Sign of the times: Mobile billboard business takes off in first year

Mobile advertisement

Dyar Jennings, owner of ServiceMaster of the Upstate, says he advertised his cleaning service with some success on television and other mediums, but now he’s found a new vehicle — literally — thanks to mobile billboard advertising.
“If you pull up to a red light, you can’t help but stare at it,” Jennings said.
The trucks have large screens on them and can be seen around Spartanburg. They belong to Premier Digital Displays of Moore and are the latest way to advertise products and services, according to co-owner Todd Whitehead.
“It’s definitely a new concept in this area,” he said.
Whitehead, Marc McNatt and Keith Horton founded the business nearly a year ago. The trio have a combined 60 years of experience in advertising and marketing.
McNatt came up with the idea, and the three men developed a business plan together.
“We wanted to marry technology with roadside billboards,” McNatt said.
The group invested in three trucks and high-resolution LED screens that measure 6-feet-by-12-feet on the sides of each truck and 5½-feet-by-6-feet on the backs. They’re similar to giant TV screens.
“You see the trucks in the big cities like Las Vegas, New York and Northern Virginia,” Whitehead said. “So after leaving the advertising industry, we felt this would be a good idea to stay in that field to help businesses with their advertising.”
Premier Digital Displays has one full-time employee and seven part-timers, including four local firefighters from Spartanburg and Greenville.
“From the beginning, we felt this was an important part to our business — to be able to give back to these guys that made a difference in our community,” Whitehead said.
The company leases a 2,400-square-foot garage at Highway 290 Properties in Moore for the three trucks. A table with four chairs serves as a makeshift office.
Besides the part-timers, the owners take turns driving the trucks each day except Sundays. One truck travels in and around Greenville, another in Spartanburg, and a third one is flexible and can be used wherever an advertiser wants it to go.
There is no specific route the trucks follow. The company says the trucks go wherever the most people are at any given time of the day.
During lunchtime a truck may advertise a menu in a busy part of town, while later in the day it may circulate in areas where large numbers of people get off work to promote a nighttime event, for example.
“We deliver advertising to catch as many eyeballs as possible,” Horton said.
McNatt designs the ads that are displayed electronically. He can change the messages at any time with his cell phone.
Each truck can display pieces from seven advertisers that rotate every eight seconds. The ads will run more than 9,000 times a week.
Premier typically charges $1,500 per month per advertiser.
McNatt said the advantage over traditional billboards is that with Premier the message can go anywhere and be changed at any time.
Plus, with the rotating advertisements on the trucks, the ad stands a better chance of being remembered by the customer, he said.
Shelley Sullivan with Budweiser of Spartanburg said she likes the flexibility she gets with Premier of being able to target her company’s 200 different brands of beer to different places.
“It’s one of my favorite ways to advertise,” she said. “It’s a little different than a static billboard. It is more eye-catching.”
Whitehead said the business has done well during the first year and turning a profit.
“We’ve been able to pay the bills,” he said.
They hope to add more trucks in the year ahead and expand into the Anderson area.