CBS Outdoor turns on templated ad builder

March 24, 2009 by Dave Haynes

CBS Outdoor recently formalized the launch of, a new Web-based service aimed at removing oneof the big barriers to entry for advertisers – creative costs.

The wannaBillboard program, in beta since last summer and first announced back in January,  is aimed at local and regional advertisers and lets them choose the basics of their billboard spot from a catalog of templated designs described as being of ad-agency quality.
Now the crowd at most creative agencies would probably spit out their cranberry mojitos at that assertion, but the templates are what I would describe as serviceable and certainly better than a lot of stuff we all see that somehow does get approved and slapped up on boards.
A news release describes how the “program offers clients more than 50 local categories to start from, letting advertisers choose industry-tested templates to start the design process. Entirely customizable, clients can then add in their business name, address and contact information, as well as a text code to action, in just a matter of minutes.”

The new program is just the latest offering from CBS Outdoor seeking to eliminate the lack of creative as a barrier to entry that has prevented many smaller advertisers from taking advantage of out-of-home media. No matter what the economic situation is like, businesses still need to advertise, and will allow them, both large and small, to access the kind of professional ad-agency quality designs they could not have afforded before.

The process begins with clients selecting designs from CBS Outdoor’s library of creative, which includes many categories of businesses and different style designs. The website allows advertisers to customize the ad space, including uploading their own logos into specified areas of the creative. They can also choose what type of media they want from a menu of different options, including billboards, bus ads, kiosks, bus shelters, etc.

Once the design process is complete, clients can search and then choose their preferred locations, using a map element to the site that allows users to zoom in on specific areas to see the billboard in its natural surroundings. Finally, lets the client request specific space for their signage from CBS Outdoor’s vast portfolio of outdoor media, one of the largest collections in North America.
This is interesting for a few reasons.
CBS is watching the downturn affect media spends by national advertisers and like all media companies, it is needing to work harder to get at what money is out there. The majority of its revenues are local and regional, and if taking the creative cost and hassle out of the equation results in closing more deals, that’s a good thing.
The templated ad thing has its limitations, but may make more sense in conventional billboards than anywhere else, because most people do no more than glance at them. I like CBS Outdoor’s decision to use the templates as the foundation for ads, but also their plans to take every submitted template ad and have their graphic designers buff them up so the font choice and look of the ad actually work.
Finally, for digital, I could see CBS Outdoor doing more with this platform, evolving the templates and eventually taking it digital. Wanna book an open slot on the digital boards on the major highways leading into the top 20 DMAs? Go online, find the locations and agree to the rates, build an ad or upload the jpeg (remember, most of these boards are just static images), get it approved by a gatekeeper, and up she goes … perhaps in a matter of an hour or two.
Some DS software platforms have ad templates as part of the offer, but the challenge has been most of what’s available in these platforms looks very much like templates, and don’t exactly grab attention.
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