GH Firm Gets Show On The Road

February 27, 2004
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GRAND HAVEN — The company that found success by putting small advertising signs atop fuel pumps is literally hitting the streets with its latest product: mobile billboards.

Captive Audience Advertising of Grand Haven recently acquired a mobile billboard truck and plans to have it on the roads of West Michigan as early as this month.

Mobile billboards, common in large urban areas since the mid-1980s but seldom seen in the West Michigan market, are generally used at events that draw large crowds — festivals and venues for trade shows, sporting events and concerts, for instance. Other uses include trumpeting a special event such as a grand opening or product introduction.

After taking the concept of simple-yet-effective gas pump signs across West Michigan and into the northern Indiana market and toward Chicago, Captive Audience President Tom Kuiper wanted to offer clients a new advertising medium. He found it in mobile billboards — a product that makes for a nice mix.

“We feel this type of advertising is overdue,” Kuiper said. “We decided to add something to our media base.”

Kuiper said Captive Audience will launch the new product with a single vehicle. If the product is successful, the company will buy additional vehicles as demand grows, he said.

Kuiper would like to see mobile billboards represent about 30 percent of the firm’s revenues in five years.

The new market offers a sharp contrast to the gas pump signs that the small ad firm introduced six years ago. Those signs get an advertiser’s message in front of a person for a few minutes at a time as they fill up a car’s gas tank.

By contrast, mobile billboards provide a literal and figurative vehicle to target a quick and simple message toward a large number of people for a short period of time — in some cases only seconds.

Captive Audience has already sold time on its truck to an advertiser that plans to have it driven around the Grand Haven area during this summer’s Coast Guard Festival and to a client who’ll use it during the Cherry Festival in Traverse City.

The company has also talked to potential advertisers interested in using the mobile billboards to target people attending events planned at DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

In addition to leasing the vehicle, Captive Audience handles the creative element and produces the ads that go on the boards.

A small niche within the alternative advertising sector of the $5.23 billion outdoor advertising industry, mobile billboards on average generate 10,000 exposures an hour for an advertiser, according to market research.

“It’s very targeted in bringing that message directly to the audience we’re trying to match,” said Tony Rubleski, vice president of sales for Captive Audience Advertising. “It’s fun for us because it just opens the door for all kinds of business.”

Much of the business for the company now is in the gas pump signs, which are used at gas stations all across the western half of lower Michigan, from the Indiana state line to the Straits.

Captive Audience recently began to penetrate the Detroit, Upper Peninsula and northern Indiana markets with the gas pump ads and has targeted the Chicago area.

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