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Billboard Epic

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In America, driving long distances are practically a cultural phenomenon. So businesses take advantage of this by putting up huge signs along major roads. This trope happens when these billboards are meant to be read sequentially as you keep driving.


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    Live-Action Films 
  • In Rat Race, Merrill and Vera stop their car next to a lady selling squirrels on the side of the road to ask her where to find the interstate. She offers to sell the ladies a squirrel repeatedly, and, finally, Merrill angrily declines and asks her if she knows where to find the interstate. She answers that she does, then she explains a short-cut to it, giving Merrill and Vera directions. They follow her directions, which eventually leads them off the road; going this direction, they unexpectedly drive their car down a steep, rocky, hazardous incline, unable to stop. Sequential separate signs on the slope read, in order, "YOU" "SHOULD" "HAVE" "BOUGHT" "A" "SQUIRREL"; after the final sign, they careen off a ledge in their car into a pile of wrecked cars below. Having landed front-first, the rear of the car falls down, propelling the contents of a wrecked car ahead of them onto their windshield - a skeleton holding a bag that reads "I <3 squirrels".

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Saturday Night Live commercial sketch has entire novels literally printed on billboards. They show all the people benefiting from this: a family takes a Sunday drive so their kids can read Swiss Family Robinson; a trucker claims, once he finishes reading Sartre, he can get his degree; an elderly couple speaks about this being how they want to spend their retirement. And then the punchline:
    "Brought to you by the Petroleum industry."


    Web Original 
  • Played for Drama in the Alice Isn't Dead episode, "Signs and Wonders," where the trucker, on a long stretch from Florida to Atlanta, stumbles upon a series of old, minimalist black-text-on-white billboards that she initially takes for some defunct Viral Marketing. The first says "HUNGRY?" The rest are names. Distracted by fatigue and some fresh evidence culled from missing wife Alice's laptop, the Narrator fails to comprehend what she's looking at until she thinks to google the names. When newer boards appear, she's forced to reckon with their implications.

    Real Life 
  • The most famous example, if not the Ur-Example, is ads for Burma-Shave (The Other Wiki has an article here), which were arranged to form rhyming poems.
    • Back in The ’80s, the state of Virginia had signs done in the Burma Shave style in certain places along major highways (including a set at the airport entrance to the Dulles Toll Road warning regular traffic not to use the inside lanes). Likely because American Safety Razor (the company that owns Burma Shave) had one of their main plants in Virginia at the time.
    • In Illinois, perhaps elsewhere, people use Burma Shave style proto-billboard poems to advocate Second Amendment rights, and the use of ethanol as a fuel additive.
  • On Interstate 95, there is a Mexican-themed tourist trap just south of the North Carolina border in South Carolina called, well, South of the Border. As late as the 1990s they had billboards up and down the east coast, starting in New Jersey on the north end and Florida on the south, all bearing corny slogans and often telling the driver exactly how far away they are from the place. ("ONLY 100 MORE MILES!")
  • Along I-10, from Texas west through Arizona, are a series of billboards advertising "The Thing" attraction in pretty much the same manner as South of the Border.
  • On any given interstate highway in Texas, there are snarky billboards for Buc-ee's, a chain of freakishly large gas stations with convenience and souvenir stores at least as big as a standard supermarket. They advertise aggressively along the interstate highways with signature black billboards that can show up over 100 miles away from the nearest location; they have even popped up in other states (one such billboard along I-10 in Florida advertising the Baytown location states "737 miles - you can hold it!")
    • Florida's own Busy Bee gas stations are similar to Buc-ee's, only scaled-down, and follow a similar model of sequential black billboards leading to them.
  • On I-80 in Wyoming, there is a tourist trap that has billboards for hundreds of miles. Once you get within twenty miles of the place, the billboards are incredibly thick.
  • Only five-hundred miles to Wall Drug, Wall, South Dakota, another tourist trap that runs billboards for hundreds of miles. They also offer free glasses of water, and, back in the sixties and seventies, gave away hundreds of thousands of glasses of water a year, often to truck drivers.
    • South Dakota is the only state with unregulated billboards, because the owner of Wall Drug was once the state's advertising regulator. Wall Drug will also make signs for visitors to post locally, which means there are Wall Drug signs all over the world (including advertisements in Paris and London's Underground for a while).
  • Anyone posted to Ft. Stewart, GA has had cause to drive along Highway 144. As a part of the new safety campaign, the US Army has posted roadside signs in just this manner along it. Some argue it helps stops drivers from falling asleep out of boredom.
  • There is a farmer's market in southern Ohio that puts up a bunch of signs like this, forming a sentence word by word.
  • Driving eastbound on Interstate 70 between Columbia (where the University of Missouri is located) and St. Louis, Missouri, there are a series of six billboards reading M I Z Z O U, playing on the call-and-response chant heard at sporting events. There are also smaller notes at the bottom about being the "#1 CHOICE OF MO H.S. SENIORS", and how to get tickets to games, because what's the point of billboards if you're not going to make money off of them?
    • Oddly enough, these billboards are only visible after leaving the town where the school is - why advertise something you've already passed?

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