The Billboard Mastery Podcast

While you want the advertisement to be dominant, you don’t want the billboard structure to be seen at all. In this Billboard Mastery podcast we’re going to explore the different methods to make the billboard structure virtually disappear with the goal of convincing the property owner that the sign will not interfere with the appearance of their land and buildings.

What is The Billboard Mastery Podcast?

Welcome to the Billboard Mastery Podcast, where you will learn the correct way to identify, evaluate, negotiate, perform diligence on, select the construction type, build, rent the ad space and operate billboard signs. And now here is your host – the guy that built from scratch the largest privately-owned billboard company in Dallas/Ft. Worth – Frank Rolfe.

A good billboard is one in which the ad is highly visible, dominant on the horizon, something that every driver down the highway definitely looks at, but you don't wanna say the same about your billboard structure. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery Podcast. We're gonna talk about trying to make your billboard structure blend into its environment. And let's first start off by saying why? Why do we care if the billboard blends in the environment or not? Well, for one thing, the billboard definitely from an advertiser's perspective, is more effective if there's no distraction from their ad. But that's not really the important item. What's important is you want the billboard to look good on the property, because that's what you need if you want to have a lengthy ground lease to have the billboard there coupled with its renewals. Because when you own the property, what your dream is, is to get money for nothing. Get that check from having that big metal pole or that series of telephone poles on your land without interfering with the land itself and whatever else you do with it, because billboards are typically just a side hustle for most property.

So the regular property, it's bread and butter. The big dollar item is maybe the big commercial building on there that someone rents. That's where the money is, but they don't really make that much money off the sign by comparison. They like the side hustle, like someone may be driving for Uber where it is in addition to their day job, but they're not gonna sacrifice, in this case their day job, just to have that little extra sideline of billboard money. So if we all agree that making the billboard blend in is important, what are some things that you can do as the billboard owner to accomplish that?

Well, the first is your positioning of the sign. That's the first spot to begin. You cannot have the pole in a position where it negatively impacts the operation of the property beneath it. If for example you had a tenant in a commercial building where the sign goes running an autobody shop, you can't have the pole in the middle of where the door is, where they drive the cars in, right? So you have to make sure you figured out what is the spot that you can put the pole or poles that will cause the least disruption. That's why they invented such types of billboard constructions from monopole signs, such as the offset and the full flag. Because the goal was to get that sign right in the corner of the property where it can't possibly bother anybody 'cause the building sit-back is far beyond where the pole goes.

So step one is you figure out where you can put the polar poles that does not cause any operational issues to the property owner. But what comes next is trying to figure out what we can do with those polar poles to make them not as impactful from the property level. Because when you're on the property, all you wanna see is basically nothing, or what appears to be tree trunks compared to what's up above, 'cause when you're on the property, you don't look up 50 feet, you don't care. All you care about is what you see from basically ground level up to maybe, I don't know, 10 or 15 feet in the air. So the first thing you wanna do is you wanna paint the sign to blend into nature. People have violated this pact in the past, always with bad unintended consequences. There's an operator once who decided to paint all of his billboard structures a bright chart, truce color.

Property owners hated it. It made their properties look bad. And so subsequently, they painted over it. Today most billboard poles are painted a brown color. Why? Because we want them to look like tree trunks. So if you have a tree, a giant tree on your property, what color do you normally see? Brown. So the only question is on a monopole sign is should that pole be a dark brown or lighter brown? And you'll see if you drive around that some of the largest companies such as Lamar have their own personal opinion on what kind of brown they should use. But as long as it's brown, typically everything is fine. Now, another issue you want to do on your sign in some instances is you take that to the next level. Having just a big brown pole may work in some applications, but sometimes that property is so upscale that that still doesn't cut it, that's not gonna make the deal happen.

So what can you then offer the property owner to disguise the pole even in a bigger way so that you just can't see it? Kinda like the Harry Potter cloak of invisibility. What can you do? Well, one option is, and I've done this, is to encase the pole in brick. Now, we're not used to seeing billboard poles in brick. That's definitely true. But if you talk to a mason and what it will cost to build brick around the pole up to the height of about 10 to 15 feet off the ground, you'll find its really not that impossibly unaffordable, because the pole structure gives them something, they can weld little things off of that pole to help support the brick. So bricking the column is one option. Another one I've seen used is putting Mylar around the column that's reflective, what looks like mirrored like substance so that the sign pole basically literally blends in.

That's probably one of the most effective ways to do it. If it's in the green area, all it will reflect is all the green around it. You won't even see the darn thing. So putting Mylar around a sign is another possibility. In some applications, what you may have to do is to eliminate the pole altogether and add that sign to the existing structure itself. That's called a wall mount. So there's another way to make it happen. But the bottom line is you gotta get creative. You know, right now, if you drive around town, you may see these what look like trees, but under closer inspection, those are the booster antennas for cell phone companies.

And sometimes they make those things up so well, you just can't even see 'em. They look like a giant pine tree. But then when you look closer, 'cause you'll see a little equipment on the top of it, there is no pine tree, that's a giant steel pole with these fake branches made out of metal to help disguise the fact that you've got this antenna there. Now, billboard companies can't typically spend that much money on disguising the pole, but nevertheless, it would behoove you always to think about some strategies and to know the cost because when you go out there and meet with or talk to the property owner about getting the sign on their property, dangling the carrot of creating a situation where you can't really see the sign structure will definitely help get that deal signed. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.