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Guest Columnist: Congressman David Scott (D-GA) Billboard Believer Goes to Washington

Date: February 24, 2003

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My name is David Scott and I want to share with you how outdoor advertising impacted my recent campaign for the US House of Representatives. I strategically placed billboards to reach commuters within the Atlanta Metro area. My target audience was a newly-drawn congressional district of 11 counties in suburban Atlanta. The new district is predominantly white and republican; African-American constituents account for only 38% of voter registration. I wanted to connect with my target audience and leave an emotional impression with a strong reaction.

Against the advice of my consultants who wanted to use television, I chose to use outdoor advertising for my campaign. I selected this medium for five reasons: 1) to connect with the constituents, 2) to target commuters, 3) to create an emotional bond with the voters, 4) to physically place my image in the district, and 5) to have daily repetition.

I wanted to “stand out” from the other candidates through the use of this very visible medium. I truly believe, I have been blessed by this opportunity to serve my district, and outdoor made this possible.

I rode the boards myself to find the best placement. My goal was to find the best “show time”. The boards went up on I-85 North and South, I-20 East and West, and I-75 with an additional 18 boards scattered throughout suburban Atlanta. These boards were posted beginning in Jan. 2002, although the election was not until ten months later in Nov. I wanted the billboards to “pop” and I wanted the commuters to connect with the boards as they passed them, day-in and day-out, growing accustomed to seeing me everyday.

Some of you may be curious about my background. I owned an ad agency before I was elected to the GA state legislature. I graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Marketing, so I understand the effectiveness and simplicity of outdoor advertising. I actually designed the billboard myself. I wanted a special blue that stood out, a “David Scott- blue.” I selected the perfect picture so constituents would identity with me. Finally, I needed the right typeface and color scheme to tie it all together. Simple lines, clean, no clutter and attractiveness were my main elements. I wanted constituents to look at the board and say “I like that guy.” And they did.

This election is a great testimony to the effectiveness of outdoor advertising as it is historic for the state of GA. Why you might ask? Election Day turnout was influenced considerably by heavy rain which made for a low voter turnout. Watching the results as they started to come in, I saw the incumbent Governor and US Senator losing their seats - both were Democrats. At first I was neck-and-neck, 50–50 with my opponent. Slowly my numbers increased and kept rising to a startling 59.6% finish over my opponent!

As a result of this win, I had the opportunity to attend a freshman orientation at the White House where I was introduced to the President of the United States. President Bush quickly recognized me and said, “You’re the guy I saw on the billboards in Atlanta. I told one of my aides that you were going to win. Your face was everywhere. I look forward to working with you in the future.” What a moment! It was then that I knew the true impact and effectiveness of outdoor advertising.

Would I use billboards again? Yes, and I have. I sniped “thank you” across my billboards to let my new constituents know how appreciative I am for their votes. It is a small thank you for a historically big win.

(David Scott served in the GA Assembly for 28 years. On Nov. 5 he was elected to US House of Representative from newly created District 13. He has been assigned to the Financial Services Committee.)

 

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