Thursday, March 8, 2012

Small Business Marketing News Update - ClearChannel's New Electronic Billboards Miss Mark With Small Businesses

ClearChannel has installed a series of electronic billboards around Jacksonville, Florida, that offers a unique and dynamic advertising medium not seen before in Northeast Florida.

The boards allow an advertiser a vibrant, bold presentation that, if designed correctly, can catch eyeballs coming and going down Jacksonville roads and highways. The company’s ad program allows for eight advertisers to rotate their messages every eight seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This translates to 1,250 spots per advertiser per day.

In addition to the exposure, and part of the uniqueness is that the ad can be changed almost instantly, to either update the message or to adjust to the audience. For example, a message for a restaurant could feature breakfast specials from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., and then change to a luncheon special, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Another major advantage is there are no charges for the physical production of the board other than creating and designing the message on a computer. Unlike the standard “posted” boards, you don’t have to pay for paper or vinyl board coverings.

But that’s where the advantages end, particularly for locally based small business advertisers. ClearChannel has packaged their digital boards at a rate of about $10,500 a month for four boards or $13,250 for five boards. For a large or national advertiser, the cost per thousand works fine. But not for a small business located in the proximity of one of their boards.

If ClearChannel would sell their product by the board, smaller businesses would have an excellent opportunity to make a marketing impact in their trade area and at a price that makes sense for them.

There are certain areas of Jacksonville that have limited billboard coverage anyway, with Mandarin being one of those prime areas. The new digital board on San Jose Boulevard could have given eight different area businesses, a chance to have exposure they couldn’t have had before. And if they were allowed to advertise only one month a year, that would mean a total of 96 small Mandarin businesses could have a chance to use billboard advertising. Instead, current ClearChannel advertising features mainly national or regional products and a lot of public service messages.

Maybe the business model for ClearChannel makes sense for them to only sell their high priced package deal. But with all of the public services messages they are running, they may want to rethink their strategy. And they certainly could help Jacksonville's small businesses by adjusting their packages to make it practical for companies to use their product.