Fleet vehicle signs tell viewers a lot about a business. The right signage prompts more phone calls, more Web hits and visits, and more sales opportunities.

An American Trucking Associations study found that 90 percent of drivers notice vehicle signage. In addition, 75 percent of those drivers develop an impression of the company based on the signage. That doesn't account for pedestrian traffic.

In a single year, one vehicle's signage garners about 8.4 million impressions at a cost-per-thousand that's far less than newspaper ads, stationary billboards, and other forms of promotion.



Speed and traffic patterns affect the type of "moving billboard," says J.R. Kraft, director of business development for BuildASign. In city traffic, drivers have more time to take in a phone number or a long Web address. At higher speeds, larger images and simpler messages are more effective. Studies show viewers have a scant 1.5 seconds to see and read the message on the side of a fast-moving vehicle.

Consistency is another factor to consider. "We deal with customers who are looking to integrate this medium with the rest of their outdoor media," explains Scott McLean, CEO for Di Graphics. "If consumers see the same message on vehicles that they do on billboards, television, print advertising, and the Web, there's continuity in seeing the message from different channels. It goes a long way towards establishing an effective brand."

The strategy is similar for smaller fleets. McLean recommends keeping company messages and graphics consistent across Yellow Pages, Web sites, and fleet vehicle advertising.

Different-sized operations may want different types of signage. A vehicle wrap can cost $4,000 and make a big impression. However, for the same investment, careful communication of the message is critical.

"Companies use this type of media in ways traditional media can't," says McLean.

Market research helps customize the message. Di Graphics can create a message geared toward a demographic and then use a zip code analysis to identify that audience on a fleet route or territory.

"We did some wraps on vans for Charter Communications that advertised ESPN Deportes to Spanish-speaking Americans," McLean notes.

Effective vehicle signage also requires good driving habits by company drivers. Other drivers are more prone to associate a company with its drivers' erratic or illegal driving.



In sign design, McLean recommends looking at good outdoor media. "Which billboards catch your attention? You need to pick the right visuals to convey a message," McLean says. "Less is more."

Visuals uncluttered with phone numbers, addresses, or taglines send a solid message in a short period of time. "A tagline can be very important — if it's simple," said McLean.

The type of vehicle affects sign design. Sedans require more attention to the curves and moldings. Some vehicle bodies, such as the boxy Scion xB, lend themselves to this type of messaging.

Sign experts agree that simplicity is key with sign design, whether it's wraps, magnetics, or window stickers. Kraft says, "I see too many real estate signs that include the brand, phone numbers, list of credentials, as well as the face of the agent. I can see your face because you're driving. Letters are easier to remember than numbers. So put that information on a Web site instead."


"Everywhere I park, people will walk up and ask for a business card. My workers get asked all the time. I don't bother advertising any other way," declares Tony Gallina, president and CEO of The Green Mop, a house and office cleaning service headquartered in Arlington, Va. He credits vehicle signage — and ready business cards — for growing his 14-month-old company into an anticipated $850,000 business in 2008.

Gallina chose 12x24-inch magnet signs and 3x3-inch stickers balanced on two sides below the rear window.

Gallina designed his signs on the Web in 20 minutes. The simple message text lettering is visible 30 yards away. Gallina estimates that about 75 percent of his clients saw the signs on parked vehicles and 25 percent while the vehicles were moving.



The Foreclosure Tour in Ventura County, Calif., specializes in buyer tours showing houses that face foreclosure. When the company started last spring, it wasn't listed in the phonebook, making its vehicle signage all the more important.

Three personal cars and a 12-passenger van are used for tours. Each car has two signs per side and one on the back. The company's vehicle signage has attracted others desiring to join the tour, even though that individual may not have had foreclosure visiting on his mind.

Michele Losey, a company partner, believes the signage helps the company stand out in an area replete with other realtors. "A lot of other magnetic signs are good, but people don't see them because they're too bland. You need bright colors, making sure there's contrast between the lettering and the background," says Losey.

Like The Green Mop, The Foreclosure Tour displays the name and phone number in lettering as large as possible. Losey notes that nearly everyone joining a tour was attracted by the signage. "We got one sales referral within the first week," she says. "Signage has kept us very busy." ■