Using your vehicle as a billboard

The moving billboard of Dan Keeley, sales rep for Re/Max Little Oak Realty in Abbotsford, B.C.

The moving billboard of Dan Keeley, sales rep for Re/Max Little Oak Realty in Abbotsford, B.C.

By Toby Welch

It’s not a question with an easy answer: Is advertising your real estate services on your vehicle a business-savvy move or a bad decision?

Glenn Wildenmann, a broker with Groupe Sutton Performer in Pointe-Claire, Que., says, “It’s a great idea as long as you do it right. It provides instant and constant exposure. Rarely a day goes by where someone doesn’t say, ‘Hey, Glenn, I saw you on the road yesterday.’ You are a mobile billboard at a reasonable cost, but you must make sure your ad works.

Glenn Wildenmann

Glenn Wildenmann

“The first problem I see is the specific car being advertised on,” says Wildenmann. “If you’re driving a dented, rusted out ’87 Hyundai, don’t wrap that car! Your ad will back-fire (much like the car)! Of equal importance: the quality of the ad itself. As in house selling, let the professionals do their jobs. Let graphic designers design and wrap your vehicle. Do it right or don’t do it at all.”

Wildenmann admits there are downsides to car signage. “You have to drive nice all the time. If you drive like an ass, cut people off, text while driving, speed, make unfriendly gestures or do anything else that may be considered in a negative light, do not advertise on your vehicle. You are on duty and display every single time you get in that car.”

Car signage is a relatively inexpensive direct marketing option. It is a one-time expense that keeps you in the public’s view. Wherever you go, your vehicle is toting your name and contact information. But it comes with disadvantages; your vehicle may have a negative effect on your image and your real estate company. Anyone who drives the vehicle, including your lead-footed spouse or impatient teenager, impacts your reputation.

Tanya Nouwens

Tanya Nouwens

Tanya Nouwens, a broker at Re/Max Royal (Jordan) in Montreal, hasn’t taken the plunge into vehicle advertising. “A lot brokers already seem to look for and use every possible opportunity to plaster our face and advertising anywhere we possibly can – for sale signs, business cards, websites, blogs and ads. Personally I find it all a bit much. We do not need to be everywhere.”

Nouwens adds: “I want to pick and choose when I am on. I feel that with advertising on my vehicle, I would be a constant target for people’s assessment of me and my business in an environment completely outside of my business. The way I sing has nothing to do with my ability to take exceptional care of my clients. Nor does my ability to parallel park have anything to do with my ability to analyze the real estate market – although I’m actually very good at both!”

If you decide to advertise on your automobile, there are numerous options. Wrapping your entire vehicle is, some argue, the most professional-looking option. It entails adhering a thin layer of vinyl onto your car, which peels off easily when you want to remove it, causing no damage. Vehicle magnets are ideal for Realtors who want to be able to easily remove their name from their car. If someone borrows your vehicle or you go to a hush-hush listing presentation, the sign is easily removed. The downside is that the magnets can fall off or be stolen and they don’t stick to fibreglass vehicles. Other options include bumper stickers, license plate holders, a roof-top sign and window signage instead of a full-body wrap.

Mark Spindloe

Mark Spindloe

Mark Spindloe, a sales rep with Mitchell Realty in Halifax, says he once had a minivan wrapped with his name, telephone number, website and logo. “In three years I never got a single call. Incidentally I know my poor driving, on occasions, caused people to lean on their horn. But no one called even though, after cutting them off, I was driving in front of them with my telephone number in their face.”

The blogosphere is afire with sales reps and brokers sharing their thoughts on this hot topic:

* “I don’t think anyone has ever seen one of those crappy car signs and thought, ‘Oh! I need to buy a house. Let me call this person.’ It’s just one more desperate attempt by desperate people to get some business.”

* “I think of it as a mobile business card. Even when I’m at an appointment, my car is in the parking lot prospecting for me.”

* “It’s not just about the business a car sign generates or doesn’t generate. It’s about branding. Your car, your clothes, your company, your logo and your signs should all be a direct reflection of what you are trying to project to the public.”

* “Some people don’t like Realtors; I worry someone might key my car or bust a window.”

* “I have a friend who got a listing appointment at the gas station because of signs on her car. Another friend got a stalker because of her signs. Gotta think through every angle.”

* “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it makes sense to do so. All of us need to consider how these types of things reflect on the industry as a whole, not necessarily whether you generate a deal or two individually.”

* “The perception of the public makes me wonder if the signage may make you a target for gold-diggers in car wreck fraud schemes or thieves (due to the high-tech garb we carry.)”

Ben Benita, the author of Are You More Likely to See Bigfoot or a Short Sale Approval Letter? is a proponent of auto ads. “I have had signs on my car in the past and it always works. Even if you only get one client per month, the sign pays for itself many times over. It’s shameless self-promotion; let everyone know what you do!”

Like every avenue of advertising, vehicle ads are going to work for some Realtors and not for others.

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