Christopher Dyson left the securities industry and life as a licensed broker, then jumped into the large format printing world. "I was struck one day with the thought that there was a great deal of wasted space on over-the-road trailers," notes Dyson. "At that point I began to investigate mobile advertising. This research led me to formally begin Ads On Wheels, Inc. in 2000 after spending nine months developing a business plan."
The company started off by specializing in mobile billboards, a service it still offers nationwide. In the last seven years the core business evolved, the bulk of which—90 percent—is now vehicle wraps. "We have become as proficient as possible with regard to the design, printing, and application of this form of advertising. We are proud to be one of the companies in the forefront of this industry," says Dyson. Other large format printing services include POP, billboards, and banners.
Operating out of a 5,800-square-foot facility in Merrimack, NH, Ads On Wheels has a large bay that is temperature controlled for year-round installations and able to accommodate vehicle sizes up to 53-foot trailers. Staff includes five designers, two managers, two on prepress, four print house personnel, an accounts clerk, and two salespeople.
Gross revenue for the company is approximately two million dollars per year, and Dyson anticipates that this number will increase by about 50 to 60 percent in this fiscal year. He attributes Ads On Wheels’ success to branding and industry awareness. "It is our intention to position ourselves in this industry as the leader of high quality, competitively priced vehicle and fleet graphics."
Vehicle wraps vary in price based on installation location, design requirements, and vehicle type. Each project includes four to five hours of free design time, materials, printing, and nationwide installation. Jobs can take about two to three weeks to complete from design to a typical one-day installation.
"We have a great following with existing customers and referrals from satisfied customers," notes Dyson. Customers range from small businesses with limited advertising budgets to bigger corporations like Best Buy and Nextel. Markets served include real estate, florists, beverage and liquor, construction, and radio stations. Installations are nationwide and will expand to Canada and Europe in the next twelve to eighteen months.
At the company’s startup, it was one of only a few to offer vehicle wraps; today there is growing competition. "Most of these companies offer services locally and do a limited number of wraps per year," says Dyson. "Many of the smaller sign shops are actually our customers." Ads On Wheels has added to its business by launching a reseller program where it provides vehicle wraps to local sign shops. "We provide wholesale pricing...and they can retail to their customers. We are very happy to see the market becoming a mainstream medium as well as a competitive arena."
"We keep a close eye on technological advancements as well as our competition," Dyson tells us. "We often exchange techniques and knowledge about our industry to help promote the business as a whole. Every industry grows with competition and we are delighted to help others become successful."
Marketing on the Move
Dyson finds that, "vehicle wraps are becoming the fastest growing outdoor advertising medium." He notes the sweeping spread of small businesses; unique, targeted advertising; and traffic congestion as contributing factors.
"Corporate downsizing and the overwhelming growth of small businesses across the country have led the way in developing new and economical ways of advertising," continues Dyson. "With so many advertising mediums available to companies, it has become imperative to differentiate yourself from your competitors. There is no better way, in our opinion, to do so than with vehicle wraps."
Dyson also adds, "There are about four to five hours a day wasted in traffic by 80 percent of the workforce. This gives a huge opportunity to advertisers to capitalize on the time and the assets—their company vehicles—during this time."
Ads On Wheels has done a good job of marketing through its Web site. The site receives about 18 million hits and 250,000 unique visitors annually. It includes a vast gallery of completed projects, a one-and-a-half-minute long time-lapse installation video, and a full media kit that describes design, production, and installation processes.
Vehicle wraps can have a life span of three to five years. The average wrapped vehicle will have over 700,000 impressions per month. According to the American Trucking Association and Outdoor Advertising Association of America, 91 percent of people notice and remember words and images displayed on trucks. In addition, the cost-per-thousand (CPM) of viewers reached by a vehicle wrap is much less compared to other advertising media—$20.54 CPM for prime time TV spots, $5.92 for morning radio, $1.78 for billboards, and only $0.70 for a truckside ad. These statistics and more are shared in the Ads On Wheels online media kit, which presents potential customers with reasons for investing in a wrap.
"As vehicle wrap specialists we have to remain on the cutting edge of technology," says Dyson. The company designs and prints all wraps in house.
Software utilized includes the Adobe Creative Suite, Alien Skin software, Bryce, and Xenofex, in addition to vehicle Adobe Illustrator-based templates from Canada and Germany. Printers used are all solvent-based—an HP Scitex TURBOjet, a Mimaki JV3-250SPF, and a ColorPainter64S from Seiko I Infotech Inc.
For substrates, the material of choice is 3M’s Controltac Plus 180C graphic film with a matching 3M Scotchcal luster hard overlaminate—3M 8519. A two-mil. opaque film, 3M’s Controltac Plus has a pressure activated adhesive and features unique Comply Performance technology. The Scotchcal overlaminate is also two mil., and provides additional UV and physical protection barriers to graphics. "Using the highest quality product allows us to offer our clients with a manufacturer backed warranty from 3M," adds Dyson.
The company does recognize that some businesses only need wraps for short-term promotions and events. For these situations they can offer a budget-conscious vinyl and a liquid laminate with no UV protection.
"We strive to be as environmentally friendly as possible," says Dyson. "We use the latest techniques to recover any by-products produced by our business and reutilize what resources we can. We have also begun to use eco-solvent inks in our wrap production process."
Branding About Town
Long Fence and Home supplies replacement windows, doors, siding, gutters, and kitchen remodeling in Beltsville, MD. The company approached Ads On Wheels with a need to develop mobile advertising. Their goal is to illustrate the different companies and offerings that fall under the Long Home Products corporate umbrella.
Ads On Wheels created original designs to wrap Pontiac Grand AM GTs using vector-based logos and high resolution images to highlight the company’s multiple divisions. "We were very conscious of keeping the design contiguous in order to further brand the entire company," notes Dyson.
Vehicle templates and physical measurements were utilized to ensure the wraps fit the vehicles properly. As it does for each client, Ads On Wheels created a JPG proof showing a five-angle view—two sides, front, rear, and roof—of the vehicle with the aid of vehicle templates.
Ads On Wheels has developed into not only a strong business, but also a powerful networking partner for other businesses. Strategic marketing and dedication to the industry as a whole has brought past success, and will continue to make the company a robust model in the market.