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“Sometimes Spaghetti Just Wants to be Alone”

Once A Week, But Never Weakly

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Once A Week, But Never Weakly


by Nick Coston, OOH Media Buyer & Industry Agent

“Sometimes Spaghetti Just Wants to be Alone”

Driving back from northern New Jersey this past Thanksgiving once again gave me time to see lots of billboards, both static and digital. With plenty of dwell time due to the normal snail pace holiday traffic, I’m still surprised at how many expensive boards have barely legible copy. Too many words, words that are too small, website addresses that no one will recall, and bad colors like tan. Tan! Don’t these art directors remember what happened when President Obama wore a tan suit? Tan! It matches a cloudy sky background and people generally hate it. Tan. Nothing ever sticks out on tan. Just stop with it, please. Anyway, my point is companies are paying anywhere between $3000 and $12,000 smackers for these boards which many times you have well under 10 seconds to see.  They could be high off the ground, well away from the road and yet the copy isn’t compensating for not-so-perfect read. You’re not writing a novel. It’s a quick read that the viewer can’t suddenly back up and go see again, they have one shot for that particular message.

You’re not writing a novel. It’s a quick read that the viewer can’t suddenly back up and go see again, they have one shot for that particular message.

Which brings me to today’s message. Billboards are like a plate of spaghetti. Everybody loves it, but add too many toppings and it’s becomes a stew. And not everybody likes stew. I don’t. Ever try eating leftover stew? No way. Keep it simple, a good sauce, add a few meatballs, maybe some vegetables if meat isn’t your thing, a little grated, fresh parm, some seasonings and there it is. Everybody’s favorite dish. A proven winner.

Billboards must be the same way, not too many words, some bright colors and maybe a cool catch phrase that is attention getting. Yes, you can add a cute lizard, a puppy, a baby, just like you add a nice side salad and some warm bread to that spaghetti. It’s all supporting the main dish.

Support your message, give it a team to build around, but for God’s sake, don’t ruin the spaghetti.

Pasta aside, by now you know I admire, no, I love great, attention getting creative. So why not do it right? Test your creative on a digital board, go see it, ride by it, then see how it really looks before you spend the money to print that vinyl if you are going static. You can look at several versions, maybe even change the copy on the fly if someone is back at the office uploading changes, it’s all so easy we did this back in 2008 when I was on the operator side. 2008!  But how many big agencies or clients take the time? How many OOH companies recommend even doing this anymore? I’m telling you that if at least half of the current OOH clients/agencies saw their copy in advance of their final version they would make appropriate adjustments so that their boards were more legible, thus effective. 

message for Circle Graphics

Just like serving a plate of spaghetti. You taste a little first, maybe you test the sauce over and over until you get it right, maybe it needs a dash of salt or sugar. Whatever makes it the best you feel it can be, that’s what you serve. Billboards are the same way, test that copy, taste it, maybe it needs a little oregano, throw it against the wall to see if it sticks. Sometimes it’s even your first version that’s your best. But you’ll never know until you have a chance to see what it looks like in advance, up in the air.

Making and serving the right spaghetti is easy. So should be creating and delivering the right copy for your OOH. Stop trying so hard to recreate the Sistine Chapel. You can’t. 

And in most cases you will find out that all you ever needed was just the darn spaghetti.

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