3 Ways to Make Your Outdoor Recruitment Advertisements More Effective

When was the last time you drove at length and did not see a billboard? Drive 95 south through North Carolina and you’ll see some of my favorite ticky-tacky outdoor ads for South of the Border. America’s highways and by-ways seem almost littered with outdoor advertising. And, ever since I started working on recruitment billboards, I feel like I’m even more acutely aware of the good, the bad and ugly in billboard marketing.


1. Keep it simple.

Often times, you’ll see billboards that simply have too much messaging. Do this … look here, no here … call this number! There is so much content, that you’re not even sure what the call to action is. A driver has four, maybe five seconds, to read and digest a billboard message. When it comes to outdoor recruiting ads, keep is short, simple and have a clear call to action.

  • Who are you?
  • What’s the most important message?
  • What’s the immediate call to action?
  • Is someone really going to call a phone number?
  • Do you need to include your website?
  • Can you say all of this in 10 words or less?

2. Display your best work.

Good creative can mean the difference between an effective or pointless outdoor ad. If you can get someone to acknowledge and think about your ad, you’re halfway there.

  • Art that’s most effective is eye-catching without being distracting to drivers.
  • Layouts that use “white space” look and feel less overwhelming.
  • Colors should use enough contrast so the words stand out from background images.
  • Simpler fonts are typically easier to read while going 65 MPH than a fancy script.

3. Pick the right locations.

For major campaigns (e.g. new office opening), I would recommend selecting several locations to display your message. Your billboard vendor can send you a road map detailing billboard options. In addition to the map, as for a spec sheet that shows photos of the billboards’ exact locations; you want to make sure they are not crowded by trees or sit too far off the road. Ask your vendor how many impressions a board typically gets (based on traffic patterns and commute-related data).


As you develop your overall recruitment campaign, you might decide to incorporate billboards due to their potential high-visibility within your local market. On the grand spectrum of advertising media, outdoor signage leans toward the expensive-side. Here are a few factors that can affect how much your billboards will cost:

  • Metro area market, the larger the market, potentially the higher the cost
  • How long you want the boards to run
  • How many boards you select in a given ad buy
  • The size of the board (full size or smaller “poster” size)
  • Whether it’s a traditional or digital board
  • How frequently you purchase billboard space from your vendor

I’ve seen annual, traditional billboard contracts run more than $25,000 in smaller markets, and digital boards come in around $1,500 for a week in large metropolitan areas. Knowing up front how much your company or department is willing to spend up front, and then having your outdoor signage vendor present a proposal will help you.


I’ve found that it’s hard measure whether billboards are actually driving website, applications or hires, unless you directly poll new hires and/or applicants. How can you determine the effectiveness of a recruiting billboard? What are some of the best practices that you’ve discovered?

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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