Benchmarks: Be Seen

Billboards and other large ads aim to boost visibility and sales


REMINDERS: All of the ads shown here are copyrighted. So use them for inspiration only. Don’t copy them; make them your own!

BILLBOARDS AND OPTOMETRISTS have been linked at least since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby hit the shelves in 1925.

Two disembodied eyes stare over the “valley of ashes” from the dilapidated billboard of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. They’re supposed to represent something. Consumerism? God?

For modern eyecare providers, billboards have a more obvious significance: They’re one of the most effective ways to get your name in front of lots of patients. About seven in 10 Americans “often look at the messages on roadside billboards,” according to Arbitron.

Billboards provide room for only a brief message, one that will be seen for a few seconds at most. Still, they can be an important part of a brand-building strategy. Here are a few practices that have used billboards and other large-format advertising to grow their business.

St. Charles Vision, New Orleans, LA
All of St. Charles Vision’s billboards are just as elegantly minimalist as this one. “Anything more than a striking image and tastefully proportioned logos is unnecessary on a billboard,” says Matthew Rosenthal, COO of the Louisiana business with six locations. Additional copy, he says, ruins the look and won’t be remembered anyway. St. Charles Vision keeps at least two billboards up at all times, and Rosenthal says “co-branded fashion display ads” are the approach of choice.

UC Berkeley Optometry, Berkeley, CA  When Oakland International Airport began allowing advertising, the opportunity sounded too good for UC Berkeley Optometry to pass up. Clear Channel Airports, which approached the practice, has found in research that airports provide “a saturated audience of affluent, educated, tech-savvy travelers.” The practice began running several large signs touting its services for all ages. “It’s very effective,” says Dr. Edward Revelli, director of the clinic on the University of California campus. “Many patients call from the airport for an appointment.”

Beaumont Family Eye Care, Beaumont, TX  This billboard succeeded not so much because of what it was, but where: right next to an affluent neighborhood. Beaumont Family Eye Care had a larger optical area in its new office, and Dr. Peter Cass wanted to sell more high-end frames. Revenue has doubled, and Cass believes the sign played a role. “We got a lower price for using a neighborhood billboard rather than a highway ad,” he says, and the pinpoint placement was probably more effective.

Europtics, Denver, CO The model here looks at something in the distance, which is exactly what Europtics co-owner Ira Haber hoped passing motorists would do. A quick glance at the ad’s few elements — logos, model, locations — was all he asked in a world full of distractions. “We were hoping it would bring name recognition,” says Haber, whose firm operates several stores in Colorado, “and bring some more people through our doors.” The spot was cost-effective because it was part of a co-op program.

DeCleene Optometry, Kokomo, IN  Hit TV shows past and present — including Duck Dynasty, Gilligan’s Island, Charlie’s Angels and The Partridge Family — are the inspiration for fun billboards from this Midwestern practice. Staff members come up with the ideas and take the starring roles. “We first look to amuse ourselves,” says board-certified optician Nikki Frazier, “and hope that what we like will also draw some attention.” The bimonthly spots seem to be boosting the practice’s profile. Says Frazier: “People look for our billboards.”