From the Archives

The appeal of air-filled advertising that floats and flies outside your store

From Linda Cahan From the 2017 February/March issue.
I was driving north up the highway to Portland, Oregon, when I noticed a huge inflatable blowup of a couple in a hot tub on the roof of a spa store on a parallel road. It was new, noticeable and kind of funny. The man had rubber nipples and as I was sitting in traffic, I looked for a belly button. The details, thankfully, stopped there.

Ages ago when a high number of the population was illiterate, signs were symbols and pictures. A pair of eyeglasses, a barbershop pole or a big tooth told people what they needed to know. Today, most people are literate, but a large visual image still has an instant impact, standing apart from the graphic overload on most interior roads and highways.

Online marketing takes most of the advertising budget of spa stores these days. Ads in newspapers, flyers and postcards are taking a backseat to mobile-friendly websites, social-media blasts and online advertising. But your roof and exterior are excellent advertising.

From Shawn Maynard
In 2010 Maynard sent us this tale of taking a bad situation and turning it into great marketing.

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Bullfrog Spas of Layton was just waking from its long winter hibernation, March 17, 2010. The snow had melted away and we had our first 50-degree day. Time for a spring parking lot event! The new store location has great visibility from the freeway and we wanted to take full advantage breaking out the big guns. We took our 40-foot event tent out of mothballs and set it up in the parking lot next to the freeway. We unpacked our brand-new 15-foot helium balloon, custom made with Bullfrog colors and logo, parked our Spa Toter facing on-coming traffic and tied the impressive balloon to the mast of the trailer — 14 feet off the ground, safely away from potential vandalism or theft. We had a little weather that weekend and planned on kicking off the event on the following Monday. The tent and balloon all made it fine through the storm and we were looking forward to the coming weekend. Tuesday at 7 p.m. we shut it down for the night and checked to make sure everything was secure. Wednesday at 9 a.m. I got a call from the store manager asking if I had removed the blimp.

Of course, I had not. Further inspection showed that someone must have climbed the trailer and cut the tether, freeing the blimp. We were devastated that our brand-new floating billboard was “stolen,” but we put on our marketing hat and called the local newspaper and television station and alerted them to our situation. “Tonight at 11, 15-foot helium balloon stolen from Bullfrog Spas.” The free publicity was almost worth the loss — the whole state was on the lookout for the missing balloon (reminiscent of the Colorado story of the 6-year-old that supposedly floated away in the family’s weather balloon).

This went on for several days and the story started to dwindle, we thought we’d probably gotten all the mileage out of it that we could and we’d never see the balloon again. Friday morning I got a call from my new best friend. A family 45 miles away had gone out for ice cream the night before and on the way home, a block or so from their house, our balloon landed on the family minivan. They all jumped out and captured the balloon, took it home to their garage and returned it to us the next morning. The story had a happy ending and the local media loved it. The news story with a happy ending played several times and was in the paper. Now, a day doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t stop me in the street and talk to me about the balloon. We couldn’t have paid for this kind of publicity and we got the balloon back safe and sound.