5 Tips For Advertising on Highway Billboards
Updated 09/05/2016

Freeway Billboards Photographer: A. Moody

Key Information At a Glance

Many companies have benefited from highway billboard advertising when properly executed.

  • Freeway billboards provide some of the largest billboard canvases on which to advertise.
  • Remember to keep your message short and to the point.
  • The colors you use are as important as the words.
  • Create actionable messaging
  • Track your results for peace of mind.


Billboards located on major roadways are some of the largest outdoor advertisements. Their large displays provide advertisers an enormous copy area to send their message. Don't get carried away with all the space and try to fill it up with words. It never turns out well when your ad is cluttered.

Don't get carried away with all the empty space and try to fill it up with words

You've seen the ads we're talking about. Words written in tragic Times New Roman font slanted every which way in some archaic color scheme with a 10-digit phone number to round it out. You'll see these types of ads from many types of business including:

  • Small local business - many local business owners try to take on the job of designing their copy themselves. Often times their enthusiasm gets the better of them. They get carried away and use too many words because they're too close to their product; unable to see the parts of their message that are truly unique and eye-catching.
  • Attorneys - For some reason attorneys all seem to think that they need to put everything they've ever done on their billboards. For any attorney's who may come acroos these tips, please stop doing this immediately.
  • Inexperienced advertisers - it's also possible to hire a professional advertiser who doesn't know what they're doing. This is rare but it does happen. Make sure you get your ad copy from outside agencies who have a track record of results.

Whoever the culprits are, there's at least one tragic looking billboard in every city. Everyone who sees it knows that it wasn't professionally done. Local small business owners and others make this mistake often. No matter who writes your copy or designs your billboard, be sure to keep the number of words to a minimum.

A good rule of thumb is to try to keep your message seven words or less

Keep your message short and avoid the temptation to clutter it with too much information. Drivers zooming by your sign at 80 miles an hour will only be able to read a few words. Make sure those words count. If your message has words scattered every which way it is unlikely your message will be effective. The best advertising slogans for outdoor advertising are short and to the point. A good rule of thumb is to try to keep your message seven words or less. Any more than that and your reader will be lost.

Utilize Colors

Use bright contrasting colors to highlight your message and brand your business. Some of the most effective outdoor advertising campaigns are as effective for their colorful branding as they are for their words. Quality copy is essential but colors help make the entire impression stick. Viewers are 62% more likely to recall some or all of the ad copy when used in conjunction with bright colors. Use bold colors when appropriate to draw the attention of the viewer.

Targeting Popular Intersections

Not surprisingly, cities with the largest populations often have the most highly trafficked intersections. Do your research before you choose a billboard to advertise on. Take all traffic considerations into account and make sure you get the most viewers for your advertising dollars.

  • Highway billboards near major cities - Major cities will often have the highest populations. Unfortunately they also have some of the most expensive billboards. If your budget is an issue as it is for most advertisers, targeting billboards on interstates and major highways near these cities can be a slighly less expensive option. These areas are highly trafficked by business commuters and tourists; two very desireable target audiences.
  • Billboards on Interstates - Although billboards that appear on long stretches of open interstate may not have a thriving population nearby, their viewership numbers are to be respected. The subliminal messaging effects are also noteworthy. Catching drivers in the hazy chasm of endless interstates provides a blank canvas for your message. Millions of people pass these billboards. They're not consumed by their phones or the endless noise of everyday life and have time to take in your message.
  • Billboards on Highways - Many US highways are as heavily trafficked as interstates. For highways in particular it is important to look at the population and income demographics of nearby cities to determine how far your billboard will reach.

It is important to look at the population and income demographics of nearby cities

Don't leave the placement of your advertisement to chance and simply hope people will see it. You've got to go where the people are to get results.

Create Actionable Messaging

Remember what your audience is doing when they see your billboard. They are on the move, getting things done, taking care of life. The aim of your billboard is to persuade them to make your business a part of their lives. If your business is close to your billboard or the messaging is quickly actionable in some way, you'll achieve best results.

  • Restaurants and fast food chains see tremendous results from billboards near their business.
  • Hospitals often utilize local billboards to create awareness about their location.
  • Criminal defense attorneys and many other independent lawyers use billboards to take advantage of drivers cited for road violations (there's a billboard for a DUI attorney in every city).

You will achieve best results if your business is close to your billboard or the messaging is quickly actionable in some way

Make sure your message is actionable before you choose to buy. Some businesses can benefit from the branding effects alone but these are often giants of their industry. If you're a small business owner, billboards that can be acted upon are the only way to go.

Track Your Results

Tracking the direct impact of your highway billboard can be extremely difficult. You will have a general idea of how many impressions each billboard gets and you'll be able to tell if business is picking up but direct attribution requires internal controls. For all new customers, be sure to track how they heard about your business. It only takes a second to ask and, if you keep diligent notes, the aggregate information can tell you if your billboards are working.

The key is to make sure that billboards are right for your business before you buy. If your message is actionable and you've got a concise message with the proper color scheme, highway billboards can help you reach valuable customers.