes to different locations.
The Beauty of Outdoor Advertising: Anyone Can Buy Billboards
Billboards are a fairly accessible form of advertising. You can buy directly from a vendor and get your ad up in a short period of time. Still, if you feel as though you may need a little extra assistance or advice, it never hurts to contact an expert. You can get in touch with DASH TWO to discuss your best billboard options.