Billboards – A Lesson in Waste and Messaging

Jan, 15 2020

Billboards – A Lesson in Waste and Messaging

The “Elevator Pitch” has long been the standard for business brevity. The premise states you should be able to explain whatever you are selling in the time it takes for an average elevator ride. Still a great idea, but isn’t it a bit dated? In today’s world, an elevator ride is an eternity.

Think billboard, think in terms of seconds. Or perhaps, think in terms of a single sentence. Because on a billboard, consumers don’t have much more time than that. (Remember, they are probably moving at 70 mpg) Describe what you want others to know about you in a single sentence. It’s a lot harder than you think.

Billboards have long been the go to media for lawyers and other ambulance chasers. But, every now and then, a Realtor will pony up the cash. Will anyone of them become the next, “one call that’s all” of the realty world? One has to assume that’s the intention. But is it possible? In a word, no.

Realtors aren’t lawyers. Consider the consumer optics. We like our lawyers rich. We expect our lawyers to blow through dough. Lawyers are the perceived professional elite. Realtors are tradesmen. Middlemen. They make money directly from the homes sellers they service. And much like a Rolex on a mechanic, billboard advertising for a realtor comes off a bit askew optically with the trade. Still, it makes for a great messaging exercise.

“Brands don’t sell houses, agents do” (Billboard ad promoting an agent team)

On one hand I love this. It’s clearly a shot at the franchise mentality. They are differentiating themselves from the historical pack. But, are they making a statement about our industry at the expense of their own team? A consumer can agree with this ad’s statement and when they do, their thought process quickly ends. Asking the consumer to make the mental leap that it’s your team of agents who are the real “sellers” is probably a bridge too far. Yes, it’s logical. But, in terms of the splits seconds a billboard ad demands, too much mental leaping isn’t advised.

“I am Hiring Listing Agents” (Billboard ad promoting a single agent name)

I love this ad for how bad it is. There is no better example of, “old school” real estate than this.

Those in Atlanta know who this is. He moves a lot of houses and by all accounts is wildly successful. But this is a bad billboard. It might as well have said; “I am hiring agents to give me their money”. (Has there ever been a Broker who wasn’t looking to hire Listing Agents?)

Real estate is often described as a scrum for Listings. Listings are king. Listings are the gold standard. So, if you’re an agent who has a listing, why would you need to be “hired”? Don’t agents who have Listings already hold all the cards? Maybe the ad is targeting those who want to be Listing Agents? But that is everyone, so why differentiate? Basically the ad says nothing about real estate, skill or expertise. Its purpose appears to be nothing more than image advertising for the person who bought the space. The 90's are calling.

“Your Relocation Specialists” (Billboard ad promoting an agent team)

Perfect. Relocation is a word everyone understands as moving from one place to a new place. Relocation is not used for in-town moves. A lot of people can relate to moving to a new town. It’s different. It’s scarier. Not the same as a local move. So this team specializes in relocation. OK, easily understood.

It’s probably a certainty this agent team does a lot more than just relocation work. But given the constraints of single sentence, split second advertising, the idea of focusing on “relocation” is a terrific example of messaging.

The start of a new year is often a period of reflection, resolution and fresh starts. In an era where everyone is their own brand, agent messaging is a never ending task. But, a new year also represents the lull before another buying season hits full swing. Making it the ideal time for a messaging refresh.


Good luck.

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