AdChoice LED Signs' Buyer's Guide

Check out our Buyer's Guide for everything you need to know before buying your EMC. Click any of the topics below to jump ahead to specific questions. When you're ready, fill out the form on the right and one of our project managers will be happy to assist you!

What is an EMC?

An EMC, or electronic message center, is a digital sign located on the premises of a business. EMCs are used to advertise products and services, promote sales, announce events or provide community information. An EMC is different from a digital billboard. Digital billboards advertise products and services, but are not located on the site of a business. The distinction is important, since the use of EMCs and digital billboards are regulated differently by state, local and federal government.

Ideal visual communications devices, EMCs are computerized and programmable. They allow business owners to change and vary messages frequently, without the risk and physical labor involved in manually changing letters on a static sign board. EMC technology has advanced quickly so that even basic models can store numerous different messages, vary messages throughout the day on a custom schedule, and even mix graphics and video with text to create interesting messages that motivate potential customers to stop in. EMCs are an efficient and cost-effective way to reach the people who are most likely to become customers – people who pass by your business on a regular basis.

What Kinds of Businesses Use EMCs?

EMC technology has undergone dramatic advances in the last few years, and cost of ownership has fallen. Because of this, all kinds of businesses, organizations and even governments can take advantage of the benefits of EMCs.

Government organizations have established themselves as regular users of EMCs, whether it is state and federal government placing EMCs on highways and interstates to provide drivers with updates and safety reminders, or local governments posting EMCs at city offices, libraries or schools to communicate important information to the local population.

Large businesses have also used EMCs for years. Casinos, theme parks, sports arenas, theaters and performance venues use EMCs to draw in crowds, provide special events information and advertise ticket sales.

Local banks have a long history of using EMCs to provide time and temperature updates, or to post the latest interest rates and other fast-changing financial information. With the recent drop in costs to purchase and operate, even small businesses are taking advantage of EMCs’ superior advertising effectiveness. A hardware store can advertise a sale on windshield washer fluid or snow shovels. A pet store can announce the arrival of a new litter of puppies for sale. A local church can provide announcements about Sunday services, meetings of faith organizations or a parish tag sale. The possibilities are endless and small businesses and organizations stand to benefit greatly from the dynamic and flexible advertising and communication options EMCs

Imagine the possibilities that EMC advertising could bring to your business or organization!

What Qualities Should I Look for When Shopping for an EMC?

EMCs come in various sizes and shapes. Your EMC salesperson should be able to advise you on the best models for your business site.

When shopping for an EMC it is important to choose a product that is high quality with a track record of reliability. You should look for a model that includes software that is easy to use and provides lots of options and flexibility. Be sure that the product has a good warrantee from a company with a reputation for excellent customer support.

Finally, be sure to pick an EMC that is fully UL-certified, an independent certification that you should seek for any electronic product. UL-certified, abbreviated for “Underwriters Laboratory”, is the gold standard of certification. Many municipalities will not allow non-UL signs to be permitted or installed. For liability reasons many electricians will not work on non-UL approved equipment. Canada is very strict in its enforcement of “C UL” certification. “C UL” represents the UL certification based on Canada’s stringent requirements.

Why Invest in an EMC?

An EMC is one of the most efficient advertising methods available to reach potential customers. It is more economical than traditional advertising methods, provides a more dynamic and timely message to potential customers, is environmentally friendly, and can help establish your business as a landmark. Using an EMC is also a great method to tackle the ever-changing demographics of your area and generate new customers.

Efficient and Economical

Businesses often assess advertising value based on cost per thousand exposures of their message to the public. By this measure, EMC advertising is the most efficient and cost-effective option, hands down.

Consider these figures from a study from University of San Diego School of Business Administration: The price and life expectancy of signage varies widely depending upon the type. Assume an investment of $16,500 in an EMC that lasts seven years. The sign will be placed on a street that averages traffic of 60,000 people passing daily. The cost per 1,000 exposures for such a sign would be just 11 cents. The same $16,500 spent in newspaper advertising would
cost $1.57 per thousand exposures, while television advertising would cost $6.60 per thousand exposures.

Further adding to the value of EMC advertising is the fact that EMCs target those people who are most likely to stop and become customers because they are passing right by you. EMC messages can be changed and varied every day, multiple times a day, versus static ads that appear in newspapers or on TV.

Timely, Dynamic Messages

Did your hardware store just receive a truck full of shovels and snow rakes, days before a big blizzard is due? Are you home to a group of accountants waiting to help people file their taxes? Are you launching a great happy hour deal at your restaurant? EMCs offer you the flexibility to create timely messages NOW. No waiting for print deadlines, production delays or publishing dates. An EMC is the most immediate, efficient way to deliver breaking news about your products and services to potential customers.

Environmentally-Friendly Advertising

EMCs use light-emitting diode (LED) lighting technology to produce text and graphics. LED lighting is one of the most energy-efficient forms of lighting available today, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Overall, EMC technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, and EMC signs continue on a trend toward even greater efficiency. In fact, when compared to traditional advertising media, such as print, radio or television, an EMC is more environmentally friendly. The environmental impact of equipment, paper and energy use associated with traditional advertising far exceeds that of an EMC. Leveraging an EMC for advertising or communication is truly an environmentally-friendly choice.

Establish Your Business as a Landmark

Use your EMC to make your business a landmark. Think about business sites that you have encountered that stick in your mind. What makes them stand out? Usually, there is something unique, or eye-catching. You can use your EMC to create the unique reputation that makes people remember where you are.

Some EMC owners post funny messages to make those driving by chuckle. Clever messages often stick with the reader, and they might repeat them to friends, family or co-workers later. “You’ll never guess what the sign in front of XYZ store said today….” Even though the message might have little to do with your products and services, you will be surprised at how your business will stick in the minds of potential customers, and they will remember your business when the time is right.

Expand Your Customer Base

These days, people are always on the move. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that approximately 12% of Americans move every year. That means a portion of your customer base may be moving on to other places, but it also means there is opportunity for new customers, as new people move into your area. The best way to reach those new to the neighborhood, or even those just passing through, is via an EMC. An EMC advertising message is more likely than
any other advertising source to motivate a new customer to visit your site. EMCs can prompt an “impulse stop,” and change buying habits, creating a new, long-term customer for your business.

What is the Cost of Ownership / Return on Investment for an EMC?

EMCs used to be a big financial commitment, but recently have dropped dramatically in price and are now an affordable option even for small businesses. EMC prices vary based on sign size and product quality, but as an example, a UL-approved, 3-foot by 8-foot size sign costs, on average, around $10,000.

According to the Small Business Administration, EMC advertising can result in a 15% to 150% increase in sales, making for a quick return on investment. Even at the low-end, a 15% increase can mean a significant bump to a company’s bottom line. For a business that generates an average of $1,000 a day, a 15% increase is worth well over $50,000, over the course of a year. For a business that averages $5,000 a day, a 15% increase is worth more than $250,000
annually. What would that kind of additional revenue mean to your business? That kind of sales increase over the course of the first year would pay for the EMC, with money still left over to pad the bottom line. Many EMC companies also offer attractive financing options, so that a company doesn’t need to make a large outlay of cash all at once.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is an EMC different from my sign?

Your sign tells the world who you are, but by adding an EMC you can also quickly let passersby know what you do, and give them a good reason to stop in.

A good sign is conspicuous and can convey a lot of information in just a few seconds. EMCs are easy for motorists to see. Because the letters are illuminated, they are often much easier to read than a static sign, and because the copy on the sign changes, an EMC often draws the attention of those passing by more readily than a static sign. Because of the lighting, EMCs may be easier to read at a greater distance, giving the reader an additional few seconds to take in all the information while still safely operating a vehicle. EMCs can also be made easier to read at greater distances by increasing the size of the letters, an adjustment that cannot be easily made with a static sign.

An EMC can help brand your business, provide more details on your products and services and drive an increase in customer traffic.

Should I be concerned about safety? Would my EMC be a distraction to drivers?

A well designed, properly installed EMC is not a distraction. Researchers at Texas A&M University published a comprehensive study in 2012, surveying 135 different sites where EMCs had been put on-premises of a business. The researchers studied traffic data at those sites, before and after the placement of the EMCs, and found no statistical difference in the amount of traffic accidents. “Based on the analysis performed for this research effort, the authors are able to conclude that there is no statistically significant evidence that the installation of onpremise signs at the locations evaluated in this research led to an increase in crashes,” concludes the report.

In fact, state and local government recognize the superior communication value of EMCs. These entities regularly use EMCs to provide traffic information or other civic news. If EMCs did create a risk of increased accidents, certainly governments wouldn’t be so enthusiastically embracing the use of this technology.

EMCs deliver exceptional readability and are conspicuous enough that they may actually increase driver safety.

Is an EMC the same as a digital billboard?

No. EMCs, or electronic message centers, are visual communication devices that display text and graphics and are placed on-premises of a business. A digital billboard is a visual communication device that is placed off the premises of a business. They are often found along-side highways. The distinction between an EMC and digital billboard is important because federal, state and local government often regulate the use of these signs differently.

Do EMCs only display text messages, or can they show graphics as well?

Many EMC products include software that allows the user to create sophisticated logos, images or other graphics. These graphics can be used in combination with text to create engaging messages to draw the attention of those passing by. Many high quality EMCs are also video capable, providing dynamic presentation of video clips.