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How Big Marketers Chase the Sunbathing Demographic

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NEW YORK ( -- As sweltering temperatures drive waves of consumers away from TV, computers and their normal commuter routes and toward the distant shoreline, the industry of summer advertising is once again in full swing.

What looks like just a cute photo op is actually part of a very large business. A promotion crew from Encompass Media displays umbrellas twith logos hat are a routine part of the company's beach campaigns.
Along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, the business has evolved into something of a good-natured war zone as specialized marketers gear up to envelop the sandy-footed crowds in a constant barrage of marketing messages delivered by land, sea and air.

Tens of millions
"Summer is a big time for us because we can reach tens of millions of people in a single day," said Jim Butler, a partner in the aerial media division of Van Wagner Outdoor Advertising. The company, which has aerial services offices in New York, Florida, and California, sends banner-towing planes along beaches from coast to coast.

Mr. Butler notes that aerial advertising is effective because "you have a 100% captive audience," often packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a prone position with not much else to do but notice low-flying airplanes dragging color billboards behind them.

Depending on the plane's route and the audience the marketers intend to reach, an aerial banner towed up and down a major beach during both days of a peak summer weekend could be seen by close to 550,000 beachgoers on the Jersey shore,

Aerial banners, which have become ever more graphically sophisticated, are now routinely used by large marketers to reach beach crowds.
765,000 visiting Lake Michigan, or 1,275,000 relaxing in southern California near Los Angeles.

On the waves below, Photosails Inc. of Fort Lauderdale provides another way to reach dense beach crowds -- via sailboat sails emblazoned with huge images and messages for advertisers' products. The floating billboards stand out dramatically along beach venues where traditional billboards -- and even the distribution of commercial fliers -- are typically banned by local ordinances.

Sailing through legal loophole
Aaron Kiss, founder and CEO of Photosails Inc., said the company started when his charter sailing company in Florida was banned from advertising to beach crowds with fliers. His inventive solution was to print his business' logo and contact information on his boats' sails and make trips up and down the shore. Kiss essentially navigated his new venture through a legal loophole. "There is no authority overseeing what is put on sails," Mr. Kiss said. "It's advertising that can get around."

He said the initial floating ad campaigns worked so well for his own company that he began to sell the service to other marketers. Since then, Photosails Inc. has provided advertising services to Tequiza, Bacardi, Cadillac, Volvo, and other large marketers. Photosails Inc. not only manufactures the sails and sells them to marketers and the public for their own uses, but the company also uses its own set of boats to sail the custom sails in front of the beach-side audiences on the marketer's behalf.

"We provide the captain and the crew and all the licensing because more large companies don't want to expose themselves to that sort of liability," Mr. Kiss said.

The company is now setting its sights on NASBOATS (National Association Sailing Boats Organization Acquisitioning Targeted Sponsorship), a new racing series that will allow the large color advertisements, which are against most series' regulations, to appear on the sails of its catamarans.

Navigating through a loophole in beach laws prohibiting billboards, Photosails equips fleets of sailing craft with advertising sails. This one promotes Captain Morgan Rum.
On the beach
Meanwhile, out on the sand and boardwalks, event marketing agencies such as Grand Central Marketing have small armies of workers distributing logo beach umbrellas, beach chairs, towels, flip-flops and other giveaways that promote marketers' brands.

"This is a fairly competitive means of advertising," said Grand Central CEO Matthew Glass. "But beaches are segmented, so that helps. We can go to beaches where we know the teens will be or, for Lifetime, where we know the older women will be -- we know whether to go to Jones Beach versus the Hamptons." The company has a client list that includes National Geographic, Comcast, Canon, and NASCAR.

Mr. Glass said beach promotions work because the target audience is relaxed and open to getting free things. However, he noted that it helps to have marketers back up their branding programs with nighttime events in bars or through radio and aerial advertising.

The New York shop is now conducting promotions on 10 beaches on both coasts and Chicago's lake shores for Lifetime channel's new mini-series Beach Girls. For programs such as this, the marketers often manufacture the flip-flops to have the show's logo imprinted on the soles so beachgoers can literally spread the word as they wander across the sand.

E-mail photo postcards
The Beach Girls marketing program may also include online photo postcards of friends together on the beach that would be waiting in their e-mail inboxes courtesy of Grand Central and Lifetime by the time they make it home at the end of the day, Mr. Glass said.

Mr. Glass said the company will be using similar methods to help Warner Bros. re-brand the cartoon character Tweety bird to appeal to teenage girls. Bright yellow Volkswagen Beetles driven by young "Tweety Girls" will soon hit the beaches to help distribute Warner Bros. products.

Grand Central loosely estimates that a beach program will reach an average of 5,000 people a day at each beach. Their longer, multiple-market campaigns that range over several weekends can reach 200,000 to 250,000 consumers, and nighttime events in these long-term campaigns often spread the word to close to 300,000 consumers.

Grand Central's Tweety re-branding is part of a three-year program that extends beyond the beaches, but Mr. Glass said a typical beach program costs approximately $400,000 to $500,000 and includes radio promotions, beach teams, premiums, and aerial advertising for two weekends in five to 10 different markets. The company also does much smaller "guerilla marketing" programs on beaches that include a promotions staff and premiums for $50,000 to $100,000.

'Unsuspecting sunbathing folks'
Another New York company, Encompass Media Group, promises to get marketers' messages to "unsuspecting

Beach 'n Billboard of New Jersey sells the equipment that allows beaches to be paved with advertising imprints each morning.
sunbathing folks." It takes a similar route to Grand Central's by passing out beach umbrellas emblazoned with company logos. The company, whose past customers have included Jennifer Lopez's lingerie line and the WE Network, is planning a beach campaign for Verizon this summer.

Costs at Encompass Media Group range from $15,000 to $25,000 for one market to $100,000 for multiple markets, said Adam Pierce, the company's president.

Mr. Pierce stressed that it's difficult to estimate how many people these campaigns reach because the premiums last longer than one day on the beach. "Not only from that first impression can people see them (the umbrellas), but people bring them back all summer long," Mr. Pierce said.

Ellen Stone, director of marketing for Lifetime, said umbrellas promoting last year's new Lifetime shows Missing and Wild Card are still showing up at beaches one year later.

Imprinting brands on sand
In another, very different land-based beach marketing strategy, Beach 'n Billboard of New Jersey offers a machine that imprints large messages on the sand. Created by company president Pat Dori, the machine is used to literally pave a beach with commercial pitches.

The imprints, a part of Beach 'n Billboard's "Support-A-Beach" program, can have lasting impact -- they usually last until 1 p.m. on a typical day at the beach. Each also contains a plea to beachgoers to refrain from littering that has proven to help reduce littering on beaches by 20%, Mr. Dori said.

Past Support-A-Beach advertisers include Volvo, Snapple, and Skippy peanut butter.

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