Advertisers are getting the chance to literally take their ads to the street.
And a growing number of Canadian entrepreneurs are betting this will be the sector's next big thing, with advertisers able to reach an increasingly tuned-in and mobile society.
Winnipeg-based 24K Mobile rolled out two specially designed advertising trucks in Edmonton, as the Alberta capital becomes the new frontier for finding even more ways to get advertisers more bang for their buck, in mid-June.
But while the concept of putting an ad on the side of a truck - in essence, creating a mobile billboard - is far from new, this version takes the basic idea and kicks it up a notch.
|Photo courtesy of 24K Mobile|
|24K Mobile has sent its trucks into action across Canada.|
24K Mobile's trucks utilize a scrolling display system featuring rotating billboards on both sides of the truck, along with a third on the back.
The billboard display system can hold 20 individual ads in each of the three windows - the side windows measure five ft. tall by 10 ft. wide, with the rear windows at five ft. tall by five ft. wide.
Each billboard is typically seen for about six seconds before the next one scrolls by.
"Here's something cool and innovative and something different, something eye-catching," says Larry Finnson, president and CEO of 24K Mobile.
Finnson may be better known in the consumer world as Larry from Chris & Larry's Clodhoppers - a fudge and wafer candy concoction venture in which Finnson used to be involved. "Clodhoppers was built on guerrilla marketing, a take-it-to-the-people mentality and that's what these trucks are all about."
Initially, Finnson will concentrate on the scrolling billboard advertisements, but his plans only start there. He envisions a plasma-like television screen on one of the truck's side panels to be used at special marketing events, displaying appropriate footage such as a hockey game at a hockey event or even previewing films at a film festival.
The advertising trucks were initially test marketed in Winnipeg by Winnipeg-based Lime Media, which holds the Canadian rights for the vehicles, and are now being rolled out across the country.
"The idea has been around for quite awhile to have some sort of changeable billboards on a truck," says Robert Unger, the director of operations and owner of Lime Media. "You see a lot of them in the U.S. We started looking into it as there are a couple of different technologies and we came across Limelite (USA). We had approached them only to buy trucks for Winnipeg, but they liked our proposal and wanted us to do the entire Canadian market."
Lime Media also has an affiliate in Calgary - Roadshow Advertising. Other territories are in the works, including Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. Once all are in place, this will give Lime and its affiliates the chance to sell advertising on a national basis, as opposed to carrying local or regional ads only.
Even though it holds the Canadian rights, Lime's mandate is to work with entrepreneurs across Canada who actually run their own version of the operation - free to make their own decisions on how best to use the vehicles in a designated territory.
Investment costs are about $125,000 to $130,000 for one truck.
Unger has two trucks in operation in Winnipeg running three sets of routes. To help reduce the environmental impact of his trucks driving around, he added another dimension to his operation by picking up food products that are delivered to Winnipeg Harvest, a non-profit organization that provides food to people in need.
"I've fulfilled my obligation to (the advertising client) and I've also been a good steward by doing some pickups and drop-offs - usually in busy locations - where people will also see the truck," says Unger. "It's important that we all make an effort to do something like that and it's about being a good steward of the road and being efficient with your trucks."
Unger has also added a courier component to the operation, installing courier boxes in every truck he has sold so far.
Through an agreement with Dynamex Courier, a U.S. company with Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, this gives operators the opportunity to do "double duty" and deliver packages while on their routes.
Although just a portion of the ad trucks' workload, it saves Dynamex gas, as the ad vehicles are already on the road for advertising purposes.
In addition, Lime Media says it has plans to join the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association in order to contribute to research into renewable fuels.
Meanwhile, other advertisers may soon be setting their sights on a newer version of bus shelter advertisements.
The 4x6-ft. advertising panels found in transit shelters across the country currently have one major drawback - unless the shelter is illuminated, the ads are dark at night and unable to be seen by most people nearby.
Less than 30 per cent of North American bus shelters are fitted with illuminated ad panels, according to Carmanah Technologies Corp., which is undertaking to change that via a "green" option that uses solar energy.
The Victoria-based company, which specializes in solar-powered LED lighting and solar power systems, is about to launch the iPanel, a solar-powered technology.
This will allow outdoor advertising firms to install illuminated ad panels in any transit shelter, regardless of electrical tie-ins to the city's power grid.
The system has been tested in both Toronto and parts of California by utilizing an energy management system that includes solar panels on top of the bus shelter.
At night, the energy collected is used to illuminate the panels, providing advertisers with a longer window to market their products. In addition, the display technology employed means that less ink is required when printing the advertising posters.
"The advertisers came to us. They wanted to be green and they wanted more exposure for their posters," says Marion Randell, Carmanah's business development manager for transit.
"People on the street aren't really recognizing it as anything different - the lights just come on and the poster is lit up. The advertising community we're working with likes it very much, it allows them to expand their reach of places to do advertising and it appeals to a different group of advertisers who might want to be environmentally conscious."
The system Carmanah tested employed fluorescent light technology, but the company will roll out the product later this year using LEDs, which are brighter and have a longer lifespan.
Frank Palmer, chairman and CEO of advertising agency DDB Canada, says the iPanel is something that advertisers should like, especially in an age where going green is seen as the thing to do.
"Our business is about trying to come up with a unique way to get a message out there," he says.
"A lot of advertising becomes bland - but if you have an entertaining commercial or billboard, people will stop and look at it and it makes an impact, creating a movement to buy the product."
(Laura Severs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)