You’re stuck in traffic. Or lying on the beach gazing up at a blue sky. Perhaps you’re hiking on Table Mountain or hanging out at a pavement café in Parkhurst. A small plane flies overhead, quite low in the sky. It’s pulling a massive banner. You crane your neck to read what it says…
And that’s the rub: did you get the message? Did it stay with you? Did the company paying for advertising on a sky-high banner get what it was looking for?
Thomas Kritzer, from Sky Messaging, believes this particular out of home advertising media delivers major impact – and he can prove it. “Results hinge entirely on the message that clients choose to fly. We can positively demonstrate the recall rate that banners have achieved in the past, which is a result of the brand itself and/or of the message that is being displayed, that has been proven to be around 27% over 50 flight hours and as high as 48% over 100 flight hours. In one instance we even had 89% of all sampled respondents recall a banner that flew for only 10 hours!” he says.
Kritzer says the company has done extensive research into the recall of ‘sky messaging’. “By working with the department of transport’s commuter information, in terms of road users within a given area and time, we’re able to utilise this information together with our speed, orbit rates as well frequency of flights to quite accurately guesstimate the number of people that are exposed to the banner. In Johannesburg, this can be as high as two million viewers and in Cape Town around 900 000 during a two-hour flight.”
Some clients use URLs in their banner design and report spikes in web traffic after a flight, Kritzer says. “Since this medium is never at the same spot at any given time, consumers have a tendency to follow the banner (and therefore read it) when they discover it in the skies, only 300 metres above them.”
Kritzer says the company doesn’t promise clients retail sales will “shoot through the roof” but rather “that no other medium will deliver the same results in terms of brand equity, recall and awareness, given the spend – this we can prove with our multiple case studies”.
But with fuel costs being what they are – sky-high – does this not make this form of advertising expensive? Kritzer says not. “Our aircraft use slightly more fuel than a 4×4 and in order for us to offset this carbon footprint, we have dedicated ourselves to running our entire company on a paperless principle” he says.
“By comparison, if a company wants to insert an A3 (4/4 full colour) insert into the newspaper in the hopes of achieving a 30% recall on its advert/product, the company would have to spend a considerable amount of money in order to achieve this, not to mention the tons of trees that would have to form part of this equation. Compare this to radio, television or online: when comparing like for like, it is evident that this medium is incredibly advantageous and the investment a relatively speaking low one; especially then when a company engages in exclusivity agreements. Since we own the patent of this flying methodology in South Africa, we can offer clients exclusive use of this medium within their market,” he says.
Sky Messaging currently has two bases, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but plans a base in Durban by 2013. “That being said, we can operate there (or any other city for that matter), since we only have to ferry the aircraft as well as ground crew to the location from where we launch.”
He says the banners they use are made of ‘military grade” ripstop material, similar to parachute fabric. The materials used are “so resilient that we offer our clients a 130 flight hour guarantee on the banners”. Banners can be reused, he says, depending on the design. They’re produced in Munich, Germany, since there is no company in South Africa that can follow the same stitching and printing techniques. “Believe it or not, the production cost in Germany is around 30% less compared to a similar local product.“
Technically speaking, Kritzer says, “Sky Messaging owns the patent 2005/03018, which allows for a take-off with the banner already attached to the aircraft, compared the traditional and more risky pick-up method: the aircraft must approach the banner pickup in a descent using the energy of the shallow dive, and then rotate with application of full power to pick up the banner. With the pick-up method, areas of danger include engine failure, grapple hook deployment errors as well as banner pick-up errors. If the grapple hook is not released in a satisfactory manner, it can snarl on the tail wheel or the landing gear, fouling the landing and potentially causing a crash,” he explains.
This way, less powerful aircraft are required with Sky Messaging’s methodology, which directly relates to lower fuel costs that can be passed on to the client as well as less carbon emissions.
Clients include Carfind and Remax of Southern Africa, who recently signed exclusivity within the real estate market through until December 2013. “This bold move has already yielded results in that their banner has already been mentioned by John Robbie of 702 Talk Radio. In real estate, advertising vehicles are constantly being hijacked and copied by competing realtors. By engaging in a methodology that cannot be copied (again, the patent), Remax has a competitive advantage over other realtors,” he says.
“Carfind has always been a pioneer with its advertising, especially when it comes to doing things differently. Carfind wanted to engage with consumers where they live, work, shop and play in order for their brand to remain at the forefront of their potential consumers. In addition, the car dealerships also see Carfind as innovative by engaging them and their clients with the aerial banner,” Kritzer says.
The company must have received some strange requests in its time. Oh yes, says Kritzer. “One company asked us to drop beach balls whilst flying along the beach, which is completely illegal and something they should have known. The South African Civil Aviation (SACAA) would have had a field day with anyone throwing anything out of an aircraft that is not considered as ballast – and beach balls are excluded from the said.
“The other unusual request was to have the aircraft kitted with LED’s, foil and the likes in order to recreate an UFO… A great idea actually, but unfortunately the SACAA would have had us by the short and curlys for affixing anything to our aircraft that is not approved – and truth be told, the SACAA watch everyone like hawks.”
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