Tri-Message on a Truck

Mobile Tri-Message signage is changing the face of the billboard industry. Mobile billboard trucks are adding yet another dimension to the advertising mix.

So what do you get when you cross three-message displays with mobile billboard trucks? You get a whole new realm of possibilities for advertisers.

Implementing tri-message signs on trucks is a booming trend in the sign business as forward-thinking advertisers embrace new strategies for communicating their brands in a crowded media market. Companies like Mobile Master Trucks, Gotcha Mobile Media, Ads On a Roll and AdMobile are driving the trend with custom-built trucks and business models designed to escalate the adoption of three-message display trucks.

“Mobile trucks displaying Tri-Action signs are starting to boom,” says Jaye Playter, former outdoor division manager for Jonesboro, Arkansas-based motion graphics manufacturer Action Graphix. “We are going to see more and more of these trucks.”

Multiple Benefits Drive the Trend
Several studies have been done to demonstrate the advertising benefits of both mobile outdoor media and motional displays. The Association of Mobile Advertising funded a study to gauge the efficacy of a campaign that advertised a fictitious brand of dog food in which three mobile trucks carried double-sided posters touting the Boomerang brand. Awareness increased by up to 32 percent among those surveyed and more than 70 percent associated the brand with mobile advertising.

Likewise, Product Acceptance and Research, Inc. (PAR) conducted a study of motional ads for the beer industry. PAR examined sales without any point-of-purchase display, with a static display and with a motion display. The results showed that implementing the motion display increased sales by more than 100 percent.

But proponents of mobile tri-message display trucks say the benefits of this new platform are multiplied exponentially because it combines the proven success of both concepts to take advertising to a new level, and often at lower prices.

Building Momentum
These benefits are garnering growing interest for the tri-message display trucks across the country.

Rick Johnson, president of Nashville-based Mobile Master Trucks, originally launched the concept several years ago after realizing that tri-message displays came in all shapes and sizes. After perfecting the vehicles and running a successful local operation, Johnson started franchising the concept under the name Gotcha Mobile Media in 2002. In 2004, Johnson sold the Gotcha franchising division to a California-based company, which has continued to grow the franchise organization nationally. Johnson continues to manufacture and sell tri-image billboard trucks to Gotcha Mobile Media as well as to independent entrepreneurs.

“In the beginning, the challenge was educating businesses about the effectiveness of this form of advertising,” says Johnson, whose company has been in the vehicle fabrication and advertising business for over 25 years. “Having your ad out on the road during rush hour traffic beats having your ad on a roadside billboard where 70 percent of those passing your ad are the same people every day. Now that the concept is more widely known, it’s an easier sell to advertisers.”

The Concept Catches On
Soon after Johnson started franchising his new concept, other companies started to spring up. Dave Buring started Memphis-based Ads On A Roll, LLC in 2002 with a different business model: direct sales to entrepreneurs. Buring once owned a traditional billboard company and built more than 100 tri-faced stationary billboards before he sold out to a nationwide firm and began exploring new avenues in the sign industry. While the notion of mobile advertising was appealing, Buris says he knew there had to be a better way to generate steady revenue from mobile advertising.

“I couldn’t see how we could consistently make money at a rate that was affordable to the customer – on a truck that had just two or three ads,” says Buring. “But tri-action signs allow you more opportunity on the same truck.”

His challenge was similar to Johnson’s: convincing people that the product will be effective. This concept is building momentum. Ads On A Roll has sold to entrepreneurs in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Orlando, San Diego, and others. The entrepreneurs are responsible for selling their own ads.

Bob Tarabella also started a mobile billboard company in Fairhope, Alabama, in 2002 “with the goal of establishing affiliates in markets across the nation and eventually provide advertising packages to regional and national advertisers.” His company, AdMobile, sells specialty trucks directly to entrepreneurs, who are then assigned exclusive territories.

“The economics of mobile billboard trucks from a business standpoint didn’t appeal to us because they can only handle one advertiser at a time, so you are at the whim of a few advertisers,” says Tarabella. “When your contract is up with those advertisers, then you have to park the vehicle until you get a new contract. We combine the effectiveness of Tri-Message with the effectiveness of mobility. Put the two of them together and you get a platform that’s new enough to get attention but not so far-fetched that it’s seen as just a novelty.”

Moving On Up
While the ads are undeniably eye-catching, proponents say safety issues are not any greater of a factor than with traditional tri-face signs or mobile advertising. The long-term outlook for this trendy advertising medium is bright, especially with stricter zoning ordinances for stationary billboards.

“The growth potential for this concept is huge,” says Buring. With more and more cities cutting down on billboards or creating stricter billboard ordinances, this type of product becomes more in demand. If presented properly, then this can be an incredible compliment to someone’s marketing campaign.”

Johnson says “Our sales at Mobile Master Trucks show that the mobile trend is also being embraced by the traditional billboard companies as a complimentary marketing strategy, but our sales to independent entrepreneurs who have no affiliations as well as to the Gotcha franchises far outnumber our sales to billboard companies.”

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