My Self-Published Book, On A Times Square Billboard
How I bought the most sought-after ad space on Earth for $20
Recently, my book was advertised on a Times Square billboard, right between Forever 21 and McDonald’s. Pretty cool, right? Here’s how I did it.
Blip Billboards lets you advertise all over the U.S.
I used a site called Blip Billboards ($25 free credit). It allows you to advertise on billboards all over the U.S., paying per “blip,” or 15-second display of your ad.
I knew that, using Blip, I could advertise my book in Times Square, but I also knew that I couldn’t be there to see it myself. I would need to hire a photographer.
Running a test billboard in Chicago
So, to make it worth my while, I first ran a test. I don’t live in the U.S., so I couldn’t run a test where I live.
I chose my former home of Chicago, and put out a call for a photo on Twitter. Fortunately, a couple readers responded. Here’s one of their photos.
I got 722 “blips” for a little more than $65. That came out to about 9¢ per blip.
Running a test in Times Square
Now that I had tested the concept of buying a billboard, I ran another test in Times Square. Here’s what Blip’s bidding system looks like.
On the left-hand side, you see times and days you can select during which you’d like your billboard to display. On the right, you see and can adjust the values associated with each of the three bid levels you can apply to the schedule.
$20 per blip is the minimum bid for a Times Square billboard. I ran a test at this price, and it displayed once one day, but didn’t display the next. If I was going to hire a photographer, I wanted to be sure my billboard would show up.
The moment of truth…
I set a $250 budget for between 8–9 p.m. on a Tuesday, bid $31 per blip, and scheduled a photographer to shoot my ad. In retrospect, I should have played with bids of $20.01, $20.02, or $20.03, which would probably beat some competitors for the ad space.
I actually ran two ads. You already saw the first (at the top). Here’s the second.
My ad ran twenty times within that hour. Along with the tests, I spent $290 advertising in Times Square, but you could do it for as little as $20.
Did my ad sell books? I don’t really know. My book recently crossed the 10,000-copies-sold mark, and I wanted to celebrate with something fun. (It’s already very close to 15,000!)
I do know that when I shared this second billboard on Twitter, Tim Ferriss retweeted it to his 1.8 million followers.
I did see a bump in sales that day.
All told I spent about $500, maybe sold some books, and definitely had fun.
UPDATE, April 12, 2022: Now several days after Tim Ferriss’s tweet, I’ve noticed a nice lift in paperback sales (paperbacks often take a while to show up in reports). I have no other explanation for this lift (aside from randomness).