Many of us spend a good deal of time on the expressways. No doubt you've seen hundreds of advertising billboards and vehicle graphics in your commute. Ever wonder why you don't remember most of them?

Here are some of the most common mistakes:

TOO MANY WORDS - Remember, even though the speed limit on most expressways is around 55 mph, in many areas, drivers are whizzing along at even higher speeds. So it's difficult for drivers to absorb more than 7 to 10 words.

WORDING THAT'S TOO SMALL - When you're up close to a billboard or vehicle the text seems huge. But try reading it at a thousand feet away and you'll be squinting. Unfortunately, graphic artists forget this fact. And they forget the 70 mph readability test. Insist on fewer words and HUGE type.

TRYING TO DUPLICATE A PRINT AD ON A BILLBOARD - This applies primarily to billboards. Sure, you want all of your marketing messages to have the same look. Key word here is "look," not just blowing up your magazine or newspaper ad to the size of a billboard. Because we view print ads closer, subtle effects work. But on a billboard, think about viewing at 70 mph.

NOT ENOUGH CONTRAST - I had to drive by this one billboard 5 times to even know what it was advertising. It was an ad for a popular workwear line and featured a subtle tan photo background with yellow and white lettering. Then there was the billboard for a romantic suites hotel that had a subtle gray photo background with rose colored lettering. What are these people thinking? Colors of similar intensity look like one big blob at high speeds and great distance. Best contrast is black (or very dark color) lettering on white or very light background. Boring, but readable under the 70 mph test.

CONTACT INFORMATION TOO SMALL - In a print ad, having a little box with your phone number or web site is sufficient. Being viewed on the highway at great speed and distance, it needs to be much larger.

In general, I wouldn't recommend using billboards for hvac contracting. But

don't forget that your work vans with lettering are mobile billboards. So use the 70 mph test for them, too.

(Editor's Note: from Thorne Communications' E-News, a free newsletter of business communication tips, with special emphasis on the hvac industry. To start a new subscription (tell your friends!) send an e-mail message with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject to Hpthorne@aol.com. For other promotional products including public relations and photography contact Heidi Thorne at 630-240-0371; fax 630-953-2534.)