WMU News

Companies buying ads on personal vehicles

Aug. 18, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- You may not have to go far to see an advertisement for a new product. You may only have to look at the car parked in the street in front of your house.

Several California-based companies are paying drivers to wrap their cars and trucks in ads touting everything from ice cream to Internet services, and a WMU marketing professor says the trend could spread. The marketing plan, which pays drivers up to $400 to wrap their vehicles in advertising messages, is a low-cost, innovative way to advertise locally, says Dr. Betty Parker, associate professor of marketing.

"I think companies are trying to find inexpensive, unique ways to cover local markets, as opposed to national markets," Parker says. "People who are in local markets tend to look at the local newspaper, shopper ads, radio, that kind of thing. But beyond that, there aren't a lot of unique opportunities. So these dot-com companies are obviously in the forefront and they want to do some exciting, interesting things. So I think they've turned to an out of the ordinary, kind of hip way of marketing."

But, Parker adds, the advertising strategy does have a few drawbacks, including an image problem for more up-scale products. Advertisers also run the risk that the driver will be caught speeding or parking illegally.

"I think the other issue is sensory overload and clutter," Parker says. "We've seen billboards really go down in terms of prestige. So I think this way of advertising has a real wear-out factor in that once you see that clever message a couple of times, it sort of loses its novelty. And I think the other thing is that, the more we're seeing this kind of thing, the more cynical people are becoming. It's like one more way of assaulting our senses with another advertising message."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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