7 Ways to Create Billboards that Spark Joy


Having worked in the outdoor industry for more than 20 years, many of them spent right in the heart of Times Square, I have seen it all. Experiential events, augmented reality, 3D props that move and steam, characters in furry costumes, naked cowboys with guitars…you name it. The most memorable executions all have something in common — great creative.

Whether I am in a city walking by transit shelters, traveling through airports scanning baggage claim screens or driving around town passing bulletins and posters, my eyes always gravitate up, looking for the best examples. It’s natural for me to scan the landscape for these larger-than-life canvases promoting new brands, products or services that are relevant along my journey. Over the years, I have seen countless examples, and the best ones always have something in common. They stick to a set of tried-and-true best practices.

As I help lead teams of designers across the country, working with myriad brands and ad agencies, I have developed 7 fundamental ways that any of them can have success when asked: “What can we do to make our billboards better?” I hope you find these easy to apply and effective when developing your next out-of-home campaign to create impact, leave a lasting impression and drive consumer action:

#1: USE BOLD SANS SERIF FONTS: Maximize size and contrast

This font is the easiest to view from the road and/or from a distance. If a passerby or driver can’t comprehend your message in a few seconds, the opportunity is lost.

#2: CRANK UP THE VOLUME: Apply white text on vibrant backgrounds

Dunkin’ Donuts and GoPro know how to make it pop. Just look at the examples below to see how a consumer’s eye would be drawn to the sharp color contrast.

#3: IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: Use the full height of the billboard

The cliché, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is a cliché for a reason. It’s true. Images make instant emotional connections. When less is more, have your image say what you can’t fit on the billboard.

#4: STICK TO ONE IDEA: Communicate as rapidly as possible

You only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression. The best billboards do not stack the canvas with competing messages. They’re clear and want the reader to hone in on one key element that they’ll remember (or one key mystery they’ll question).

#5: USE SEVEN WORDS OR LESS: Make it contextually relevant

Less is more. Be concise and your campaign will stick. Be witty and it will be even stickier.

#6: LOCALIZE YOUR MESSAGE: Consumers engage and recall increases

Localization provides instant recognition, as if the billboard is talking to you personally. It knows you, knows what you like to eat, where you like to go and how your hometown outrocks your neighbors. This builds instant rapport and favorability.

#7: CREATE A STRONG SILHOUETTE: Forget about the negative space

Silhouettes are art in themselves. The eye is naturally drawn to work out the shape thereby producing captivating creative.


About Author

SVP, Marketing Solutions
Clear Channel Outdoor Americas

Out-of-Home Network Council

1 Comment

  1. Hi Mike,

    I read your article and it’s very inspiring. I would like to show you something that in my opinion would double the impact of the billboards that you show in the article. I have three examples that I would like to send you. Please send me your contact information so I can send you the pictures.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Best regards,

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