10 Chicago Billboards We Love

Good outdoor advertising, like many things, is simple but not easy. Here's a showcase of advertisers in Chicago who are doing it really well.

The Single Most Important Thing to Remember in Billboard Advertising

If the three most important rules of real estate are “Location, location, location.” then the rules of billboard advertising (and most advertising for that matter) are “Creative, creative, creative.” You can pick the biggest billboards at the busiest corners, or place ads in the glossiest magazines, but if you’re creative copy fails to hit your target audience with a compelling, interesting, fun message, then your advertising dollars will not generate a return.


Within our Chicago billboard company, one of our favorite books distills this message into its purest (if most blunt) form in the aptly titled Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield.  Mr. Pressfield, the author of the The Legend of Bagger Vance and many other novels, began his career as a Madison Avenue copywriter.

"It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy. Nobody wants to read your shit.”

In the book, Mr. Pressfield makes the point, “Nobody wants to read anything. Let me repeat that.  Nobody – not even your dog or your mother – has the slightest interest in your commercial for Rice Krispies of Delco batteries or Preparation H. Nor does anybody care about your one act play, your Facebook page or your new sesame chicken joint at Canal and Tchoupitoulas.  It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy. Nobody wants to read your shit.”

We don’t claim to be the original Mad Men, but we do consider ourselves experts in outdoor advertising in Chicago.  Whether we are working with a realtor in Lincoln Park, a dentist with four offices across Chicago, or a large area hospital, we start from the assumption that people are too busy for your message.

If you believe your business and brand are compelling enough that your target audience really should know about you, then we can help you design ad copy that conveys your message in a clear, fun, impactful way.

7 Small Changes That Make a Big Difference in Chicago Advertising Campaigns

The aim of advertising, like most things, is simple but not easy:  to persuade someone to purchase your product or service right now or when they are ready to buy.  It sounds so simple that it’s easy for advertisers to forget about the basics.  Here are 7 small changes that can make a big difference:

#1 Define who your target audience really is.

Defining your target audience is the most basic aspect in being able to reach out to them. Before you design an advertisement for your product or service, you must identify and understand who your target audience really is, very specifically.  Don’t cast a wide net and hope the numbers play out.  Take a laser-focused approach to reaching exactly the people you want…and to the extent you don’t have to bother with those you don’t, you’ll avoid overspending by reducing wasted impressions.

#2 Understand the media usage of your target audience.

The most effective way to reach your target audience is to understand their habits surrounding media usage. Once you know that, you can design your message to fit that media outlet, not the other way around.  Often advertisers establish their message or even their design their copy prior to deciding what media to buy or how this advertising will actually be displayed.  We’ve all seen billboards with tiny print or a ton of detail – these ads may have looked great in a magazine, but the effect is lost in another format.  In short, pick the BEST mediums to reach your target audience, and then design the most effective copy possible for that format.

#3 Ensure that your ad copy is clear, easy to understand and compelling.

When creating advertising copy, you must ensure that it is clear, easy to understand and compels the viewer to act. It’s great to be creative, but creativity at the cost of making the advertisement complicated does not serve the purpose of advertisement. Aesthetic beauty is not (necessarily) the goal.  The goal is to get the attention of your target audience and compel them to act.

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#4 Highlight how your product or service will help target customers

It’s one thing to tell the viewer about your product.  It’s entirely another to tell them (and show them) what the benefit is – how it will make them feel; how it can make their life better, easier, more fun, etc.  It’s the classic sales line about focusing on the benefits vs. the features.  Sell the sizzle, not the steak.

#5 Always include your contact details in your advertisement

This should go without saying, but it doesn’t.  Having some way to contact you is imperative and you can dramatically increase the effectiveness of the ad by making the contact method memorable.  A memorable phone number and/or web domain is probably best, although a cell phone number or street address, if it fits your message better, will also do the trick.

#6 Highlight the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of your product or service

The USP of your product or service is the one aspect that will set you apart from your competitors in the mind of your audience. Your target audience should be able to instantly identify (and be attracted to) your USP and associate that with your product with a lasting impact.

#7 Be creative, unique and original while creating your advertisement

Take a look at Chicago advertising in outdoor, print, electronic and online media and you’ll conclude that a majority of them are borrowed concepts.  Humans have evolved over millions of years to pay particular attention to what is new and novel (we notice what’s changing because it could be a Saber Tooth tiger approaching and we tune out what we’re familiar with so we have enough attention to pay to what is new and moving.  Borrow the best ideas but keep things new, creative and original.

If you’re interested in more information on our billboard locations, advertising design services or just looking for help navigating the advertising landscape, feel free to contact us via the link below.

How Much Do Billboards Cost?

A lot of business owners and marketers—even seasoned marketers— don’t know how much billboards really cost. The reason for this is simple: It varies. Truly, there are several factors that go into pricing, and each is equally influential.

1)    The quantity of your buy (how many locations);

2)    How soon you were looking to start;

3)    How long you wanted to book the space for;

4)    And where in the country you’re looking to advertise.

          Billboards in Chicago are typically priced in monthly or 4-week terms. For example, if you’re looking at a quote for a billboard that is $2,000, that price usually means that it’s $2,000/month. If you’re looking for the absolute best monthly rate, your best bet at negotiating would be to approach the above list in the following way:

1)    You want more than one sign. Most times, negotiating a package-deal gets the price per board down significantly.

2)    If you’re looking for a deal, be ready to start as soon as possible.

3)    In the same way that sooner is better, longer is also better. For example, committing to a sign for a year allows advertisers to negotiate a much better monthly rate than if they only wanted one or two months.

4)    Know your market. Billboards in Chicago are less expensive than signage in New York City but also more expensive than anywhere in Nebraska. Advertising in major cities (NYC, Chicago, LA, etc.) carries a premium, but if you can be flexible with numbers 1, 2, and 3, you can negotiate an attractive rate in almost any market.

            It’s important to note here that any sort of advertising is or can be a significant expenditure. It’s also important to note that relative to all other types of mass marketing, billboards are the most cost effective. Furthermore, they also rank highest in advertising mathematics, which is Reach (how many people) + Frequency (how often). So, that formula proves that billboards are a worthy investment on their own or as a complement to an existing marketing strategy.

            With any advertising, but with billboards particular, the single most important thing to this conversation is doing it right. Even the best deal on a billboard is a loss if it’s not done well.

But if you select locations that accurately target your customer with excellent creative design, billboard advertising (even on a limited budget) can yield great returns.

            If you’re interested in more information on pricing for specific billboard locations or just looking for help navigating the advertising landscape, click the link below... we're here to help.