Talk about taking something literally: G5 Sponsorships is offering companies the opportunity to drive brand awareness on the nation's highways. It's selling integrated media campaigns that begin on highway signs, but also include placement on 511 traffic information websites, mobile apps, and live traffic camera feeds.
As the company's promotional materials say, "Drivers cannot 'change the channel' to avoid 511 roadside signage with a sponsor logo." OK, it's also an initiative ripe for punnage: Global 5's media kit says, "These programs allow you to breakthrough to consumers as they brake through their commute."
G5 Sponsorships is a branch of Global-5 Communications, a national transportation communications company that works with state Depts. of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and other transportation entities.
"We can create custom packages based on the assets that each state DOT has authorized for sponsorship. In addition to the roadside signage, DOTs have 511 phone systems, websites, mobile apps, email alerts, and, in some states, rest areas, welcome centers, and safety service patrols," says Eric Strauss, G5 Sponsorships' director of sponsorships.
A March 2012 order by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration acknowledged that cash-strapped states need to go beyond asking companies to "adopt a highway" by paying for litter removal. The order mostly details sponsorship messages on the physical signs placed along the road.
But G5 - along with other vendors - is also selling digital placements on states' 511 systems. In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission designated 511 as the nationwide telephone number for traveler information. But the FCC ruling left implementation to state and local agencies, as well as telecoms. There are no requirements - and neither is there a way to pay for the service.
In other words, it's ripe for sponsorship.
Some states have 511.org websites, mobile sites, mobile apps, and personalized email alerts, as well as telephone access. G5 works directly with the states' developers to design the advertising inventory for these media. It will also act as the intermediary between advertisers and states, not only selling ads but also trafficking the creative.
The sponsorship message could even make its way onto TV, Strauss says. Many TV news stations use live feeds from traffic cameras maintained by Depts. of Transportation. As part of their agreement to use the feeds, TV stations would be required to include an attribution banner that credits the DOT - and the sponsor logo would also be included in the banner. "This wouldn't prohibit TV stations from selling their own advertising," he notes. "It just means they have to show that DOT attribution banner."
So far, G5 is working with the states of Virginia and West Virginia, although Strauss says the company is in talks with others. He can't mention advertisers yet, either. Campaigns will range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions for broader and longer-term deals.
He says the ad scheme hasn't been the subject of consumer protest over advertising clutter. According to Strauss, "One of the key points of this is that every dollar that comes into sponsorship gets put back into these programs. When sponsors foot the bill, it eases the burden on taxpayers."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
March 19, 2014