City bus becomes a billboard Ad blocks windows but not the view

June 24, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

A Baltimore bus has been turned into a billboard on wheels. Thanks to an innovative plastic material, the ad covers the side of the bus, but allows passengers to see out the windows.

The 36-by-8-foot ad for Rudo Sports is the first transportation ad in the state and one of only a handful in the country to use the material, called Contravision.

The creators of the Rudo's ad would not say what it cost, but Ken Hashamoto, vice president of Gateway Resource Group, a Columbia firm that holds the license to market Contravision in North America, said Contravision bus ads usually cost $5,000 to $10,000 to produce.

While the cost of running the ad is considerably more than the $164 a month a conventional bus ad costs, Al Grosso, Rudo's advertising director said it was worth it. "We need to show our market that we're the trendsetters," he said, but declined to reveal the cost.

Rudo bought the ad showing a player dunking a basketball for one year. The bus was unveiled during the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He said it is hard to measure the ad's impact on sales, but that the sporting goods store has received many comments about it.

"People want to know whether we've bought a bus," he said.

Rob Schilling, market manager for Combined Media Baltimore, which sells all of the advertising space on Mass Transit Administration buses and the subway, said he has received several inquiries from clients about buying Contravision ads, but cost has deterred many of them. The first bus with a Contravision ad was unveiled in Denver in February. Baltimore was the second city on the East Coast, after Virginia Beach, Va., to use the transit advertisements. The Contravision material was invented in the mid-1980s by Roland Hill, an Englishman who first used the material to cover the walls of racquetball and squash courts.

One side of the thin plastic covering consists of tiny black dots; the other side is covered by tiny white dots. The eyes are able to see the light in the spaces between the black dots, and thus look through the screen on one side. But from the other side, the eyes focus on the white dots and do not see through the material.

Mr. Hashamoto said he expects the costs will decline as the technology improves and orders increase, but even now the prices compare favorably with billboards, he said.

"And you have the added memory factor," he said.

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