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As billboard operators convert static faces to digital, a key question is often how best to optimize to the perfect number of advertiser "slots." For someone new to the digital medium, the ideal rotation — six to eight advertiser slots with hold times ranging from five to 10 seconds before advancing to the next slot in the rotation — may be a typical starting point.

As an operator gains experience and begins to understand the advertising and profit potential of the digital medium, they often explore other options. They ask: Should I stick with the standard six to eight slot format? Would advertisers resist more slots in the rotation? What if I sold 10 to 15 slots, but offered them a lower price? What about boards that are purchased entirely by a single brand — how should I price that?

Our answer to this question comes back around to a basic idea. What is your goal? For this discussion, let's say you have a good poster location that you are converting to digital and your immediate goal is to generate $4,500 to $6,000 a month. You've got several other potential locations for digital, and eventually you'd like to build a digital business that brings in $10,000 to $15,000 a month.

You convert that first board, and after the first month of brisk sales, you've been able to secure five contracts that will earn $900 each, putting you right at $4,500 a month. It's a very nice return on your investment. At this point, you have to decide how to invest time. Which is a better use of your most precious commodity, your time? Spending your days chasing one more $900 contract? Or using your time to find the next digital-worthy location, which has an incremental revenue boost of another $4,500 monthly?

Some operators get locked-in on the magical idea of "100 percent full" and end up twisting themselves in knots over selling one more slot, when the real pot of gold is sitting there in the form of the next great location. They may be focused on adding when they could be multiplying.

So when you think about setting the perfect number of slots, consider that an advertiser who buys a slot at $1,100 takes as much of your time as one who pays $700. The simple, fundamental premise is this: What is the value of your time? Could your time be better spent adding locations instead of adding inventory? Invest your time wisely, and you will achieve the greatest payoff. When you do the math, the answer is easier than you think.

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Darrin Friskney
Friskney is vice president of sales for the Outdoor Advertising Division of Danville, Ill.-based Watchfire Signs, which has been manufacturing outdoor electric signs since 1932.
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