Over 6,000 motorists westbound on I-70 near Manhattan each day will see what Great Bend has to offer, thanks to a planned billboard at exit 307 east of Junction City.
The number comes from the Kansas Department of Transportation and was reported to the City Council Monday night by Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. The billboard came up at a December council meeting and Hayes was asked to report back with the benefits of such a sign.
“I think we did the right thing with our money,” she said. The rent of the sign is between $400-500 per month and that is paid to the farmer who owns the land where it stands, and this is a bargain.
“Studies show that 71 percent of us often look at the message on roadside billboards, 24 percent viewers say they were motivated to stop and visit a particular store that day because of an outdoor ad message, and 21 percent of viewers said they have immediately visited a business because of an outdoor ad message.”
Do billboard work?
Some on the council asked in December if such a sign does the city any good by luring visitors to town. So Hayes contacted visitor bureau officials in other communities that have billboards. Hayes read their comments.
Sally Fuller from Liberal said it was hard to prove return on investment, but “I have had travelers tell me they got off one highway and traveled on another in order to pass through Liberal after seeing one of our billboards.” She said placement is important and like all things CVBs do, “if we don’t tell them we are here then they will not know.”
“My opinion, which is based on feedback I’ve heard from both my (Fort Hays State University) contacts and prior CVB directors, is that both entities have found success, plus have made the financial commitment to continue and expand with more billboards when they become available,” said Tammy Wellbrock from Hays. “Both are very pleased with the results.”
She has also had random discussions about them with friends (whether in person or online). “It is amazing how much additional conversations these billboards have triggered organically.”
In addition, Wellbrock said the more simple and graphically appealing the sign is, the better. “So many billboards try to pack too much information on a sign that you speed by too quickly to capture the details.”
Great Bend’s colorful 10x20-foot sign meets that criteria, featuring the Explore Great Bend theme, an on-going message for the city. With pictures of a lion at Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo, the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association dragstrip, fireworks over Veterans Memorial Lake, a City Band concert and the Trail of Lights Christmas display, it reads “Shop. Stay. Play.”
“This is a chance to get our name out there,” Hayes said. It also includes the website visitgreatbend.com and invites social media interaction.
The Kansas Wetlands Education Center owns the rights to the billboard, Hayes said. However, Site Manager Curtis Wolf told Hayes he wanted it give it up for a while and offered it to Great Bend for three years.
After the three years, the city and the center may rotate ownership. The farmer has agreed give the city and the center first crack at the location.
Hayes said the sign, which will be on a large sheet of canvas, is in the printing process now. It should be up by Feb. 1.
Riley-based Schurle Signs Inc. produced the billboard for the city.