Did you know that there are no billboards in Vermont? I didn't, until I read a great AdFreak post today about the Green Mountain State's law:
The proposal became law back in 1968 mostly thanks to the efforts of one man, Ted Riehle, a state legislator. Riehle faced stiff opposition from farmers, who made money leasing their land, and from advertisers, who wanted the ad space. But Riehle convinced the state that it would benefit financially and aesthetically by taking the existing billboards down and banning new ones.The post also includes a defense of billboards from Steve Simpson of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Simpson's defense, in summary? Yes, billboards can be ugly, but they also can be pretty. And sometimes they're in front of stuff that's even uglier, like strip malls.
Simpson's argument reminds me of DDB New Zealand's "Say No to No Billboards" campaign, which made a compelling counterpoint to the "billboards blight the landscape" claim. Sometimes, it's actually the landscape that blights the landscape. And in that case, a billboard might be a little easier on the eyes.
SBB's take on billboards? Aesthetically, as AdFreak suggests, it's hard to make a case for them. But as a marketing strategy, it's also hard to argue against them--and this is important--when they're done well. The audience can't turn them off, they're big, and sometimes they can be incredibly cool, but you have to know their limitations:
- No more than six words. Ever.
- Nothing that takes more than three seconds to read, including phone numbers and web addresses.
- One central image. One.
- Not all locations are created equal. And some are behind really overgrown trees.