GPS makes truck ads work

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Carriers seeking ways to increase revenues might consider renting the sides of their trailers or straight truck bodies to advertisers for a monthly fee. It’s hardly a new concept; transit companies have had ads on their buses for decades. But truckside advertising has been a tougher sell for trucking operations, especially those that might wander beyond a narrowly defined area.

The market seems to be changing, however. According to one company, carriers can receive $200 to $300 a month for ads on both sides of each truck. Those fees likely will double by next year, says Tom Sweich, president of NxGenTelematics Inc. of Apple Valley, Minn.

NxGen recently signed a contract to buy 10,000 Fleetview Trailer Monitoring Systems, developed and marketed by Terion Inc. of Melbourne, Fla., over 12 months. The Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite-based trailer-tracking system can pinpoint the location of a trailer even when it isn’t hooked up to a power unit. NxGen plans to integrate this technology with its own wireless Internet-reporting technology to provide advertisers, agencies and clients with information on the visibility of advertising displayed on the sides of trucks.

To meet the accountability standards of the Traffic Audit Bureau for Media Measurement (TAB), the Fleetview GPS system tracks the location of a truck with ads on its sides in two-minute increments, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. TAB is an independent, non-profit organization that authenticates the circulation data of out-of-home advertising.

NxGen also has an agreement with Fleet Advertising Media Group (FAMG) of St. Paul, Minn., which matches advertisers with trucking companies. “GPS systems are critical in the sales and monitoring” of the ads; otherwise there’s no accountability for auditing, explains George Gearner, FAMG’s ceo and chairman of the Truckside Advertising Council of America. FAMG tested the Terion units specifically and found that they performed beyond expectations, Sweich says.

The out-of-home advertising industry uses the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Highway Performance Maintenance Standard as the model used to measure the number of people who see an advertiser’s message on the side of a truck. GPS data on a truck’s movements is entered into the model to generate an estimate of the number of impressions visible to occupants of cars passing in both directions as a truck travels on streets and highways.

TAB, with financial backing from FAMG and 3M Commercial Graphics, conducted a study to determine how to verify the number of exposures to potential advertisers. As a result, advertisers can receive the total gross and average daily impressions during a completed ad campaign. In addition, TAB performs an annual on-site audit with each participating fleet and truck advertiser to substantiate that they are using the methodology and software properly.

A 1992 study by the American Trucking Associations determined that an over-the-road truck can make over 10 million impressions a year. And a recent trial conducted for Seiko found that 40,600 commuters a day saw its ads on one truck.

Sweich credits 3M’s development of its Scotchprint Graphics for making truckside advertising competitive with billboards. “Ten years ago, it cost $50,000 to put a graphic on a truck,” Sweich explains. “Today, it costs $4,000. That’s about 65 cents per 1,000 impressions. Fleet advertising is the lowest-cost medium – about 55 percent less than billboard advertising in some markets.”

In addition to applying graphics on trucks and trailers, FAMG controls more than 15,000 trailers in the United States and leases them to carriers. The company offsets the lease payment with revenue from the ad.

Parry Desmond is executive editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. E-mail