Billboard Guide

by | Jan 25, 2018 | Activist Toolkit, Initiatives

Interested in launching a billboard in your area to draw attention to political issues or candidates? This billboard guide is shared courtesy of Flip the 50th CA, which recently erected two billboards in the San Diego area to draw attention to their congressman’s misappropriation of campaign funds. You can read all about their fundraising efforts here.

Secure and finance a billboard to promote political messaging in your congressional district.

Step 1: Identify Media Companies
It’s important to realize that the majority of billboards available in the US are owned by a handful of large companies.  In our area, we found just three media companies. They do not all own the same amount of spaces and the boards are different sizes. The boards that are available may be rented to another advertiser. The billboard art itself – the “vinyl” – has a one time cost associated with it and often, the media company will charge you to store the vinyl past a certain date. It is a good idea to note all available inventory and when boards of the same size will be coming available in the months leading up to an election.

Step 2: Obtain Permission
Media companies, like every other special interest group, are often donors to political campaigns and parties. Not all media companies will display political advertisements and some will not display certain political advertisements depending on message.

Before you spend time, energy and money on designing the perfect board and crafting the perfect message, make sure the media company you have found to work with will agree to posting your message and art.

Step 3: Crowdsource Your Final Art
Fundraising at this scale is tricky. No one wants to donate to something that ultimately won’t be fully funded and unless the community in general agrees with one message, it will be a hard ask to get community members to support a message they don’t agree with or 100% buy into.

Start with an exploratory committee.  Throw out three topics and poll the committee. For instance: Healthcare message, Immigration message, Climate Change message. Once you have consensus on the topic, create three rough sketches of designs for your board with that topic and poll again. Continue this process with high fidelity art until you reach a consensus with a large group of your committee.

Step 4: Get Management Approval on Art
Your account representative at the media company will most likely not have final say on whether the company will contract out with your organization. Make sure you get management’s approval on your final design before proceeding.

Step 5: Set-up a Financial Vehicle for Fundraising
Each state has slightly different election laws and now would be a good time to seek the advice of an attorney.  In California, the board itself must say who paid for the board. The media company will have its own rules regarding who can be charged for the board and what language must be used on the board itself. In any case, make sure this is all determined before you begin raising funds – who will be paying for the board?  How will payment be made? What fundraising site will your group use?  Who will be the benefactor?

TWW National has launched a sponsorship program, which any TWW affiliate can apply for, which will help with fundraising platforms and 501(c)(4) status.  Read more about the TWW sponsorship program here.

Step 6: Fundraise
Billboards can range is price based on location, the amount of impressions a board is likely to receive and the length of the contracted agreement. Estimate at least $5-$7k and always aim for a small percentage of overage to cover any incidental costs.

Make sure you have a wide supportive base to help promote the fundraiser. Work with your group to come up with a promotional plan. Do not leave fundraising up to one or two individuals – it will take a village to make your goal.  Please note that when fundraising large amounts, there is more risk at the beginning of the period than towards the end. Have your base supporters make their donations early to “prime the pump.”

Make sure your fundraising landing page includes the art itself, a map of the location where the board will be installed, the dates when it will be live and what your plan is if the funds are not raised in time. Often, there is no way to refund raised funds to their original donors. It is important to have a plan B in mind.

Step 7: Final Arrangements
Often, the art can be uploaded and confirmed and payment can be made via credit card. Once a contract is finalized, you can expect to see your board live when the date agreed upon is reached.

Step 8: Promote to the Media
The billboard itself will be sure to catch attention but don’t forget to plan for media coverage which can increase your board’s reach several fold. Plan an event with your base supporters at the billboard itself and invite local media. Post photos of the board itself to social media making sure your financial supporters who may not be local are able to see the board in reality.  

Step 9: Start Planning Your Next Board
Once you pay for your vinyl, you own it and can post it for less money the next time. Hopefully, you already have an idea of what boards will be available in your geographic region in the election season so you can make use of your already tried and tested billboard.

Good luck!  Resist!