MATS may change truck ad market

One of the perennial difficulties with truckside advertising has been the ability to show advertisers, on a real-time basis, how many impressions their message is generating when posted on the side of a commercial vehicle. That may change as MediaVehicles, a truckside advertising provider, rolls out a new tracking technology called the Mobile Advertising Tracking System (MATS). MATS represents the

One of the perennial difficulties with truckside advertising has been the ability to show advertisers, on a real-time basis, how many impressions their message is generating when posted on the side of a commercial vehicle. That may change as MediaVehicles, a truckside advertising provider, rolls out a new tracking technology called the Mobile Advertising Tracking System (MATS).

MATS represents the next step in proving to the advertising world that truckside advertising works, says Tony Polito, director of marketing for Atlanta-based MediaVehicles.

“MATS is a web-based system that will allow advertisers and especially advertising agencies to pull up trucks running their ads on a computer screen that are being tracked by satellite,” he says. “The route that truck is following is outlined in color and is updated every two minutes.”

What is unique about MATS, adds Jim Ewaskiew, MediaVehicles’ vp-information technology, is that the truck routes are tied to 1990 census data so advertisers can literally see what types of people are potentially viewing the ad as the truck passes by. The system will eventually be connected to the 2000 census data once it becomes available.

“For example, we can give each advertising a zip code analysis as the truck passes through a particular zip code area,” Ewaskiew explains. “That means you can pull up census data linked to those zip codes, such as the age of people in that area, their income, family structure, etc. You can also look at it in terms of the total route the fleet drives – the 50 truck fleet you have your ad displayed on spent 12% of their day in zip code 021, where 50% of the residents have income of over $100,000 a year.”

The key to MATS, says Ewaskiew, is rendering several different forms of data in an easy-to-understand format that is updated in real time. The number of impressions generated by each truckside ad – as in the number of people who view it – is calculated from another data link, this one to the Traffic Audit Bureau (TAB). TAB maintains extensive highway data, showing how many vehicles travel on a particular road at a particular time of day. That data is also added to the MATS connection for advertisers to review.

“Unlike a billboard, truckside ads move around,” adds Polito. “They are not set in one place, so they are more versatile in terms of their ability to reach people. That’s what MATS will show the advertising community.”

The market

Outdoor advertising is a $5.2-billion yearly business, of which truckside advertising accounting for about $30 million. Billboards still are the dominant force in the market – representing $3.2 billion or 60% of all outdoor advertising – but truckside advertising has been making some inroads.

MediaVehicles says, according to the American Trucking Assns., that 91% of people notice words and pictures on the sides of trucks. The company also points to a study conducted on behalf of PeoplePC, a computer maker, to show why it believes truckside marketing has enormous potential.

PeoplePC contracted with MediaVehicles to conduct a seven-month campaign in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco. MediaVehicles placed ads on the sides of 209 trucks running local, in-town delivery routes, with a heavy concentration in upscale areas populated with likely computer purchasers.

According to a post-campaign study conducted by advertising experts National Family Opinion (NFO) for PeoplePC, within the test market of Detroit, the campaign achieved a 30% increase in awareness of the PeoplePC product and brand name. The study also found that among target participants, the campaign led to a 54% increase in the number of people who considered PeoplePC when buying their next computer.

The cost of truckside advertising is also a factor, says MediaVehicles. Its research indicates that the average cost per thousand (CPM) for truckside advertising is $1.10, roughly 10% of the price for a quarter-page, black and white national newspaper ad. Truckside advertising also costs far less than the $18.90 for a 30-second spot on prime-time television, $9.14 for a four-color full page magazine ad and $5.57 for a 60-second ad spot on drive-time radio.

The system

MediaVehicles, founded in 1994 and purchased by GE Capital in 1996, also approaches the manufacturing of truckside ads a little differently than other suppliers.

It uses the patented Side Track system, which attaches four-color computer-printed vinyl “signs” to be attached to the sides of trucks using specially designed clips, rather than being adhered directly to the trucks. The flexible ads are stretched onto a 1.5-inch aluminum frame that is attached to the sides and rear of the truck’s body – framing that weighs less than 30 pounds and takes roughly 30 minutes to install.

The vinyl ads themselves are flexible enough to be rolled into tubes and shipped to where they are needed, says MediaVehicles. The signs can then be reused and easily stored or shipped from market to market, eliminating wasted signs as well as the high costs associated with printing and production, the company says.<.> Tracking the response to truckside ads has always been a critical component. MediaVehicles originally developed the Road-type Allocation and Density-based Allotments Report – or RADAR – system in 1997. It determines the number of people who see truckside advertising campaigns by examining the Federal Highway Administration’s most current statistics on local traffic density rates on roads in 390 urbanized areas, based on data from all 50 state departments of transportation.

The fleet benefit

The biggest plus for fleets, of course, is the revenue truckside advertising can give them, says Polito.

“Word of mouth about truckside advertising has been big among carriers,” he says. “They hear that some fleets are getting $150 to $300 a month per truck, which helps cut their fuel bill in half. We literally now have more carriers than we can use just because of those economics.”

However, it isn’t just free money for fleets, Polito explains. While fleets don’t have to alter their routes, or increase downtime for installation, carriers are examined by truckside advertisers closely to see how often they wash their trucks, how their vehicles are maintained, and – most importantly – how their drivers conduct themselves.

“Our philosophy dovetails with the truck professional’s philosophy,” says Polito. “We want to make sure their drivers are courteous, that they don’t cut people off in traffic, and that their trucks are clean every day. Fleets have those same goals, too, so we are both on the same page.”

Polito adds that, in some cases, drivers sometimes get some extra benefits, too, from truckside advertising. “Take McDonald’s, our largest customer right now,” he says. “They print up meal coupons for the drivers to use. So the drivers get to go get a free lunch on them. That’s one example of how truckside advertising is a little different.”

Also, with truckside advertising, there are no losers, says Stephen Freitas, chief marketing officer for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and head of that group’s Truckside Advertising Council.

“Trucking companies increase their revenues, brand marketers get their message out and advertisers get cost-effective, high-reaching placements,” he explains. “More and more companies are realizing that this method is a powerful marketing tool that shapes consumer attitudes and opinions. With the solid foundation truckside advertising has established, I think it’s safe to say that this medium is here to stay.”

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