Zach Zavoral: 1-Second Ads Worth a Look

Done right, billboards can be an effective vehicle to share what puts you ahead of the competition.

This article originally appeared in the Nov-Dec 2014 edition of INVISION.

You drive past billboards every day on your way to work. Some make you think, or laugh, or get upset or annoyed. You probably ignore most of them. But if your local competitors use billboards, they may be stealing your customers. And — on the flip side — if no other vision care businesses in your city are using them, you may be able to boost your market share with a few well-placed, well-designed billboards.

Millions of billboard ads line roadsides across the U.S., but billboards rarely bring in as much money as they cost. Most six-month billboard leases cost between $200 a month in low-traffic areas to $1,000 a month in very busy corridors. To be worth your money, a billboard will have to draw in a couple dozen new patients over that six-month lease, so you have to make sure your billboard advertisement is hyper-effective. And as long as we’re talking billboards, bear in mind that the category can include other large-scale ads, such as those you see in sports venues (where they’ll be seen by a captive audience for the duration of the game) or airports. No matter what the setting, follow these five rules to create an effective billboard campaign.

Choose one unique benefit that you believe will attract the most patients — and only advertise that one benefit. Your unique benefits may seem small and silly to you, like being the only local eye care practice with a 500-gallon fish tank or free parking. Summit Eye Associates of Gastonia, NC, had great success with a billboard featuring a photo of its doctors and its tag line “We listen you’ll see,” which owner Dr. Ann Hoscheit came up with after many patients told her, “I’m here because you listen.” The message resonated with people; more than 70 called the practice the week after the billboard went up. Look for what your practice does better than your local competition, and play that up. If you’re stumped, check your online reviews.

A billboard is not a
30-second ad. It's
a 1-second ad.

Be concise and precise. A billboard is not a 30-second ad. It’s a 1-second ad. Whatever message you hope to get across must be fewer than 10 words. If you can’t isolate a unique benefit, try nothing more than your business name and website with a strong image from one of the most popular or beautiful brands you carry. Ask your top frame vendors about any co-branded imagery they may have for billboards.

Take care with humor. I know that sounds like no fun, but humor rarely works on billboards for eyecare practices. There are exceptions: An article in the March/April issue of INVISION told of DeCleene Optometry in Kokomo, IN, which runs billboards featuring staff members as the stars of TV shows past and present. (See

Do not misuse imagery. Imagery can make a billboard successful, but all too often, it is misused and kills the billboard. The best advice is to only use imagery directly related to the precise benefit that you pinpointed as your unique benefit. Don’t use stock photography of people smiling. Not only is it overdone, but it doesn’t tell the audience anything directly.

Your business’ name must be large and legible, as should the town/neighborhood where it is located. Your website or phone number (one or the other) should be larger than the name and town. I recommend a website with an easy-to-remember address instead of a phone number. Since drivers cannot call on the road, you might as well give them a URL they’ll remember when they get to their home or office.

Follow these rules and give billboards a try. Done right, they can effectively boost your visibility, bring in new patients and create long-term relationships and revenue for your practice.

Zach Zavoral is an eyecare marketing expert and patient communication software professional serving as executive marketing director at Little River Healthcare Network in Central Texas. Contact him at (512) 621-5024 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..