Like about 50 million other Americans, my family took to the road during this past Memorial Day weekend. And as traffic on the Georgia highways forced us to drive at 5 mph for extended portions of our trip, there wasn’t much else to do but stare at some of the billboards.

The main highways between Atlanta and Florida are filled to the brim with billboards tantalizing drivers about one roadside attraction or the next. Nine times out of ten, they’ll mention fresh peaches or pecans. A couple of them touted the number of clean restrooms just waiting for drivers who needed a pit stop. We’ve made all those stops in the past, and while candied pecans and fresh fudge are good, they’re nothing that make us pull off the road and stop.

Then we got to the sign that said, “SEE 20 FEET OF BEEF JERKY.” Not that’s a hook. Was it a 20-foot long aisle of beef jerky? Was it one really long piece of jerky? Either way, We had to stop and find out.

And that was how we discovered Buc-ee’s, a roadside travel plaza that is apparently a Texas institution but is spreading out to other states, too. It’s basically a combination gas station/department store/snack stop/quick-serve restaurant. The 20 feet of beef jerky was actually a long meat case, filled with different varieties of jerky, with employees offering samples to anyone who stopped to gaze and possibly drool over the offerings. A quick stop turned into an hour-long excursion around the place.

Who looks at billboards anymore? Well, my family did, and we spent a pretty fair amount because of it.

We put a lot of emphasis on social media marketing, and that makes sense, considering the time consumers spend there. But don’t overlook the value in a well-worded billboard, or a weekly flyer, a radio or TV ad, or a sign on an outfield wall at some baseball field. You never know what will be the thing that catches a consumer’s eye. There are multiple opportunities to create a buzz, to intrigue a new consumer.

Sam Gazdziak