In 1901, Foster and Kleiser saw a business opportunity in erecting signs with standardized sizes in prepared locations. Today, size standards for “out-of-home” advertising are set by the Outdoor Advertising Assn. of America.
There are two types of billboards: bulletins, and poster panels.
Bulletins are 14 feet by 48 feet. The sign is painted on vinyl in a studio, which takes about two days. A bulletin may have “extensions,” elements that stick out of the rectangle, such as the tip of a cigarette.
An advertiser buying bulletins specifies locations and the length of time the advertisement is to be displayed. Every 60 days the vinyl is taken down, trucked to a new location, and restretched. Bulletins are sometimes called rotary bulletins, because they are rotated from site to site.
A specialized type of bulletin is the permanent or spectacular bulletin, 20 feet by 60 feet. These are painted directly on the wood panels at the site. “Permanent” is a relative term; they are usually contracted for a year.
Poster panels are printed on paper. There are two sizes:
Today a 30-sheet poster panel is printed in 6 sheets, but around 1900 it actually was 30 sheets, each the size of a vaudeville poster. Poster panels can be distinguished from bulletins by their frames; bulletins have no frame.
In contracting for poster panels, the advertiser does not select locations, but rather how many cars are to pass the advertisement, by specifying a number of gross rating points of outdoor. Every three years, an organization called the Traffic Audit Bureau counts the number of cars passing a given billboard location on an average day.
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Last revised: 20 August 2004.