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Four billboards inside Los Angeles

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Life has a funny way of imitating the movies. The Oscar-nominated film "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" tells the story of a woman who rents three billboards and posts messages attacking the local police chief for not solving her daughter's rape and murder.

In Los Angeles, billboards have become the medium of choice for a variety of messages, most of them unrelated to advertising.

Before last weekend's Oscars, three billboards in Hollywood were hijacked with angry messages about harassment in the industry. One of them read, "We all knew and still no arrests."

Then four roadside ads popped up in L.A. on Wednesday, attempting to lure NBA superstar LeBron James to the Lakers.

The same day, four more billboards cropped up to protest the latest Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk.

This week, four billboards popped up outside of Palm Springs last week, celebrating tennis star Serena Williams' return to the court. They were rented by her husband.

To understand why billboards have suddenly become so popular in Southern California, Take Two spoke with Tim Nudd, the creative editor of AdWeek magazine.

The "Three Billboards" effect

That's part of it. We write a lot about billboards at AdWeek. It's a medium that's been under rated lately with so many people focused on digital. People forget how powerful a billboard can be. The movie helped. There's been a lot of parodies, but these LeBron ads were pretty interesting and then the Serena ones too.

The allure of using old-fashioned roadside advertising

In some ways, the Internet has helped billboards because first of all they're quite cheap to buy and they're up for weeks on end, so they become part of the fabric of the city. Now part of the strategy is to photograph them and try to make the photos go viral. If you have a clever idea, you get millions of impressions for a single billboard just by paying a few thousand dollars.

What makes an effective billboard

Simplicity. You can't use too many words. It's dangerous for drivers, for one thing. When you put up a billboard, it's a grand statement. Imagine the guy who wants LeBron to come to L.A. Putting the message on a web site, nobody would care. You're putting up something that's bigger and larger than life. It's a grand gesture, and if the message is simple enough people pay attention and absorb the message.

The best place to put up a billboard in L.A.

If you're up for spending a little more money, the Sunset Strip is still the epicenter particularly for the entertainment industry. They were called vanity boards at one time. L.A. has such a car culture. Almost anywhere in L.A. it will get more eyeballs than usual. Hollywood, downtown LA and along the 405. People have plenty of time to look at them on that highway.

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