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Driving Ads

Driving Ads
Felix Winternitz

Every weekday, Michael Ries strolls into his suburban office park, pulls up a desk chair and, well, calls it a wrap. Ries isn’t snoozing on the job. It’s just that wraps are his business—as in vehicle wraps. As vice president of Advertising Vehicles Inc. in Blue Ash, Ohio, Ries creates, sells and positions a huge array of billboard promotional campaigns, only these “billboards” boast wheels. It’s called mobile advertising, and it’s one of the latest salvos in the outdoor marketing industry.

“It’s a cool, cutting-edge thing. Very visual,” says Reis, a 1999 business graduate. What it amounts to is this: He can outfit any moving object with a customized, cut-vinyl exterior. Computers are used to simulate the vehicle’s geometry, then technicians adhere the plastic graphics to the exact shape of the auto. (Think Matchbox toys slipped inside Saran Wrap.)

The options for this form of outdoor advertising are so limitless that it now drives Reis crazy to see any white van or cargo truck lumbering down the street. White means blank. An empty side of a truck or car is a glorious opportunity wasted—a canvas without art.

City buses, tractor-trailers, buildings, helicopters (a Reis personal favorite)—any surface, in short, on which he can slap a sticky-back vinyl graphic is fair game. “Whatever you’d want to wrap,” he says. A client favorite: The series of six Metro buses that combined to picture a slithering 240-foot-long snake to help announce Kings Island amusement park’s new Diamondback roller-coaster.

Beleaguered mass transit systems are becoming particularly steady customers. “As budgets get tighter, cities are having to figure out other ways to offset the cost of public buses, drivers and gas—while keeping their fingers out of the taxpayers’ pockets.”

The revolving banners promoting signature products can be swapped out in 15 minutes.

“Making an impression on the eyeballs,” is how Reis likes to put it. And so far, the eyes have it.

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