How to Make the Best of a Billboard with Poor Visibility

Almost every billboard owner has a billboard face with poor visibility. Maybe you built the sign for the great visibility of the other side, or maybe it was …

Almost every billboard owner has a billboard face with poor visibility. Maybe you built the sign for the great visibility of the other side, or maybe it was a great read at one time, but there is at least one bad advertising face in every portfolio. So what do you do to maximize that one clunker?

Here are some ideas:


If the problem is blockage, try to fix it

As long as a tree is on private property, you have the right to ask the neighbor if you can trim or remove it. It never hurts to ask. You may offer them cash or some other concession if they will allow you to do so. Even if a tree is on highway right-of-way, it still never hurts to ask. You’d be amazed how many trees and other vegetation obstructions have been removed legally by just asking the proper authority. If the problem is blockage from a man-made obstacle, such as a flag or someone’s business sign—again, it’s the right step to ask if the obstruction can be moved or removed. One of my best billboard deals of all time was buying a vacant sign in downtown Dallas from a big company for next to nothing, because it had a terrible blockage from a parking sign right in the middle of it. Apparently, they had never bothered to ask the parking sign owner if it could be moved. I immediately got the green light from the owner, without a penny of compensation, just to be a good neighbor. I lowered the sign to where it did not block the billboard at all, yet did not damage to the effectiveness of the parking sign either.


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If the problem is the angle of the billboard face to the highway, try to increase it.

Many a billboard has gone from a dog sign to a winner by significantly increasing the angle of the “V”—the angle of the sign face in relation to the road. For example, a back-to-back sign , depending on the orientation of the highway, may be virtually unreadable. However, with a sharp angle aimed at the traffic, that same read takes on a new life. If the law allows you to, it is possible to increase the V of the sign without a lot of construction—but be sure it’s legal to do so. In some markets, the ordinance allows such a trick since you are not increasing the size, height, or lighting of the ad face, just the angle (which is normally not even in the ordinance). If you have not built the sign yet, then put a big V on it from day one.


If the problem is the height of the billboard face over an obstruction that cannot be changed, such as a roof line of a neighboring building, see if you can build a smaller sign or a taller sign

Many times, a billboard owner does not realize that he can actually build the sign higher than he thinks. Often, this is due to a lack of understanding as to where the height of the sign is measured from. Sometimes, you are given some extra feet in height if the sign begins on land below the grade of the highway. Another thing to check is if there is a different configuration that eliminates the blockage. For example, instead of a 14’ x 48’, maybe you should build a 10’6” x 36’? You’ll pick up almost 4’ of additional clearance. A clearly visible 10’6” x 36’ is worth a whole lot more money than a badly blocked 14’ x 48’.


If there is no way to fix the visibility issue, improve what you’ve got to sell

Paint the empty face day-glow yellow and put your phone number in huge black letters, the full height of the sign face. Or put some “rhinestones” on it so that the face glimmers in the light. If someone should rent the sign, then make sure their ad copy if only a few HUGE words, and paint it in obnoxious colors to grab attention.


Use this sign for public service messages or put in a barter program

Sometimes, when people are not paying cash, they are more tolerant of a bad sign than others.

As I’ve said many times, I’ve never met a sign I couldn’t rent. Even if your sign is the worst one in the world, there is, at some price, someone who will rent it. At least demand is always strong, even when your visibility isn’t. Never give up, and something will often come your way. Remember the ugly duckling that becomes a swan: You may not get a swan, but you could get a pricey chicken. You just don’t want a turkey!


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