Selling Ad Space

I am in the research phase of starting up a new outdoor billboard company in the nyc area. I have read Big Bucks From Big Signs and did many many hours of research online.

I’m thinking of starting off by building one or two 30 sheet posters (as my budget is tight) in the queens or brooklyn area and may have some potential locations.

I am looking for some clarification on how to actually sell the space and more importantly how difficult I can expect this to be? Franks Rolfe suggests in his book doing a mailing to all possible advertisers and displaying your phone number on the billboard. While definitely plausible how realistic is it for a no name start up, with one or two 30 sheet posters in NYC to attract advertisers? Are there agencies that will quickly sell/fill the space for me for a fee? I cannot find such agencies? Is it profitable to operate this way?

Please help

There is more to renting ad space than just sending out a mailer and putting your phone number on the sign. although that’s an excellent start. You will also want to contact all the current advertisers on that same stretch of road to see if they would want to move over, make a list of the advertisers that would be “naturals” for the sign, and also put together some pre-emtible advertisers to soak up space between better tenants.

You can definitely compete with large companies, but you will not be able to attract ad agencies or national accounts with a couple of 30 sheets. You will need to focus on local accounts. These are more stable, anyway.

Before you build a couple 30 sheets, however, be sure and see if it is not more profitable to sell them to a larger competitor. Building and owning signs is great, but you should not do so unless you are 100% committed to building an operation. It’s a lot more fun to have money in the bank and no debt than borrowing money and signing up for years of renting and operating signs, unless you really want to build an on-going billboard company. If you are going to try to have a middle-man rent the ad space, you are going to be better off selling the leases and permits.

Thanks for the reply Frank

My goal is to create a reliable long term stream of income from this business (I want to quit my day job). Building and then quickly selling the leases and permits may be more profitable in the short run, but NYC seems to be a extremely difficult place to routinely find new billboard locations.

Maybe I should be doing that until I gain enough capital to acquire a large monopole?

What strategy would you suggest for my specific goal?

Thanks so much

These are all topics that we cover in the Boot Camp, and it takes two full days to tell you the answers, but here’s the quick synopsis:

  1. You need to define your market. It’s more than NYC. It’s probably more like everything within 4 hours of NYC.
  2. You need to graph out all the municipalities with road frontage in this market.
  3. You need to get, read and understand the ordinances for all these cities and towns.
  4. You need to find the most fertile part of this territory.
  5. You need to come up with some basic budgets and numbers on three generic types of markets, based on estimated rents.
  6. You need to make a general assumption on market fertility.

Once you know realistically what you think the market can support, and how many potential locations there may be, then you’ll be in a better position to answer your own question. There is no magic to owning monopoles. The magic is in matching the market to the product. If that means old-fashioned wooden units, that’s fine. People have built very nice income streams from old wooden units.

I can’t answer your question without the above data. But I do know that you need to raise your field of play beyond NYC. The market is limitless if you think in the big picture and work backwards. The numbers, properly analyzed, will tell you what to do.

If you do want to go to the Boot Camp, I want you to be aware that we offer a 0% financing of the cost spread out over several months. If you seriously want to get into the business the right way, that’s the best step.

Frank, you should make a dvd video and sell it!