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Vocational Truck & Trailer

Trailer Billboards

By Marek Krasuski

Glancing at billboards on the sides of 53 ft trailers, particularly off Highway 400 north of Toronto, serves as a potent reminder that retired trailers can continue to generate income. There’s lots of square footage of advertising space on the side of a trailer, and if placed on heavily trafficked commuter routes, strategically distanced from roadsides, it can generate a lot of views from passing motorists. There’s also the dual advantage of 3,400 cu. ft. of interior storage space. A billboard on wheels can be partially or fully wrapped and can be moved to different locations – ideal for upcoming events and trade shows. Retired trailers may not be for everyone wanting to catch consumer attention. After repeated viewings of the same ad in the same place the target audience loses interest and no longer takes in the impression. Moreover, negotiations with landowners whose space is required to place a trailer may be difficult.
In many cases supporters of trailer-side advertising prefer mobile billboards. An increasing number of fleets are renting trailer space for ads. So while Carriers are generating revenue from the cargo they carry inside a trailer, they can also convert the outside of their trailer into cash, generating hundreds of dollars each month for the advertising space they provide.
Compared to retired trailers that move around from time to time, advertising on semi-trailers reaches a far wider market as the trailer moves from pick-up to delivery destinations on any given day. Fleets with a nationwide network of trucks and trailers can offer massive advertising exposure to clients willing to rent their exterior trailer space. Adverts which usually come in the form of wraps that can be tied around a trailer and easily removed function as mobile billboards with all information in one place.
Advertising is measured in CPMs or cost per thousand impressions. Cost per thousand impressions through traditional media – from outdoor billboards to radio, newspaper, magazine and television ads – range from $3.50 to over $23.00 per impression. Advertising on semi trailers is considered to be much more cost effective.
Getting your ad on a trailer takes some research. Start by considering your target market. If a product is being sold in a contained geographic area of the province or country there is to need to advertise on trailers of a national carrier where the advertising message will miss its intended market. Conversely, if the advert has a broad market reach then a national carrier with trailers across the country is advisable.
Contacting an advertising company that works with Carriers is advisable. Prices of trailer space will vary depending on whether the ad goes on the side of the trailer – 50 ft. x 13 ft. – or the back – 8 ft. x 13 ft. Wraps are the preferred advertising choice, but there may be alternative materials to consider. Moreover, an advertising specialist will assist with ad design, content, colour, etc. to maximize the impact of the impression on the target audience. These companies with connections to Carriers can customize truck routes and provide round the clock data about trailer location and exposure ratings.
Moving-trailer billboards can reach several cities in any given day and yield wide exposure, potentially reaching thousands of civilian drivers and pedestrians. The fact that trailers travel 8 to 10 hours every day 4 to 5 days every week means they attract potentially millions of views per month. Internet reports cite that mobile billboards increase brand awareness 15 times more than other advertising forums and that 85 percent of people who see mobile ads actually read them; this compared to less than half that amount for stationary billboards. Further, 97 percent of viewers who read mobile billboards remember the message – impressive retention rates to be sure.
As with any good program there is always the underbelly of problems and challenges undermining the credibility and effectiveness of an idea. Among them is the reluctance of Carriers to farm out their valuable advertising trailer space. Companies prefer to self promote with custom branding on their own chattels. So why lease trailer space when they can advertise their own product and service? They want to reach viewers for their own businesses, not someone else’s, especially the competition. To be sure, Tim Horton’s wouldn’t want to rent billboard real estate to Starbucks.
Advertisers also need to take into account the vagaries of the transportation industry. FTL and LTL services dominate the industry. These routes are often unpredictable; worst, loaded trailers are left at Distribution Centre (DC) docks while the driver hooks up another preloaded trailer for delivery. Meanwhile the trailer with the mobile billboard sits at the dock until unloaded at the DC’s convenience. Trailers, then, are subject to downtime and their maximum viewing exposure is compromised.
Moreover, Carriers are hired by Shippers to haul their cargo. These businesses may be offended if their Carrier is advertising a competing product or company on their trailer side. As well, a Distribution Centre owned by a major chain could take exception to a trailer pulling into its dock bearing an advertisement showcasing the competition. It may even cost the Carrier its contract with the Shipper. Moreover, Carriers and their Shippers may be wary of renting billboard space to companies known for high value products. Criminal types may be under the impression that trailer contents belong to the company advertising on the trailer side, thereby heightening risk of cargo theft.
All said, working with the right advertising company can help to circumvent these potential pitfalls. Some companies will design and produce the vinyl banner intended for the trailer. They will also coordinate logistics and GPS units to provide online truck tracking showing where the truck is each day and for how long. Close monitoring can help the advertiser ensure maximum exposure as per details of the contract. And while semi trailers maximize geographic exposure with trailers rolling down provincial and interstate highways, another advertising alternative is medium duty trucks and trailers that deliver in highly populated towns and cities, without fear of trailers sitting idle in Distribution Centres.
Despite pitfalls, which can be overcome with good research and the assistance of advertising experts, truck side mobile billboards offer cost competitive benefits, strong brand exposure to targeted markets and easy viewing from distances – compelling reasons for further consideration.

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