Billboards, They’re ubiquitous – everywhere. They’re designed to flash a message to passing drivers in a blink of an eye called an “impression.” 

The Burnett County Tourism Coalition (BCTC) hopes its billboard will make an impression on northbound I-35 drivers as part of a comprehensive marketing plan to attract more visitors and tourism revenue to the seven communities this side of the St. Croix River.

“It’s a great way to make a splash,” says Emily Gall, BCTC’s marketing consultant.  “Our marketing goal right now is brand awareness. We want to make sure people from the Twin Cities and the northern suburbs know that Burnett County and all we have to offer are just a short drive away.”

The billboard is located 1.2 miles south of the Rock Creek/Grantsburg exit on the west side of I-35 at the 164-mile marker. It pictures four youngsters jumping into one of Burnett County’s many picturesque lakes. There are two lines of text: “Wisconsin’s Premier Northwest” and the website URL:

Gall, with input from BCTC board members, created the design. “The image was chosen because it conveys fun and the idea of making memories,” she explained. “In our research, we continually hear about the memories people made in our area as children. Those children grow up, and now we want them to think about making those memories with their children and grandchildren.”

BCTC has a three month contract with Lamar Billboards: April through June.  The funding for outdoor marketing is derived from fund-raising activities and a grant from the tourism grant program administered by the Natural Resources Committee of the Burnett County Board of Supervisors.

After the design is submitted, graphic designers work to fit it onto a vinyl panel 13’ by 41’.  The vinyl is printed in Colorado by a company that specializes in large formats.  It is mounted on the wood backing using a 70-foot cherry picker and tension brackets. The days of painters or workmen on ladders gluing on huge strips of paper are long gone.

According to Lamar, I-35 billboards receive an estimated 81,904 impressions a week. “We can extrapolate information from DOT traffic counts to calculate the number of impressions,” said Gall. “We are able to track visitors and the general location from which they’re accessing our website.  All of that information comes together to determine the success of the outdoor marketing campaign.”

The billboard part of a multi-year BCTC marketing strategy that relies not only on large scale outdoor advertising, but also on social media, Google AdWords and print campaigns. “A robust social media campaign will piggyback off the billboard by using the same images and targeting the same geographic market,” says Gall. “You can’t just hit folks one time with your message these days – the advertising world is so cluttered. 

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