It typically starts at a board meeting. A director says, "Hey, I saw Credit Union XYZ's billboard on the freeway. Why aren't we doing that?" And your marketing department has its next assignment. But "me too" is not a good strategy for any marketing campaign. And as mom always said, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. However, if you're moving from a single-sponsor or SEG-based communication model to one aimed at a broader community-based target, it's time to think outside the box. But first, define what you want to accomplish and how. You may find your best marketing channels are pretty much what you're doing now. Just bigger, more expensive, and more closely monitored. Outdoor advertising is still an effective marketing channel, even considering the expansive growth of web advertising and targeted marketing. Outdoor currently constitutes a $6.3 billion market and reaches 96%1 of vehicle commuters across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. It also reaches consumers missed by other media, especially those not reading newspapers. A recent study2 showed only 19% of an important marketing segment, 18-34 year olds, read a newspaper regularly. This is a young demographic that your credit union probably needs to reach. If you try outdoor advertising, you have a wealth of options, including billboards, bus shelters, kiosks, wall murals, subways, adopt-a-highway, taxis and even airborne. But that's only the beginning. You can: * Have your marketing message painted as parking lot stripes in key parking lots in town. * Place ads on coat hangers in local dry cleaners. * Place ads in health clubs. * See your ads on shopping carts in supermarkets. Outdoor advertising also allows you to re-market to your existing members, and increases marketing awareness among your staff and volunteers. * Choosing the venue Start by performing an audit of all available options in the market. There are many variables you may not have encountered before, such as evaluating locations. Considerations include: * Frequency level How many sets of eyes will see it in a certain time period? * Proximity to freeway Signs on the freeway cost more, but may produce enough "hits" to make it worth the expense. * Supplemental ad locations Posters on the sides of buildings, bus shelters, truck sides and more. * Board direction Not input from your Board of Directors, but which direction your billboard faces. It can make a big difference. * Availability Is your first choice available during your campaign, or is it locked up in a long-term contract? Don't set your hopes on getting the exact location you want. * Illumination Is the billboard lit at night? If not, you could be missing a huge portion of your potential market, especially during those short winter days. That's a lot to consider, and you haven't even got to the creative part yet. * Your message Outdoor advertising, while great for getting attention, is not for complex messages. With just seven to ten words to work with, chances are you can't get your message across outdoors. So, don't make outdoor your primary venue. Consider it a secondary channel that builds name recognition and supplements other channels. Your message should be direct and clutter-free. Your campaign may be witty, but if it requires explanation, it and your marketing budget could be wasted. Think of the inverted cake model where outdoor advertising generates broad awareness while you drill down to specific individuals in more targeted ways. Ideally, you should launch your outdoor campaign at the same time you send direct mail, place newspaper ads, and air radio or TV spots, so that all marketing channels support each other. Also, setting up unique URLs and phone numbers makes it easier to track results and analyze the channel's effectiveness. Don't try this on your own Successful outdoor advertising requires expertise most credit union marketers don't have. We encourage you to listen to recommendations from your outdoor advertising sales representative. Yes, they are trying to sell you advertising, but they also want you to succeed and gain results from your outdoor marketing investment. Once you understand the potential and power of outdoor advertising, it can be an effective venue that drives viewers to learn more about your credit union. 1Arbitron Outdoor Study; Outdoor Media Consumers and Their Crucial Role in the Media Mix. 2Frank N. Magid Associates for Carnegie Corporation of New York.