Marketing: Billboards to Bill Stuffers

Wouldn’t it be great to display your message on a billboard where thousands of drivers could see it every day? Imagine seeing a large, colorful sign saying emergency physicians are specialists or are "medicine’s front line." While actual roadside billboards may be out of your financial reach, there are many forms of advertising you may consider to effectively deliver your messages.

Billboards come in many sizes. Mini-boards are often a smaller version of a billboard and are often displayed on shopping carts, inside buses and subways, and on park benches. Community and civic-center bulletin boards and stadium advertising are just a few more ways to creatively advertise. Depending on your budget and message (e.g., promoting a one-time event vs. delivering a safety message), you may consider various forms of advertising.

Use billboards or mini-boards to:

  • Gain support for causes (e.g., passage of legislation, attention for key issues).
  • Advertise events.
  • Deliver injury prevention or safety messages.

Local billboards provide message frequency and are an excellent tool for building awareness. Here are some tips for placing billboards in your area:

  • They are typically sold within each market in groups of 25, 50, 75, or 100 boards, based on market size and location of the boards.
  • Buy more boards for shorter campaigns (one to five months). Longer campaigns (six to 12 months) often require fewer boards.
  • Remember that pricing is negotiable. Specific board pricing will vary by market size and length of campaign.
  • Before you buy, be sure to take a tour of specific boards being considered. Look for potential viewing problems, such as growing trees, poor visibility, or short drive-by viewing times that could limit effectiveness.
  • Contact your local billboard company to arrange locations, timing and information on the size of billboard materials you will need.
  • Outdoor advertising companies are not required to provide public service messages; however many companies are willing to donate space for vital public education messages.
  • Contact a billboard company at least 30 to 60 days before you want to rent the space. Lists of billboard companies are easily found through a Standard Rate and Data Service directory of outdoor advertising firms, available at your local public library.
  • Remember, the community is the target audience. Therefore, billboard messages that contain information vital to the community are more likely to be read. Topics for your billboard may range from promoting events sponsored by your hospital to powerful messages on national issues such as emergency department overcrowding and bioterrorism.
  • Mini-boards or posters are the most popular types of billboards. You can have one designed to promote legislative action or send public safety messages. In addition, your message will most likely be seen by someone "waiting," so you can include more information than you would in a drive-by billboard. However, like any promotion, be sure your message is clear, catchy, and creative, and have it designed professionally.
  • Unlike billboards, mini-boards are much more affordable. Rental costs can range from $100 to $500. Production costs for mini-boards vary depending on their size. Sizes of mini-boards vary. Contact a billboard company or local advertising firm to obtain the proper size for the space you are considering (e.g., bus sign). Like billboards, companies are willing to donate space for public education messages.

Bill Stuffers

"Bill stuffers," also known as bill inserts, bill enclosures, or print public service announcements, are promotional pieces inserted into mailing envelopes. These pieces are a form of direct mail and are often used by utility companies, retail businesses, and many others to advertise.

Use a bill stuffer to:

  • Explain the warning signs of a medical emergency.
  • Send seasonal health or safety messages.
  • Promote understanding of emergency medicine.
  • Promote an event.

Bill stuffers are an easy and cost-effective way to send public education messages. Local newspapers, magazines, and corporate and community newsletters include them in their mailings. Bank and utility companies include them in their bank statements, bills, and employee paychecks. Speak to representatives of these kinds of organizations about including your bill stuffer in their mailings. In addition, speak to the manager of your local grocery or pharmacy about distributing it with customer receipts. You also can ask local businesses to include bill stuffers along with their employees’ paychecks. Your hospital can send bill stuffers along with patients’ bills.
The size of your bill stuffer will vary depending on the size of the envelope. Before you create a bill stuffer, contact the company’s billing department to obtain the correct size. Common sizes include 7.5" x 2.5", 8" x 4", and 4.5" x 3.75". Check your mail, and keep samples of bill stuffers to help you decide which size you want to use.

Talk with your hospital’s public relations department about creating a bill stuffer with your message and getting permission to use the hospital’s logo. The design and printing of a bill stuffer may vary depending on the complexity of layout, quality of paper, and kinds of graphics, so always consider your budget before designing one. Your bill stuffer can have a powerful impact, whether it’s a black-and-white design or an eye-catching, but more costly, full-color format. A black-and-white bill stuffer easily can be duplicated on colored paper to attract attention in the envelope.

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