Nov./Dec. 2001
Issue 11
Volume 6
  In This Issue
Billboards Build Recognition
Shopping for a Camcorder
Grammar Trap: All Together vs. Altogether

Billboards Build Recognition

Billboards can be a useful tool for raising awareness, but there are important considerations before you decide to use them as a marketing tool.

The total cost of a billboard can range from nearly free to several thousands of dollars. Occasionally, a billboard company may be willing to donate billboard space, but they will still charge you for the image and poster paper to go on the board. The cost of producing the billboard image depends on the size and the type of materials, but the cost should be between $75 and $600. Once you have the materials, billboard rental runs from $75 to $200 per month for rural sites and up to $900 to $2,500 per month for city and interstate signs.

A billboard can raise awareness, but there's nothing guaranteed. Our tests show that billboards don't motivate a lot of people to call or stop in your office, unless you are giving away money or a valuable gift. How much awareness you create depends on the total promotional package. For example, a billboard can serve as reinforcement for a radio, letter-writing, or poster campaign.

Carefully consider your message. The message should communicate directly to your audience in eight words or less. Err on the side of less, not more. The larger the type, the easier it is to read. If the billboard is in a location with fast-moving traffic, the lettering should be at least 3 feet high.

Location is very important. Billboard companies will give you numbers of viewers that pass a particular site. But there are other important considerations. For example, I placed a billboard in a great location--I thought. But morning commuters couldn't see the billboard very well because the sun was right behind it at commute time. That's a lesson learned.

The point is, don't just buy a billboard by the numbers. Drive by the billboard. Try to observe it as a normal passenger. Look around it--once in the day and once at night. At night neon lights may create a distraction. Check to see if the billboard has lights.

Also, one billboard may not be enough to get your message across. Look at the driving patterns in the area and consider two to four billboards to hit the major routes. You may be able to negotiate a discount for more billboards.

Bottom line: Are billboards worth the time and cost? Yes--if you have the right price, location(s), message, and accompanying promotion plan.

Steve Cain

Shopping for a Camcorder

Most folks assume that since I operate cameras in my job, I must know the best camera for them to buy for home. Wrong! I don't even own a camcorder. But, if I were to go looking, here's what I'd seek.

First, Format

The whole world is going digital, so I'd head in that direction. Digital video (DV) offers twice the resolution as VHS and 8mm, which most people own today. Digital video is equivalent to digital music. You can copy it a thousand times and not lose any quality. And, with all the new computer-based desktop editing programs that are available, most can deal with DV.

Next, Features

Because I'm not going to be as fussy when shooting home footage, I'd look for features that will automatically help me shoot the best images. For example, in low light settings, I want the camera to boost the brightness levels for me.

I'd also look for an image stabilizer, too. Let's face it. Most of you don't want to haul tripods around with you. You just want to grab a camera and go. Since you'll be shooting hand held, you may need some image stabilization to smooth out the lumps and bumps that comes with shooting this way.

Some cameras offer a lot of extra visual effects, such as posterization and sepia tones, but most of these can be added with a simple, low-cost desktop editing package. It's always best to start with the best possible image and doctor it up later.

Then, Flexibility

I'd also want the option of turning automatic focus off. Most of the time, automatic focus is a handy thing to have, but when you're trying to tape a person, say, and they're moving some, or you're having trouble holding steady, you don't want that focus to be jumping all over the place.

Finally, Price

The cost of DV cameras has dropped dramatically in recent years. I would probably look into Mini-DV cameras because they cost less, are easier to transport, and have lower tape price than other DV formats.

If you'd like some more information about digital video camcorders, you can check out these Web sites. Happy shopping!
This site goes into more detail than I have room for and offers a few more things to consider.

Joan Crow

Grammar Trap: All Together vs. Altogether

Language changes. Even hidebound editors like me concede that. The two words that are this month's topic are an example.

"All together" now means in or as a group.

Example: The plan won't work unless we are all together in it.

"Altogether" is a newer arrival on the scene. It means entirely.

Example: We are altogether satisfied with the plan.

At one time, "all together" was all there was. But, over time and through repeated popular usage, "altogether" came to be acceptable.

I hope I'm not around long enough to see the same thing happen to "alot"!

Do you have a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like to see discussed? Do you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one? If so, please let me know.

Visit <> for past "Grammar Traps."

Laura Hoelscher

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