J-Mac’s Corner

Jessica MacIntosh - Editor-in-Chief

Jessica MacIntosh – Editor-in-Chief

Jessica MacIntosh

You are driving down Interstate 44 toward St. Louis, heading out for an important convention. Going through the smallest of towns and seeing nothing but farmland and trees, the ride may seem endless to you. While you are riding down that two-lane road, passing various cars, trucks and semis, you can’t help but notice every billboard on the side of the road.

Ranging from the typical cheap hotel advertisement to an exit here for this specific restaurant to the occasional adult video store (do not get any ideas on this). Nevertheless, there is one set of billboards that surpasses all of the billboards between Joplin and St. Louis and advertises so much I am surprised people do not go because of over advertising.

Meramec Caverns adorns the sides of Interstate 44 with its blue, white, yellow and red signs, advertising anywhere from a giant billboard to a barn roof. Anywhere you go, there they are. You see everything Meramec Caverns has to offer.

You can see Jesse James’ hideout (sorry, it’s not that Jesse James from Monster Garage), see the caverns themselves, take riverboat rides, stay at the motel and even eat 23-some different flavors of ice cream.

One of the billboards says exactly that about the food. Every few miles one of the billboards just pops out from behind a cluster of trees, scaring the you-know-what out of you. Is it necessary that these advertisements also be in groups of two or three? That’s certainly going to get tourists to go.

This made me wonder how many signs there really are. On my way to St. Louis last weekend, I decided to run a little experiment. While traveling eastbound on Interstate 44, I counted the number of Meramec Caverns billboards, and then coming back westbound, I count those as well. I then compared the two numbers. I counted exit signs and green or brown state highway signs as part of this experiment.

I noticed going eastbound there is more of a concentration of these plague-like billboards after Rolla. Westbound, the concentration is after Six Flags in Eureka. In both directions, there is a whole slew of these signs right before you arrive in Stanton where the caverns are.

The sign that cracks me up every time is going westbound when you miss the exit completely. It is blue with the Meramec Caverns symbol and an arrow in the formation of a circle, saying “Turn Back.” What is funny is the next exit for you to be able to turn around is more than two miles away. There is no easy way to turn around.

But, back to the experiment, after several tally marks on notebook paper and countless recounting, the numbers are officially in.

In roughly a four-hour trip from point A to point B, Meramec Caverns signs eastbound 41, westbound 48. Westbound advertisements win by seven. Now the question is how effective are the 89 signs together.

The second part of this little science project is I contacted Meramec Caverns and found out they have more than 160,000 visitors come see the caverns every year.

Let’s compare that to the St. Louis Arch. According to the Web site, they have as much as 6,400 visitors per day. If you multiply that by 365 days, the Arch has more than 2,336,000 visitors each year. In other words, the advertising is less effective for the caverns than for the Arch, where they do not advertise as much. Overdoing it could be the problem.

I do not know whether I would want to go considering how much advertising they do. Meramec Caverns kind of beats it into the ground.

Besides the countless drives home to St. Charles at semesters’ ends, the signs are just another eyesore. The less the better, and drivers probably will not pay enough attention to them to really care about going. Their eyes are on the road, not looking at the signs.