Superman is famous for his ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Print providers can earn their own modicum of fame, and perhaps fortune, by wrapping buildings—but not in a single bound.
Building wrap demand is expected to enjoy healthy growth through the end of the decade.
"We estimate that the building wrap market will grow 15 percent between 2006 and 2010," says Ziki Kuly, director and GM, large format industrial solutions, North America, Hewlett-Packard.
The reason for success is as obvious as the application itself. On a crowded street or jammed stadium parking lot, large graphics matter. Wraps are part of a booming market—$7.28 billion in one year and counting—for outdoor advertising in North America, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
"Advertisers look for non-traditional ways to promote their message," explains Tim Boxeth, marketing manager, 3M Graphics Market Center. "Traditional advertising is no longer as eye-catching. Digital video recorders hurt TV advertising. So we’re really seeing growth in non-traditional ads, like building wraps."
"Outdoor advertising as a whole is growing rapidly and, by our estimations, building wraps are no exception, Kuly says. "The high and nearly constant visibility of wraps makes them increasingly appealing to advertisers to capture the attention of target audiences."
Agencies are attracted to building wraps because they’re unique and powerful, points out Jared Smith, president, Bluemedia.
But wraps do more than promote products, they disguise construction blight and, in some novel cases, promote art and local community events. Forward-looking property owners are integrating external graphics into building designs. One such owner worked with Bluemedia to create an exterior fixture to display grand format graphics—with a catch.
"He read the local ordinances very carefully," Smith recalls. "They said that you could place large graphics on your building if they didn’t have any words—it wasn’t considered advertising. So the owner decided he would feature large graphics from local artists and rotate the wrap two or three times a year, which was fine by us."
Leveraging local sensibilities and legal technicalities is a must. "If he had approached the town requesting to wrap his building, they’d have said no," Smith says. "But he wanted to use his building to showcase local artists and the town was all for that."
For print providers, offering building wraps delivers several positive returns. "At the end of the day, printing is a square foot business, and wraps give you a lot of square feet," Smith explains.
"The benefit of offering building wraps to customers is that it allows print service providers (PSPs) to diversify offerings and capture new customers," Kuly observes. "By adding building wrap capabilities, PSPs are able to support the growing outdoor advertising market and offer their customers another alternative to traditional advertising methods, one that captures a great deal of attention and is highly visible."
For a shop that wants to provide customers with a soup-to-nuts campaign, grand format applications like wraps are a must, says Layne Morey, VP of marketing, Lithographix. The company’s sales boomed when they added grand format printing to its capabilities four and a half years ago. "It’s a God-send for us. It differentiates us from other commercial printers."
Given the size, cost, and complexity, wraps aren’t the mainstay of a print shop, but they provides a leads into other work. "These is a limited client base that requests building wraps. But we use it to leverage our other applications," Smith explains. It’s also the perfect promotional vehicle for a shop’s capabilities. "We make our money on the public relations attention that wrapping a building provides," Smith adds.
Wraps do come with their fair share of challenges. Providing a full-service solution requires a significant investment in facility space, finishing equipment, and qualified installers.
Building wraps often have an uneasy co-existence with a town or municipality. The same elements that attract advertisers—size and boldness—can often run afoul of local ordinances. Careful preparation and coordination is required by the building owner, the ad agency, and the print provider. "Sometimes you need a city council meeting just to wrap a building," Smith jokes.
Wraps also require good partners. Not everyone can afford to staff qualified installers or staff every job site. Finding reliable, quality partners for installation is crucial. Using qualified installers limits a company’s liability, notes Morey. Even firms with qualified staff will occasionally need to sub-contract some installations with unique requirements.
"Our operators are certified to go up to 125 feet. But just because you have installers that can wrap that high, doesn’t mean you should allow them to constantly be wrapping that high," Smith cautions. For those capable of mastering installation, city-ordinance, and spacing challenges, building wraps are a good way to propel your business, Superman-like, to the top of the pack. Next week learn about popular devices used to print building wrap graphics.