Fleets have long viewed their equipment as convenient and affordable vehicles for carrying their messages to the public. With digital technology making eye-popping graphics available to everyone, these mobile billboards deliver "stopping power," says John Kowieski, who, as director of marketing for Modagrafics, has helped develop several award-winning fleet graphics campaigns.
That same technology, which has reduced the cost of even the smallest runs, has made it possible for fleets to sell their truck skins to customers, suppliers, and other outside interests.
Kowieski helped one Chicago-area liquor distributor, Romano Brothers Beverage Co., do just that. He splashed a campaign for Brown Forman Distillers' Early Times Whiskey on 15 of Romano's straight trucks in the Chicago area. Brown Forman funded the cost of brand advertising.
"This was the classic win-win situation," he says. "As Romano Brothers makes its daily deliveries, these ads are seen in a very important place -- where Brown Forman's products are purchased."
For-hire fleets are carrying this concept to the next level. Consumer research on fleet advertising indicates that advertising on trailers motivates consumers to buy (see chart).
Another firm exploiting that niche, is MediaVehicles, a division of GE Capital Services, which specializes in shorthaul vehicles to enhance the reach of advertising in local and regional markets. Ads printed on a vinyl canvas are slid into the company's patented retention system. Typically, straight trucks offer a 7x24-ft. panel and tractor-trailers offer a 9x48-ft. panel.
"We choose our carriers carefully," says CEO Keith Rinzler. "You won't see one of our Rolling Rotaries on just any truck. Safety, financial strength, insurance, maintenance, cleanliness, route integrity, and driver cooperation all are important in developing the right partnership."
Activity reports filled out by drivers are sent to MediaVehicles and forwarded to clients. "Routes are the key," says Rinzler. "Each carrier's routes are evaluated for consistent pickup, delivery, service, and location of stops."
Until recently, the medium has been plagued by the lack of good numbers. In fact, many people rely on research conducted by the American Trucking Assns. more than two decades ago, which shows that over-the-road trucks generate more than 10-million impressions a year, while intracity trucks deliver 16-million impressions each year. Given the increased traffic on the road, that number may understate the size of the market.
MediaVehicles has developed a mechanism to establish the number of trucks needed to achieve a certain level of rating points in a market and a separate system to measure reach and frequency.
Today, fleets have at their disposal tools to help measure these parameters. Through global positioning tools, fleets have the ability to pinpoint truck locations and time of day. This helps provide advertisers with the information they need to justify the buy.
To help this effort, Modagrafics' Kowieski suggests having a call to action on the side of the unit to help determine the effectiveness.
Done right, the money is good -- carriers can receive up to $2,000 per vehicle per year. Steve Anastase, president of Pettyco Express, Jacksonville, Fla., made $50,000 in its first year with MediaVehicles. "It's 100% profit."
"But truckside advertising is not found money," says Kowieski. "It takes a lot of work and commitment." The following are some of the factors that must be taken into consideration:
Conflicts of interest. Imagine a Roadway unit, emblazoned with the Nike swoosh, pulling up at Reebok headquarters for its next load. That shoe won't fit.
Limits to flexibility. When an advertiser buys a specific route, that trailer cannot be pulled off that route and pressed into service on another route without jeopardizing the fees they are being paid.
Accountability. Outside parties may want access to internal routing records.
Keep it clean (I). Certain fleets may have a code of ethics that precludes the use of potentially objectionable advertising such as liquor or tobacco products.
Keep it clean (II). Advertisers demand clean vehicles, forcing fleets to wash vehicles more frequently than normal. At a cost of at least $50 per washing, keeping trucks clean can quickly siphon off some of the added revenue stream.
Tough sell. For fleets used to selling freight services in the traffic department, identifying prospects and then finding the right people to carry the message may tax limited resources. That's why they lean on firms such as Rinzler's and Kowieski's.