Banking on traffic: Billboard is talk of the town


April 6. An old-school billboard for a local bank is getting a lot of traction on the new virtual town square called Exit 28 Ridiculousness. The billboard for Cornelius-based Aquesta Bank is located on the northbound side of I-77 between Exits 23 and 25—where traffic comes to a virtual standstill most afternoons. And mornings. And evenings. And even late at night.

The billboard’s catchphrase is: “Local bank—Speedy decisions. Unlike your local highway.”

It has caught lots of attention—more than 325,000 impressions on the hyper-clogged artery.

A picture of the billboard is on the top of the Exit 28 Ridiculousness Facebook page. The group, organized on a lark by Cornelius resident Amanda Dudley, has 6,177 members. It’s a hotbed of discussion about everything from the design of the new bridge at Exit 28 and the plan to toll I-77 between Lake Norman and Charlotte to HB2 and coal ash.

Aquesta is spending $3,000 a month on the 10-foot by 36-foot billboard which is illuminated at night.

It is Aquesta’s first entrance into billboard advertising. “Given the location we were going to advertise, it immediately struck me as a great place since traffic is routinely stopped there and I thought ‘everyone will see it!’  This led me to thinking of a humorous message while letting our community know that we understand its frustration with the I77 mess,” said Laura Engel, a marketing consultant for the bank. Her husband, Jim Engel, is the CEO.

He was one of the first members of the Lake Norman business community to come out against the toll plan.

It was almost a year ago that John “Mac” McAlpine organized the “I-77 Emergency Call to Action” in a theater room at the now-closed Michael Waltrip Raceworld in Cornelius. The CEO of Aquesta attended, along with more than 150 business people.

The opposition has grown more strenuous by the month, even as NCDOT and Gov. McCrory dig themselves in deeper into a rut of epic proportions.

The additional exposure on Exit 28 Ridiculousness is free, of course. Whether it comes at a price is anyone’s guess, given the spirited discussion on the Facebook page, which included speculation about whether Sen. Thom Tillis was an owner of the small community bank.

Tillis, who has been vilified on Exit 28 Ridiculousness, is apparently a stockholder in Aquesta. So are hundreds of other people, but at least one participant in an Exit 28 Ridiculousness discussion oddly enough seemed to take Aquesta to task because the former NC Speaker of the House was a stockholder.

CEO Engel responded:

“Aquesta has more than 600 shareholders. As a local bank formed in 2006, many local people bought stock, including Thom. I am grateful for their support. But, his ownership (assuming he hasn’t sold) is very, very small. Try buying a few shares of Bank of America and then see how much say you have. Aquesta donated funds to fight the tolls. We believe these tolls will be terrible for the area. Our shareholders don’t get a vote in this decision. Hope this clarifies things.”


2 Responses to “Banking on traffic: Billboard is talk of the town”

  1. Join the Exit 28 Ridiculousness group and keep up on the latest happenings
    in the fight against the Tolls. More news coming soon. Click on the link and request to join:

    Posted by kchenette | April 6, 2016, 6:14 pm
  2. Jim, absolutely one of the best marketing ideas, thanks Aquesta!

    Posted by John Wixom | April 6, 2016, 6:21 pm

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