The Power of Repetition Compels You (To Buy Liquor, Apparently)

We drove out to beautiful Tybee Island yesterday, and while there’s a lot to be said about that on a variety of topics, one thing really struck me funny on the trip.

Around exit 212 heading out of Atlanta, I noticed a series of billboards. Billboards advertising a liquor store.

These billboards didn’t do anything unusual as far as billboards go. In fact, they couldn’t have been more straightforward. “Liquor Store, exit 212,” they advertised. “Liquor Store, just ahead,” they proclaimed. “Liquor Store, just two miles” they slavered.

No suggestive pictures of women. No mouth-porn of frosty beers or bottles dripping with icy condensation. No clever wordplay.

The unique thing was, there were ten of these billboards. (That I counted.)

Ten is a lot, and it’s doubly a lot when they occur within a space of about five miles, and when their sheer number and volume overpowers every other ad in the area. Ten is enough for me to think, that’s a heck of a lot of billboards, maybe I should count them. Ten is enough to make you wonder if you’ve driven out of the universe you know and into an alternate reality wherein instead of a series of fast-food restaurants and dubious tourist attractions and real-estate salespersons, the only thing a town has to offer is a liquor store.

Needless to say, by the time we got to exit 212, the only thing on my mind was this liquor store. How big was it? Did they offer fancy specials, like a free beer cozy with purchase of a carton of imported tequila (worm included)?

But we didn’t go.

Because, really, is one liquor store not, more or less, like another? And even if one store really is unique, is it worth making a special stop for? And even if it is worth making a special stop for, am I really going to make that stop when I have my kids and family with me in the car? Of course not. But the fact is, I wasn’t going to stop even if I was driving by myself. Because a liquor store is one of those need-based excursions (and yeah, I’m not going to get into the complications of saying “need-based” when alcohol is clearly not a need of any sort). You need booze, you go to the store. Nobody goes to the liquor store to schmooze around and shoot the breeze.

Do they?

So it left me wondering. Billboard space on I-75 is not cheap; investing in even a single billboard is a pretty major expenditure, especially for a locally-owned business. Ten (or more) billboards is obviously even more of an investment.

So how much revenue does a billboard for a liquor store generate?

How much revenue do ten billboards generate?

How does the owner of a business make the decision to buy out ten billboards, rather than, say, five? Or seven? Or two?

All that repetition definitely made their store the focus of my thinking, but it didn’t make me pull over and visit, which is ostensibly the purpose of a billboard.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether all those ads — or at least nine of them — were totally misplaced.

And that got me thinking about writing, though I can’t really answer my own question in any useful way today, because I’m a little too sun-baked to really noodle on this stuff (all I can do is idly muse, my thoughts drifting this way and that like a lazy ocean breeze, not unlike the one drifting past our balcony at the moment).

How much can you repeat yourself before you turn an audience off?

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