There are two big things to remember when writing copy for billboards: keep it short and make it simple. With outdoor advertising, your target audience is focused on something other than your message—the road.
Most likely you have only a few very short seconds to do your job, usually the time it takes for a car to fly by at 55 miles per hour (unless of course you’re lucky and there’s a traffic jam!). That gives you enough time for a quick headline, a catchy picture, and a phone number or web address—maybe. It’s possibly the purest form of advertising there is.
The Seven Word Rule
In general, billboard copy should be no longer than seven words. That’s seven short words. (“Amazingly Eloquent Attire for Exceedingly Dapper Executives” would take a couple of drive-bys to read, don’t you think?) Seven words are enough to read at a glance, and not too much as to clutter the design. And just like with all ad writing, make it memorable. You want your audience to read it, and remember it.
Only the Essentials
Once you’ve got your headline, there’s little room for much else. A company logo and a phone number or web address should be enough. If you want to drive people directly to the business from the road, put the street address.
You’re image has to be easy to understand at a glance. A single point of focus is good. An easily recognizable single point of focus is even better. Drivers don’t have time to stare at your billboard until they figure out what the heck it is they’re looking at. It needs to hit them in an instant because that’s all the time they’ve got.
Putting It All Together
Finally, you want your imagery to work in concert with your copy, not compete with it. It needs to all make sense together, with no chance for a mental disconnect. Drivers may not have the opportunity to see the board again so you want to make sure they get it the first time they see it.
So what’s the lesson here? When it comes to outdoor advertising, don’t make it complicated. Simple copy. Simple image. Simple enough!