Growing Pains: The Billboard on the Bypass

March 2016

By Julia Colborn

Shortly after the U.S. 401 Bypass was completed, a large, illuminated billboard appeared. This six-mile stretch takes vehicles around Rolesville instead of through it, and the two-sided billboard is located on the southern side of the bypass, coming from Raleigh.

The local business opinion about the billboard versus that of Rolesville citizens varies. With the town of Rolesville expanding, almost doubling in population every five years since 2000, certain growing pains are bound to come with it.

Billboard on the bypass

A 14-foot-by 48-foot billboard sits on the Rolesville bypass and has been met with mixed reviews.
Photo by Jeanne E. Fredriksen

Some town folk refused to talk about it one way or the other, “nothing personal,” of course. Most others were inspired by a moment of group conversation, be it with friends or strangers, before turning away to other matters. Similar sentiments were echoed over and over again, such as it’s “distracting” and “ugly”.

The out-of-towners and the Louisburg and Raleigh commuters don’t seem to mind as much.  Local citizens “know where the Bojangles is” and would rather see local, more Rolesville-specific establishments promoted. But businesses of all kinds need to succeed for the town to succeed.

“I love working with ma and pop businesses,” Aaron Guyton, representative of Fairway Outdoor Advertising, said during a local business luncheon on February 17 as he was describing the different types of businesses his company advertised. Sales are part of what he does for the company, and therefore personally works with, and gets to know, many of the businesses choosing to advertise.

The goal of the 14-foot-by-48-foot billboard is to better the community, with plans of advertising local events like the 4th of July Celebration. Fairway also partners with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI, to spread awareness about emergencies such as Amber Alerts or Most Wanted List updates. The ads on the bypass are run on a consistent 8-second rotation, and they are not day-parted or priced to showcase specific companies at high-traffic points of the day.

Reach and frequency are common terms in the advertising business. Reach relates to how many different people will receive the intended message. Frequency is how often they hear the message. According to Fairway Outdoor Advertising, approximately 30,000 cars will travel the bypass each day. Those are cars no longer driving by the storefronts through town.

Even with the estimated 20 percent of passersby who will not see the billboard, that still leaves tens of thousands who might not know Rolesville exists. However, advertising is a business just like any other.

One anonymous local business representative illustrated both sides of the billboard story when she said, “I don’t care if people run into (the billboard), as long as it works.”

It can be easy to villainize that point of view, but Rolesville is already starting to see the results. For example, in the few short months it has been advertising on the billboard, Granite Falls Athletic Club has begun to see an increase in membership signups. Consumers choosing local establishments over corporate chains is what will keep the town flourishing, and the billboard will have done its job – like it or not.