The first mobile audit was conducted from Nov. 1 to Dec. 10, using three trucks bearing ads for Seiko watches that were seen by an average of 121,755 people a day in the Chicago area, calculated by using Global Positioning System devices located on each truck.
"We feel that TAB is going to be an important part of fleet advertising," said Dave Jessen, VP-sales and marketing for Fleet Advertising Media Group, Minneapolis, whose company produced the Seiko ads for the first audit. "It's what advertisers are asking us for."
Development of the new TAB methodology went forward two years ago after 3M Co. and Fleet agreed to contribute approximately $250,000 to TAB's efforts, according to Larry Hennessy, TAB's VP-general manager.
Advertising companies using the methodology will pay an upfront fee of $22,500 to cover research and development costs and an annual fee of $4,000 for the audit services. TAB had signed up nine members by mid-December.
The methodology uses information from GPS tracking devices, along with federal highway performance and monitoring data to estimate a daily effective circulation for truck-side campaigns. The majority of sightings are counted by traffic traveling in the opposite direction of the trucks.
TAB's new methodology provides a stamp of legitimacy to a business that Doug Frantin, president of New York-based Street Blimps, has struggled to make popular for 11 years.
"It's amazing how this thing progressed," said Mr. Frantin, who unlike most truck-side ad companies owns a fleet of vehicles that look like moving billboards. "When I first started, ad people would shut the door and tell me to get away. All of the sudden the advertising world changed."
While truck-side advertising spending isn't measured, outdoor ad executives report at least anecdotally an uptick on its use on U.S. highways.
Additionally, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and representatives from 44 truck-side ad companies recently discussed plans to form a truck advertising committee within the association to develop standards, ethics and lend a stronger voice to the medium.
The group is considering asking bus companies within the $300 million transit industry to join the committee to broaden the reach of the industry, said Stephen Freitas, chief marketing officer for the OAAA.
"As bulletins and more traditional out-of-home media have saturated and sold out, it's almost forced [clients] to look at different advertising areas," said Stephen Faso, director of strategic planning for Outdoor Services, an out-of-home media planning agency in San Francisco.
"To reach these busy people we're looking at combining various types of products, including fleet," he said.
Kip Kuroski, VP of Missoula, Mont.-based Interstate Media, hopes the new measurement figures will allow mobile advertising companies to make ad prices more competitive with traditional billboards even though the new TAB measurement doesn't calculate pedestrian viewing of trucks.
"Now with all the restrictions in municipalities about billboards and the high cost of boards in places like New York, we can offer new markets and cost savings," he said.
David Ludington, president of TransMedia Group, Chicago, said that with new digital printing technology and measurement, the fleet ad industry is poised for growth.
"I think there's an opportunity for us to bring [truck-side advertising] into the forefront as another part of the outdoor mix."