New Market For Gas Pump Ad Firm

August 26, 2002
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GRAND HAVEN — Landing a Petoskey casino as a major client will boost a Grand Haven ad firm’s efforts to penetrate new markets with a unique yet simple form of advertising: gas pump billboards.

Captive Audience Advertising last week struck a two-year deal with Victories Casino & Hotel for 100 of the promotional signs installed on top of gas pumps throughout northern Michigan.

Representing the largest advertising client the company has ever secured, the Victories Casino contract provides Captive Audience “a lot of instant credibility” in pursuing new business and expanding markets, said Vice President of Sales Tony Rubleski.

“It’s pretty significant. It really helps to prove we are a viable media,” Rubleski said. “It will add a lot of credibility to what we’ve been doing the last two years on the business.”

Captive Audience Advertising now has advertising signs atop gas pumps at 260 gas stations in communities along the Lake Michigan shoreline, stretching from St. Joseph to Mackinaw City, with a core market of Holland, Grand Haven-Spring Lake and Muskegon.

The company leases the space atop the gas pump from station owners and then sells a small billboard advertisement to advertisers. With a waiting list of potential advertisers and not enough available fuel pumps to accommodate them, Captive Audience this year began targeting the Grand Rapids-area market and the Ludington-Manistee-Traverse City corridor, Rubleski said.

Captive Audience, which maintains the signs and handles graphics work for the ads in-house, will make a push into the Kalamazoo and Lansing markets later this year or next year, he said.

“We know there’s demand there. It’s just getting out there and expanding how many stations we have,” Rubleski said.

The plan is to target the Detroit area within 12 to 18 months. The company has begun receiving inquiries from representatives at businesses on the east side of the state who saw the signs when they were traveling in West Michigan, Rubleski said. He also raises the possibility of taking the idea regional or national, perhaps through franchising.

Right now, Captive Audience is focusing on its target markets and building a client base of both advertisers and gas stations.

The gas pump ads are designed to help a client build name recognition and awareness and serve as part of a client’s broader advertising strategy and mix, Rubleski said. In pitching gas pump billboards to potential clients, Rubleski focuses on the three to five minutes a person takes to fill a vehicle’s gas tank and the average 27,000 visits a typical gas station receives monthly.

“You’re just staring. There’s nothing to look at,” he said. “If you think about it, there’s not much else to do when someone’s pumping gas except to stand there and read the sign on top of the pump.”

Captive Audience’s present client roster includes a broad mix of businesses, from small retailers like flower shops to banks and professional services such as real estate agents and homebuilders — “anything that’s promotion-driven,” Rubleski said.

He believes the deal with Victories Casino & Hotel will enable Captive Audience to penetrate a new client niche in professional sports teams and tourism and hospitality-related businesses.

“We look at it as an alternative to other marketing and a very affordable way to promote your business,” Rubleski said.           

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