By: Andrew Chambers, Senior National Account Manager

Most prospective clients ask me, do billboards work? They do, and I am not just sipping the Kool-Aid because that is what I do for a living. In today’s modern setting, the world’s oldest form of advertising does come with some caveats in an increasingly fragmented media landscape.

If content is king, then context is queen. You need a defined audience, seeing the right message, in the right moment to make your ad effective. For staffing and recruitment ads, I am a living case-study for their effectiveness.

I was working at my ‘first real job’ when just a few weeks before the monumental 2008 presidential election, my company went from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to Chapter 7. Without a prospective buyer, our entire organization of 250+ employees had to pack our things within a day’s notice.

I started applying to every job I saw as I worried about not knowing where my next paycheck would come from. With some unwanted extra time to seek out cheap new lunch options, I found myself in Chinatown, a part of the city that I normally did not travel to. On my way home, I literally saw a sign.

Being on a major artery through the city, this billboard was in a great location to reach younger professionals who live and work in the city. There was not enough granular data to show that a recently unemployed media salesman who lived in Old City would be travelling to Chinatown during his 6-month unemployment stint – but the placement made sense on a commonsense level. Want to reach potential employees who live where your company is? Billboards on arterials and at exact exits do just that.

When I saw it, I remember jotting down the information and being anxious to get home to apply. A recruitment billboard was recruiting me, live on the streets! It was a simple stock photo of some over-dressed “account executives”. It had a simple tag line – Join Our Team. Base + Commission. [email protected]. The content was clear. The environmental context was pertinent, and the audience was me, a recent college grad newly laid-off from the first step in his career. The impact was immediate. Even though I thought it to be a long shot, it was undoubtedly an opportunity and gave me some hope.

One of the largest common objections to billboard advertising can be recall. Who remembers the billboards they see on a day-to-day basis? To this I say, if the placement is right, and you know your intended audience, the right message will lead you to results. Less is more. The steps to refine your message into a concise call-to-action are paramount. Join Our Team. Base + Commission – as simple as it gets – and it worked. I applied as soon as I got home and in just two days, I received a call from the company. I interviewed, and I got the job!

I learned in my first week, there were over 40 applicants that responded to the recruitment billboards in 8 short weeks. I spent nearly five years at this company and one of my colleagues also recruited from the billboard, was there for over 10 years.

If you drill down the campaign to the cost and efficiency – there were approximately 10 recruitment billboards for 3 months costing upwards of $60k. Not a cheap campaign. But the return was two long-term salespeople who billed over $17 million in ten years. That is a $28k ROI for every $1 spent.

Do billboards work? Yes. Do billboards work for recruitment? Yes – just look at me.