Billboard investing is an outstanding way to build a side-income and to gain financial independence. You can get in with little money and grow your portfolio with little risk. But you have to go where the opportunity is to prosper. So where is the opportunity right now in billboard investing?
Traditional wooden signs
One of the best ways to make money in the billboard industry is with good old-fashioned wooden telephone pole signs. These are inexpensive to build, last for decades, and are highly attractive to advertisers. They are also very adaptable and succeed in a number of locations, from big cities to rural areas. For most investors, this is the prime area to focus on. Typical sizes are 12’ z 24’ and 8’ x 32’ as they are all made from 4’x8’ sheets of plywood.
Urban 8-sheet signs
These are limited to large population areas and urban environments. They were invented in the 1970s to advertise tobacco and liquor on surface streets to cars and pedestrians, and when those two advertisers dropped out of billboard advertising, they all went vacant at one time. Today you can buy these signs – virtually all of which still exist – from the original builder or the landowner (who typically has taken title through abandonment) for around $1,000 and then put vinyl wraps on them and put them back into service. These are normally around 5’ x 12’ in size and are steel monopole in design.
Bringing abandoned signs back to life
This is very creative – and very profitable. You find an old abandoned billboard and you bring it back to life by making structural repairs, putting the advertising panels back and wrapping it with a vinyl. I’ve done this on wooden signs, I-beam signs, wallscapes and steel monopoles – and they’ve always been extremely successful. The sizes are all over the map.
These are vinyl advertisements attached to masonry walls with hooks or frames. They are a very interesting segment of the industry because they are held up by an existing wall and therefore are cheap to build. All you have to do is to install the anchors and stretch a vinyl between them. Once again, the sizes of these signs are extremely flexible based on the size of the wall and the requirements of the ordinance.
These are basically a billboard on wheels. The benefit is that it allows you to target an audience in areas that don’t legally allow traditional billboards. These come as both traditional signs on trailers that are parked in certain areas, as well as billboards on trucks that are driven around in high-traffic areas. Either way, what makes them valuable is the ability to hit customers that are hard to reach otherwise, including sporting events. They come in a wide array of sizes.
This is the Cadillac of the industry – the single steel column that holds up the largest ad face possible. Coming on the scene in the 1970s, the monopole is the unequalled king of the interstate highway as well as urban markets. The trade off on these giant structures is that they have a price tag to match, and require big ad rents to justify it all. These signs are traditionally 14’ x 48’ in size, but also come in some unique configurations such as “stacked” signs.
Here’s a unique subset of signs: ones that escape the scrutiny of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 (the federal law that made billboards regulated by the U.S. government). They do this by being over 660’ off the right-of-way so they are technically not controlled under the Act (but check your state laws). However, to be that far off the highway and still be seen, they have to be gigantic. Some people have gotten over that obstacle by attaching them to large landmarks. Like grain elevators.
Billboards can be great investments if you stay on top of what the opportunities are. This list will get you started. But don’t be afraid to always think outside the box and watch for even more new opportunities.