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January 20, 2013

Ready, Set, Sell: The 3-Second Billboard Rule

Scott Cooter
Scott Cooter Creative Director / Senior Copywriter

We’ve all heard the Six-Second Billboard Rule: how any information the viewer can’t absorb in six seconds is wasted.

In reality, even six seconds is a bit optimistic. A focused, impactful three-second “read” that allows some breathing space is actually more effective. Why? Allowing your basic message a few uninterrupted seconds to sink in without adding anything else to think about creates a small “memory zone” before the next distraction (i.e. brake lights or the next billboard), increasing the chances your message will stick.

Remember the first time you saw one of Chick-fil-A’s iconic “Eat Mor Chikin” billboards? Couldn’t believe your eyes, could you? Three-word headline, no phone number, no web address. Just a memorable image (cows painting) that continued burning its way into your retinas long after you’d sped past.

Chipotle’s got a pretty good handle on simple and iconic, too. One message, no extraneous details: Really Big Burritos, delivered with a sense of humor.

McDonald’s breakfasts need no introduction. Or headline. Just a teeny, tiny logo and those famous golden arches…

Even movie posters are kickin’ it short and sweet these days. I can’t think of a quicker way to deliver the core message, can you?

And the winner in our subliminal message competition is…

The point of all this? Less is more when it comes to billboards. Complicated message? Expect drivers to copy phone numbers? You’re in the wrong space.

Memorable message? Easy to remember? They’ll Google it as soon as they’re in a safe place.