BIKE MESSENGERS CARRY VITAL VISION'S AD HOPES: NEW OUTDOOR SIGN CONCEPT ROLLING IN N.Y., EXPANDING TO LONDON, S.F.

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Bicycle messengers may not be known for courtesy on the roads, or for their spiffy appearance. But new outdoor sign company Vital Vision hopes to improve their image while giving advertisers a new medium.

Launched in New York a few months ago, the fledgling bike-board company-which pays messengers to rig their bicycles with a patented 12-by-18-inch sign that sits behind the messenger-is expanding into London with 30 bikes this week and has plans to move into San Francisco with another 200 by February.

Only 150 bikes with ads are on the road in New York presently, but 75 are being added each month.

LOOKING FOR INNOVATION

Gary Saunders, the former director of marketing-artist and repertoire at Down Low Records and the Vital Vision creator, said that while at Down Low "we always looked for innovative ways to get our message across."

That became more important as cities such as San Francisco began cracking down on "street snipes"-posters used to promote new record albums.

The idea of putting them on messenger bicycles landed him his new business.

Vital Vision tested with signs from Coca-Cola Co. in April, and is now negotiating to promote the soft drink giant's new citrus brand, Surge. It also is negotiating with Nike, Mr. Saunders said.

Arista Records and MCA Records already have used the boards for event promotions, and XL Recordings sought out the medium for London-a move that's behind Vital Vision's entry into the U.K.

"They were very passionate, I liked their enthusiasm and I thought it was a really interesting idea," said Ken Levy, senior VP-creative services at Arista, which bought 25 signs for its "Money Talks" soundtrack album. "After people were asking the messengers about the album, we had to send over 500 fliers to tell more about it."

ANGLING FOR NATIONAL ADS

The goal is to have a 75% national advertiser mix.

"It wasn't in our business plan a year ago but the opportunity came up and we're doing it," said Cliffit Malloy, Vital Vision national sales director.

Ad rates are $175 per sign monthly, with discounts on multiple usage.

Vital Vision pays messengers $100 a month to have their bikes outfitted and to occasionally hand out brochures or cards for advertisers.

"We're trying to clean up the image of the messenger," said Mr. Saunders, noting that uniforms may come later, though the bikers are actually employees of various courier companies.

"Pedestrians have their boards but these are the only boards at eye-level for motorists," said Mr. Saunders.

Unlike the growing use of "moving billboards"-sign trucks-Vital Vision doesn't

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