How to Win: Just Say No to Billboards

Billboards are a waste of money for political campaigns.  And it’s not just billboards but any large roadside signs – like those 4×8 that candidates love.

This article is not about trashing the billboard and sign industry.  For sure they provide a valuable service to a lot of businesses.

For political campaigns however, billboards and large road signs are a waste of money.

First, billboards and large 4 x8 signs are really expensive.

I recently spoke to a candidate that spent $4,600 on 50 large 4×8 signs.

Think about it. That is a lot of money for only 50 signs that carry only your name and no message.

A few years ago I had a client in Sacramento, California that wanted to purchase billboard.

I could not get him to drop the idea so I eventually called some billboard companies.

They wanted $4000 per month for just one location.

If your campaign budget is only $10,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 or more, that is a big chunk out of your campaign budget and is money that can be better spent delivering a message to a targeted likely voter.

Who really sees billboards?

A friend of mine was running for countywide office in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles is a large county, about 4,083 square miles in size.

With about 9 million people and 88 cities, LA County is a vast network of urban, suburban, coastal and some rural areas.

So my friend decided to post large billboards with his name on them around the County.

The locations were thrown in for free by a billboard company but he still had to get the signs printed.

I really don’t know what he paid but whatever it was it was too much for his campaign.

In his election, only 9 percent of the eligible voters bothered to cast their ballots.

So of the 4.5 million voters only about 405,000 voted.

My friend, and he is a good friend, so I will not use his name, only had about 30 billboards up around the Los Angeles.

Not sure how many voters got a glimpse of these billboards but it could not have been too many.

And it is doubtful that seeing his name on a billboard persuaded any of them to vote for him.

He spent probably several thousand dollars printing up ads to be placed on billboards that probably had little if any positive impact on the outcome of his campaign.

That money could have spent delivering an actual message to voters.

So the problem is that first, most people don’t vote in off-year elections, and second, the chances of a person that votes actually seeing your billboard or large sign are slim, and third you are spending money that does almost nothing to communicate your message.

Per unit cost of billboards vs. delivery of a message to voters.

$4000 a month for a billboard location or $4600 for 50 large signs is money that is being spent to communicate with people that are not even voting. And you are actually not even communicating anything.

Only about 146,311,000 Americans are registered to vote of the 218,959,000 that are eligible.  Of those that are eligible only about 57 percent actually vote.

An extremely large block of people who see your signs will not be voters. And those few that are actually going to vote in your election only see your name.

A mail piece will deliver, if done properly, a winning campaign message directly to a person that you know for sure, if you target properly, is most likely going to vote.

The $4,600 spent on 50 signs could have been spent more effective communicating to 5000 to 7000 voters that you know will vote with a very strong persuasive message.

Voters vote for you because they are fairly certain you can do something for them. They understand what you are about and are not confused about who you are.

A billboard or large sign displaying your name does not tell the voter anything about you.

Yard Signs vs. Billboards

Don’t confuse yard sign with billboard and large road signs.

Yard signs go in a person’s front yard.  It is a public display for their support of your campaign, one their neighbors will take note of.

(And if you haven’t read our book 5 Secrets of Winning Campaign Signs, you can download it for free here.)

A billboard or large yard sign does not have that same connection.  They are generally in commercial areas or on thoroughfares and everyone knows you paid for them. And probably, because of the location, many people that actually see the sign, thought they may be voters, are likely not voters in your town. They are just passing through town.

Billboards and large roadside signs just don’t have the same meaning as a yard sign place in a supporters front lawn.

The bottom line on Billboards and Large Signs

The truth is, your money can be spent better elsewhere.

We all love to see our name in large print. But you definitely need to check your emotion here. Don’t let your ego derail your campaign.

Purchasing billboards and Large 4×8 signs is like endulging in campaign junk.  It makes “YOU” feel good but does nothing for the voters.

So if someone calls you up trying to sell you billboards, or some of your supporters suggest that you do so, don’t bow to the peer pressure.  Just say no.