Distraction or attraction: marketing mobile takes to streets
It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a pick-up truck with three LCD screens?
You may have seen the Promotion with Motion truck driving on 95, or cruising Route 2. Really, you can’t miss it.
With three 5.5 by 3.5 foot flat screen Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screens on the back and both sides, this truck is a television junkie’s dream on wheels.
Jeanne and Brian Evans, a husband and wife team, dreamed up and designed this truck as a new marketing tool about three years ago. It’s taken that long to go from concept to creation.
Brian, whose background is in information technology, was struck with the idea while stuck in traffic. He previously worked for a company north of Boston in Danvers, Mass. and dreaded his commute home. Sitting in gridlock traffic on Route 128, he would have nothing to look at besides the bumper of the car in front of him.
And that gave him an idea: put something on a car that wasn’t a static, paper advertisement. Brian decided to create something eye-catching and ever changing.
Once they had the idea, Brian and Jeanne began doing their research. They visited a symposium in Las Vegas where they saw the latest technology for digital and electronic advertising.
But they couldn’t simply put a standard television screen on their truck, and they needed something that would be crystal clear even in broad daylight.
What they decided on was a hybrid of LCD and LED (light emitting diode) technology. The back end of the system is LED, but the front end is a LCD screen. The combination allows for sharper images and visibility even in bright sunlight. Special solar sensors tell a computer on the floor of the cab how bright to make the image. A generator in the payload supplies the power for the screens, unless the sun is so bright that it requires the system to draw extra energy off of the truck’s engine.
At night, the screens dim to ensure the images are not distracting or blinding.
“At night it’s gorgeous, the LED is crisp,” said Jeanne. “It’s like a pretty, clean aquarium – soft on your eyes.”
The Evans’ said the nighttime images are “very manageable and not distracting.”
Advertisements on the truck are not only viewable from behind the vehicle, but from the sides and even from oncoming traffic.
Brian has rotated to two peripheral screens to 37.5 degrees, an angle that he says allows for optimal visibility, and doesn’t require drivers to turn their heads.
“Cars coming towards us have observation without having to turn,” he said. “We want to be safe, courteous and efficient. We haven’t caused one accident.”
The only speed bump the Evans’ hit was with their insurance company. When they finished their truck, their insurance provider didn’t know which class to put them under. So for a few months, they Evans’ journeyed onto the roads without insurance. Finally, the insurance company created a class for them, and it’s been smooth sailing since.
The Evans’ say they’ve put “way over six digits” into the truck.
“It’s expensive because it’s self-contained,” said Brian.
The truck’s screens are powered by a generator, framed with galvanized steel and protected by crash-resistant Plexiglas. Though the screens should be protected against all of the elements, the Evans’ are thankful they haven’t had to battle with winter storms yet.
“We’re happy it hasn’t snowed,” said Brian.
In addition to the flat-panel screens, the truck is equipped with a sound system, and can blast music and audio tracks in multiple directions.
They’ve brought the truck to special events and places like the Women’s Expo, Warwick Vets High School, the Warwick Mall and WaterFire. They’ve also parked on the side of the road to advertise special sales that retailers may be having.
“We’ve had police officers dancing in the streets,” said Brian.
Other than the dancing, police officers don’t mind the Evans’ truck.
According to the RI DMV, there are no laws that prohibit the Evans’ from having electronic displays on their vehicle.
“We got the Bible from DOT,” said Brian, who said the vehicle meets safety standards, as well as height and weight restrictions.
“We’re carrying a payload in the bed of the truck, it’s easier to see around than some scaffolding they carry,” said Jeanne. “We use a quiet generator and a special heat vent.”
“There is no specific safety and emission control regulation that prohibits advertising on vehicles,” said Debbie Rich on behalf of the RI DMV. “However, if there was some sort of safety issue (missing, loose or damaged parts) that would be grounds for inspection failure.”
The Evans’ say their vehicle passes inspection because they did not alter the physical characteristics of the vehicle itself, and just made modifications.
As far as the signage itself, the Evans’ said a law created in 2008 prohibits such electronic ads from changing more than once every ten seconds. Some of their ads contain movement, like a shooting star or waving flag, but because it is the same ad for the duration of the ten-second interval, it is not in violation of the law.
“There are laws that cover outdoor advertising and place enforcement in the hands of cities and towns,” said Rich, who is not aware of anything that falls under the DMV’s jurisdiction.”
She gave law 31-23-38 as something that comes close.
The law reads: “No television viewer, screen, or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast shall be located in the field of view of the operator of the motor vehicle. Any person who drives or causes to be driven any motor vehicle in violation of the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars. This section does not prohibit the use of an electronic display used exclusively for safety or in conjunction with a vehicle navigation system.”
The RI DOT and Attorney General’s office both said they were unaware of laws that would apply to the Evans’ vehicle.
But Brian and Jeanne are quick to admit that the full depth of regulatory issues for such forms of transient electronic media has not been explored.
“We haven’t even started to touch the dynamics of this technology,” said Brian. “As the industry begins to mature, other regulations will go into place.”
The Evans’ say that the novelty of their Promotion with Motion truck makes it more effective than traditional advertisements.
“You’re desensitized to it,” said Brian of things like signs and billboards.
“You cannot not look at me,” he said.
The Evans’ offer a multitude of different packages to advertisers based on the time of day and week they are on the road. Packages range from $500 to $1,595, with the most expensive being for mid-week rush hour exposure.
“It’s a fabulous audience to advertise to,” said Brian.
Brian has begun driving the truck up and down Route 128 during rush hour.
“Can you imagine the number of eyeballs?” he said.
He believes he can reach 1.4 to 1.6 million people on Route 128 over the course of one month.
Brian and Jeanne said the majority of those who have seen the truck already give them positive feedback.
“It’s 90 percent thumbs up,” said Brian. “But some people criticize it.”
“Younger people explode for it,” said Jeanne. “The older generation is a little more cautious.”
The Evans’ admit that their truck has been responsible for some traffic jams. They say people tend to slow down to look at it, which gums up the commute.
“There’s nothing this size out there in the country,” said Brian.
Jeanne said she knows of similar prototypes in cities like Cincinnati and Seattle.
“We’re entrepreneurs,” said Jeanne, who is proud of their design. “We’re definitely the first with this. We want to grow a fleet.”
For more information on Promotion with Motion, visit promotionwithmotion.com.