While motorists bemoan increased traffic, billboard company owner John Carroll (inset) capitalizes on it. After working in the business for four years, he gratefully accepted a $10,000 loan from a friend to buy his first billboard and form the Dorchester-based Carroll Advertising Co. in 1996. The Wrentham resident has since grown the business to 24 digital and bulletin billboards along major arteries in Eastern and Western Massachusetts, and between Boston and Providence, with concentrations around the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Q. How has the billboard business changed over the years?
A. The onset of digital technology has opened a lot of doors. One location can have multiple messages, which brings the cost of each message down while providing an incredible amount of flexibility. We can put a message up for 10 secondscq or 10 months,cq which has made billboard advertising more accessible for local mom and pop stores.
Q. What makes a good billboard ad?
A. The most common pitfalls to avoid are making ad copy too small, not having the right colors, and making the contrast too busy. Something with no words at all can also punch you in the nose. That’s what you need for it to work: a punch in the nose.
Q. How do you select a billboard location?
A. We go by the same model as anyone looking for a place to open a store: an underserved roadway with limited competition, good visibility with long read times, and high-traffic intersections. It’s location, location, location — and traffic. We’ve grown one at a time, cultivating relationships with land owners and property managers, identifying strong sites, and going through the permitting process, which can take quite a bit of time, and, of course, there are no guarantees.
Q. How much does a billboard ad typically cost?
A. A typical digital ad costs $700cq to $1,000cq per week. Amber alerts automatically override any content, and we’re required to display a certain number of public service announcements each month. I also hold a lot of slots for good causes I can get behind. I feel very fortunate to have my own business that’s doing well, and I couldn’t have achieved it without the help of others along the way. You get what you give, so if I can help someone, I will. It’s good karma.
Cindy Cantrell may be reached at email@example.com.