The average billboard ground lease is 20 years. Since you only have one shot every 20 years to negotiate your ground lease, it is imperative that you do a good job at it. And it’s not something you are going to learn from experience – you will only do it about three times in your lifetime!

So here are some of the initial things you need in a good ground lease, from the landowner’s perspective. Continue reading

Watchfire Announces Unparalleled Partnership With Incentives That Can Cut Price of a New Digital Billboard in Half

DANVILLE, Ill. — (August 29, 2017) — In another advancement for digital billboard operators, Watchfire Signs announces an industry-exclusive pre-sale advertising plan available on the next 50 billboard purchases. Click to Tweet.


The Watchfire Advertising Plan connects billboard operators with Blip Billboards to deliver pre-sold advertising that dramatically reduces the upfront price of any new Watchfire display. The pre-sold space is sold via Blip’s marketplace, but the billboard operator receives 100% of the financial incentive upfront.

“The Watchfire Advertising Plan gives operators of digital billboards the opportunity to take advantage of pre-sold advertising that offsets the cost of a new Watchfire display,” said Darrin Friskney, Watchfire’s Vice President of Digital Outdoor and Marketing. “Billboard operators simply opt-in when placing their order by contracting one slot on their new board as part of the program.”


Blip Billboards is a marketplace where advertisers can buy as many or as few digital billboard spots as they want. This innovative marketing approach allows for advertisers of all sizes, and with a wide range of budgets to purchase time on digital billboards across the country. With the purchase of a Watchfire billboard, operators who opt-in to Blip can receive an upfront reduction on their billboard purchase price based on a Daily Effective Circulation (DEC) and the length of their contract with Blip.


As an example, a billboard location with a DEC of 50,000 that accepts a three-year contract for Blip’s services would get a nearly $20,000 reduction in the cost of a new Watchfire digital billboard, regardless of the billboard’s size. In addition to the price reduction, The Watchfire Advertising Plan reduces sales tax, and provides ready-to-go advertising from the first day of installation.


“Watchfire is known as the industry leader in digital outdoor manufacturing,” said Brent Thomson, Founder of Blip. “With their reputation for quality billboards and a broad base of customers, we feel this partnership provides a great opportunity for Blip’s advertisers and expands the number of boards available to them. This exclusive arrangement will provide the best service to Blip’s customers and outdoor advertising partners.”


The Watchfire Advertising Plan is immediately available on the next 50 billboard orders that opt-in.



About Watchfire

Watchfire Signs designs, engineers and manufactures the best looking, most durable outdoor LED signs and digital billboards to help businesses and organizations increase visibility and drive growth. Headquartered in Danville, Ill., Watchfire has manufactured outdoor electric signs since 1932 and LED signs since 1996. The company has more than 50,000 Watchfire LED signs in operation worldwide and has more digital billboard customers in the U.S. than any other manufacturer. For information, go to

Billboard Company Values Q3 2015

Public outdoor valuations declined during the third quarter of 2015, in line with a general drop in the stop market. The three public outdoor companies have an enterprise value of 3.9 times revenue and 12.1 times cashflow (EBIDTA) at September 2015. Clear Channel sells at the lowest multiple due to market concerns over high leverage as well as the fact that it generates a higher proportion of revenue outside the US where real estate property rights aren’t as strong.

Enterprise Value as a Revenue Multiple Mar-15 Jun-15 Sep-15 Change
Clear Channel 2.83 2.83 2.83
Lamar 5.84 5.79 5.27
Outfront 4.65 4.17 3.49
     Average Revenue Multiple 4.44 4.26 3.86 -13%
Enterprise Value as a Cashflow Multiple Mar-15 Jun-15 Jun-15
Clear Channel 11.70 11.68 10.48
Lamar 14.07 13.79 12.57
Outfront 16.94 15.45 13.15
     Average Cashflow Multiple 14.24 13.64 12.07 -15%

Landmark is paying 8-12 cashflow for outdoor easements and leases.

By Dave Westburg

High Resolution Digital Billboards Becoming More Popular


A couple weeks ago a digital sign sales executive told me that high resolution 16 mil digital billboards are outselling lower resolution 20 mil digital billboards by a ratio of 8:1.  I’ve asked digital sign sales people why and they’ve told me that costs have fallen to the point where a 16 mil digital billboard is only about 10% more expensive than a 20 mil board.

The takeaway: if you are putting in a new digital board you should probably pay a little extra for 16 mil or your board will look not as nice as the other digital boards nearby.  The problem will become even more pronounced in the future as more and more 16 mil digital boards are installed.

By Dave Westburg

How Do You Power a Sign Without Power?

One of our clients owns a billboard in an area without power, where it would cost $11,000 just to bring power in to the sign. His solution was to use solar energy. He put together a system using regular 95 watt LED lights, two 6-volt batteries, and two solar panels. Total cost: $4,000 for the materials and $1,000 to set it up. Much more affordable than the $11,000 to bring power to the pole, and the $100 a month power bill.

Article Pic

The panels are mounted on the upper catwalk.

Solar panels still have their drawbacks, foremost their dependence on good weather. Solar panels work best in locations without cloud coverage (Lamar uses solar panels on their signs between Las Vegas and Mojave County for instance) but a sign like our client’s in the Pacific Northwest often has to contend with rain and overcast skies. Our client added batteries to cover these overcast periods. Despite the drawbacks, in the right situation—such as a sign without power—solar panels can prove much more affordable than the alternatives.

By Dave Westburg

Billboard Construction Costs

How much does it cost to construct a 14 by 48, two-sided, illuminated, 40 foot above ground billboard?  My rule of thumb is $30,000 for wood structure, $60,000 for a steel monopole structure, and $350,000 for a digital billboard.  The 2015 Billboard Structures Valuation Guides put out by the Departments of Revenue of Arkansas and North Carolina verify this data as you can see in the following table.  The valuations guides estimate billboard construction costs to assist local tax assessors.  The first cost number is from Arkansas and the second cost number is from North Carolina guide.


 Structure Wood Two Sided Static 14 x 48 Billboard Steel Monopole Two Sided 14 x 48 Static Billboard Steel Monopole Two Sided 14 x 48 Digital Billboard
Cost $25,910-27,210 $61,160-66,720 $350,000
Useful Life 20-25 years 40-50 years 10 years.

Should you build wood billboards?  I don’t think so.  Wood structures may be cheaper but they last half as long as steel.

Both states assume a useful life of only 10 years for digital signs.  This is in line with what I hear from operators and manufacturers.  I don’t think enough operators take the cost of 10 year sign depreciation into their return on investment calculations for digital signs.

By Dave Westburg

How to Market an Outdoor Sign Correctly

Outdoor marketing is widely considered to be one of the best advertising solutions currently employed by small and large businesses altogether. Much less invasive and aggressive as web ads or television commercials, outdoor marketing, if done right, is catchy and colorful enough to attract attention when the potential customer is walking or driving by, but also far enough from their field of vision to be discreet. Also, as anyone can notice even if they don’t have specialized marketing studies, the field of outdoor marketing is becoming increasingly innovative and it’s definitely a place in which copywriters are getting more creative by the minute.

But while outdoor marketing is composed by many, many different strategies of advertising (including billboards or over-the-top solutions such as airplane-dragged ads or flash mobs displaying the commercial message ordered by the client), the outdoor sign still remains one of its most common but reliable forms. According to our marketing sources, about 7 out of every 10 outdoor ads are employed by local businesses, but national and international brands are definitely a strong presence on these outdoor signs as well. We bet you can recall a few memorable ones on the spot, if you think about it. This huge visibility, paired with a less invasive feeling (compared to televised ads or web ads) is basically what makes outdoor signs a successful form of marketing, in spite of its traditional and somewhat conservative character.

How to Market an Outdoor Sign?

But beyond its wide use and popularity, the outdoor sign isn’t a marketing solution which every advertising company or client seem to know how to use correctly. A badly conceived outdoor sign, with a poor visual strategy and placed in a less than ideal position, can be utterly ineffective, compared to the impressive results it can harbor if it’s well marketed. That is why a good marketing company should not only know how to this properly, but they should also be able to advise their clients on the matter, even by politely suggesting a change of plan compared to the client’s initial wishes.

A good outdoor sign should have the following elements:

  • A short and easy to read text – The pitch of the initial ad is obviously important here, but besides that, the font and the size of the writing (as well as a reasonable length of the pitch itself) can be crucial to the efficiency of the ad. A reasonable length of the main text is between 10 and 15 words, which means you should really focus on the tagline itself and make that as impactful as you can.

          Close to sight, but not in your face – The way you position it is a central part of               how to market an outdoor sign correctly, but this positioning issue is not as easy as           you might think. It’s not just a matter of visibility versus not getting into the viewer’s            space too invasively: it’s also about the precise spot you choose for the sign. This is          especially important in two cases: when the sign is basically an ad for the building              next to it – in this case the placement and the picture featured on the sign becomes            crucial; and when the sign is on the side of the highway, meant to be seen from the            car. If in this second case the sign is placed too far (or if it looks not visually                        compelling enough), then the risk is that it will be ignored by the drivers speeding by,          but it shouldn’t be too distracting either, because distracted drivers are no joke,                  unfortunately.

  • Family friendly content – Since this is an outdoor sign, you can’t filter its audience, so it should be obvious that the ad should only contain family-friendly elements, even if it targets a mature audience or potential customers. Sadly, we have seen cases of advertising companies which seem to not be aware of this.

    Color and Location Guide for Outdoor Signs

    To wrap this story up with a bit of practical advice on the topic of how to market an outdoor sign correctly, we’re suggesting a few great color combinations that work wonderfully with most types of outdoor ads.

    • Pastel yellow and ochre – this is great especially in the fall, obviously, and particularly when advertising for house and estates (regardless of the season).
    • Black and white (perhaps with just a subtle touch of color) – this is a classic color combo for a good reason. Think about it like this: not only it is objectively a well-rounded and contrasted combination, but we have also been educated to see it as classic and elegant. All that remains is a good message and a classy font, since the work is half-done.
    • Pale colors and red – The impact of the color red has been scientifically proven to make us engage things more fearlessly or impulsively (or to be more willing to buy, in this case). Combine it with pale colors for the clients to be able the read the sign easily.

    As for the ideal location of each ad, take into account the fact that you have to put yourself in the shoes of the passerby you are targeting with the ad. If you’re into real estate sales, you’re trying to convince people to come closer to the area of homes you’re selling. Once they get there, the “for sale sign” near the house could also feature a picture of it from a different angle than the one currently visible from near the sign. Outdoor signs on the side of the road, for that matter, should not be too close to each other, or too close to the road: just aim for maximum visibility when you consider where to put it. We hope this brief introduction gave you an idea or two about how to market an outdoor sign correctly, and we’re right here if you want to contact us for practical inquiries or need advice. Good luck with your outdoor marketing and your business growth!



Spending just a few extra minutes on laying out the placement of you new billboard sign can save you thousands of dollars and lots of anguish down the road – maybe even save your whole sign!

There are some common misconceptions out there that can be impossible to fix inexpensively once the billboard sign has been cemented into place.  You must understand these issues to avoid getting off to a terrible start in you outdoor advertising career. Continue reading


In the over 300 billboard signs I have owned, only two have been lost to development.  I achieved this not out of sheer luck, although I have been lucky, but by being proactive about avoiding risks and mitigating the risks I can’t avoid.

In most billboard ground leases, you have to give the property owner a right to terminate in the event of development.  Obviously, few people will tie up their land for years when it might sour a huge development offer down the road.  As a result, your billboard is at risk of being removed at any time with so many days of advance notice.

When this is the case, there are several things you can do to reduce or eliminate this risk. Continue reading

Graycraft Signs of Warsaw Unveils Digital Message Center at Sweetwater Sound

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—Graycraft Signs of Warsaw, owned and operated by Scott Gray, unveils the nation’s largest 12mm Watchfire Digital Message Center built exclusively for Sweetwater Sound, Inc. The digital sign is placed in front of Sweetwater Sound headquarters at 5501 US Hwy 30 and acts as a marketing device for Sweetwater as well as Fort Wayne, with community events being advertised on the sign. Sweetwater Sound is one of the U.S.’ largest dealers in musical equipment for musicians, recording studios, schools, house of worship, concert sound companies and broadcasters. Sweetwater’s 44-acre corporate campus consists of corporate offices, a distribution center with warehouse, and a retail store, also included the Sweetwater Productions recording studio complex and 250-seat performance theater. “US 30 is the gateway to the city of Fort Wayne and this digital message center will allow Sweetwater to uniquely advertise their offerings,” said Scott Gray, owner of Graycraft Signs of Warsaw, which is overseeing the project. “There is no other sign like this in the country in terms of size and shape and this really creates the ultimate blank canvas for marketing.” At 26 feet high and 35 feet wide the Sweetwater sign took several weeks to be constructed. Photos of the construction and installation process can be found at: For more information contact Nicole Wilkins at 260-414-1160 or Visit for additional company info.