As I headed into the town of Speedway, IN, to attend the 100th running of the venerable Indianapolis 500, I noticed billboards everywhere that wished drivers “Good Luck” and a “Safe Race.” These omnipresent advertisements, mostly purchased by big, national sponsors, didn’t merely add to the carnival atmosphere of race week, they also upheld a time-honored proposition of value and effectiveness that rivals any other medium on earth.
I searched the Signs of the Times (ST) archives to see what was going on in the realm of outdoor advertising in 1909, the first year that cars ran in Indy (although the iconic Brickyard wouldn’t be built for two more years), and was surprised at what I found.
Outdoor advertising was already a thriving industry, with such slogans as “Every Turn of the Wheel,” and, by 1909, ST had established a popular, outdoor-advertising section devoted to billboards and bulletins that were popping up all over the country’s new thoroughfares.
In these days of digital information and the Internet, it’s counter-intuitive to think these modest postings would still be a viable way to “Tell the World” about products and services, but billboards and the outdoor-sign industry are as effective now as they have ever been. And nowhere was that more clear, than on the road to Indianapolis, during race week.Advertisement
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