Billboards appear along every major road and highway in the country, advertising a variety of products and services, and UCF is using this advertising medium to spread awareness.
“UCF has an amazing story to tell about the successful students, amazing research and the outstanding education. Billboards are one of the tools we use to spread that message,” UCF spokeswoman Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala said.
Gonzalez Kotala said UCF currently has nine billboards located in Seminole and Orange counties, which cost about $21,600 per month to operate. The university has also reserved billboards for use through March 2016, bringing the total cost to $129,600.
“We find they are an effective method of sharing UCF stories within Central Florida,” Gonzalez Kotala said.
Reaching local consumers is one of the best things about this advertising medium, said Joan McCain, an advertising and public relations associate instructor in the Nicholson School of Communication.
“When you look at billboards as an advertising medium, one of their greatest strengths is that they reach virtually every local resident,” McCain said. “They are a very strong advertising medium for local businesses or organizations to reach local consumers.”
She also said billboards work extremely well for brand messages, which she said is essentially what UCF is trying to sell.
According to the UCF Graphic Standards and Brand Book, there are very specific guidelines for how the university can construct the messages displayed on this outdoor signage.
The UCF brand is anchored in six core concepts: people, preparation, partners, place, plan and personality.
The core brand concept can be summed up in UCF’s Brand Value Proposition, which states, “UCF is the university that seeks opportunities, creates opportunities and brings them to fruition. The university’s culture of opportunity is driven by the diverse people it attracts, its Orlando environment, its history of entrepreneurship and its youth, relevance and energy.”
UCF has promoted its brand with billboards ranging from athletic spotlights to highlights of certain academic programs.
“We use them as a tool to share the great things our students and faculty are doing and how they’re making an impact in the community,” UCF Marketing Assistant Vice President Patrick Burt said.
Many of the university’s current billboards are digital and are used to drive people to an interactive website, where they can watch videos about select stories and donate to the university.
McCain said these billboards are specifically placed according to data the university receives about traffic patterns and population demographics.
“The university works very closely with the outdoor companies to make sure they get the ultimate placement so the correct audience sees those boards,” she said.
In a world with so many other forms of advertising, such as television commercials or radio spots, some argue that billboards are a waste of money.
But McCain said, especially for a local university, these billboards provide the potential for more people to invest in the university — by buying season tickets for athletic events, for example.
“I don’t think it’s a waste of money. I think it’s unbelievably effective,” she said.
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer and Watchdog Reporter for the Central Florida Future.