It's Summer and Marketers Hit the Beach

Verizon, Smirnoff Brand Umbrellas, Towels

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Up and down the country's coasts and abroad, beach-goers this summer are sunbathing on Smirnoff towels or seeking shade under Verizon umbrellas.
Promotions that supply beach gear live on beyond the initial weekend. Umbrellas and towels can be spotted on the beach throughout the summer or even years after an initial promotion.
Promotions that supply beach gear live on beyond the initial weekend. Umbrellas and towels can be spotted on the beach throughout the summer or even years after an initial promotion.

The vodka brand and wireless service, like companies before them, have hit the beaches to raise brand awareness, giving out free logo-emblazoned beach gear.

Hard to measure beach spending
Sand and surf advertising captures such a small amount of ad dollars that it's difficult to track, though the companies in the space all are seeing growth. "Beach advertising is such a small portion of everything that's goes on," said Douglas Frantin, chair of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America's STAR (Street Furniture, Transit, Alternative) board and president of Streetblimps. "I think that eventually as more dollars flow to our part of the industry, you may see it, but I don't think enough dollars have gotten down to us yet."

While it is difficult to measure the success of such campaigns, consumers are seen as more receptive to ads at the beach than they might be elsewhere. "They're not rushing through Grand Central, they're hanging out," said Matthew Glass, chairman-CEO of New York-based Grand Central Marketing, whose rates for beach promotions vary from one project to the next but has worked with budgets in the low six figures. "If you give them something they can use, they'll appreciate it."

A typical campaign from Grand Central Marketing covers a dozen beaches, commonly in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Los Angeles and Chicago. Where permits can't be obtained, the agency heads to parking lots and boardwalks to reach beach-goers. Encompass Media Group, another New York company, does promotions across the country that cost anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 for a weekend. Encompass handled promotions for Verizon and Aveeno in New York earlier this month.

Reaching that younger demo
Beach advertising is seen as a good way to reach a younger demographic. "They're the generation that's not at home watching the evening news," said Betsy McLarney, CEO of EMC Outdoor. "So you have to go where they play. I would think that [the beach] would be the obvious choice." Alloy's 360 Youth goes where the college kids play, doing promotions at spring break beaches that include handing out fliers and sponsoring sand castle contests.

Often, beach advertising makes too much sense not to use it, such as Lifetime's promotion for its miniseries "Beach Girls" last summer via Grand Central Marketing.

"In our market strategy we always try to have a balance of conventional and unconventional media," said Catherine Moran, VP-marketing, Lifetime. The upcoming series "Angela's Eyes," the syndicated debut of season one of "Desperate Housewives" and the movie "Mermaid Chair" will spend time on the beach this summer using aerial banners, until the end of August, from outdoor advertising agency Van Wagner.

Hyping fall shows
For TV networks readying new fall seasons, the beach is a place to reach viewers who are watching less of the tube during the summer. NBC took to the beach last summer with a campaign for "Surface" -- a sci-fi thriller focused on strange creatures found in the sea -- that utilized three companies and eight beaches.

"This was the first time we did anything on this scale," said Tim Farish, VP-media planning for The NBC Agency.

"Surface"-branded umbrellas, towels and an illuminating billboard made up a large part of the beach-dominating promotion, from New York-based Montage Billboards, whose rates are in the $40,000-range for a backlit board, $30-$40 per umbrella and $18-$24 per towel. Aerial banners done through Van Wagner bore the message "Surface -- There's Something in the Water," and branded barrels through the Adopt-a-Beach program in California completed the campaign.

"This program resulted in a large amount of buzz and a decent amount of print exposure," Mr. Farish said. "That was our goal -- to get people talking, go off the beaten path, and drive word of mouth advertising."

Unfortunately, "Surface" ran for 15 episodes before it was canceled.

Free gear gets reused
Beach promotions that supply beach gear also live on beyond the initial weekend. Umbrellas and towels can be spotted on the beach throughout the summer or even years after an initial promotion, a notion that appeals to agencies and companies such as Smirnoff and Verizon.

"It's a continued product," said Elan Nissim, CEO of Montage Billboards, which organized a Smirnoff promotion starting this week on French shores. "You get it all year long." The outdoor advertising service has branded more than a dozen beaches, both in the U.S. and in Europe.
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