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Show Media brings fresh thinking to taxi-top advertising.

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“We used to be called ‘alternative OOH,’ but now there’s so much experiential advertising that we’re considered fairly traditional now,” John Amato, president of Show Media (Las Vegas, NV), said.

When Show Media’s principles started placing ads on taxi tops in 1994, founder Laurence Hallier found many small companies had been dominating the taxi-top market, but they were advertising tobacco-related products or local bars. Hallier knew Fortune 1000 companies could advertise more effectively on taxis because, as Amato said, “taxis go where people are,” and they operate in densely populated cities, where millions of eyes see them.

After having sold the company to Clear Channel in 2000, the owners began building billboards in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, while dabbling in real-estate development.

Show Media now offers billboards in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and taxi advertising in New York City. The company places ads on 3,200 NYC taxis and owns 40 billboards. “The billboards and the taxi tops are both 14 x 48, but the billboards are in feet, and the taxi tops are in inches,” Amato said.

Digital screens will probably be added in the future when the technology is well-tested and cost effective.

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The billboard faces incorporate digitally printed graphics on vinyl; Show Media works with several vendors, such as Ad Plus and Croma Printing in NYC and Gangi Studios and King Size Installers in Los Angeles. The Show Media inhouse staff can also handle projects from concept to completion.

Amato said his company has weathered the downturn well, having experienced increased sales in the last few months. He attributes his open-door policy (for clients and staff) and a can-do attitude to establishing credibility and innovating new solutions for an ever-changing marketplace.

The company’s metrics are based on a 1998 study, which placed cameras on a certain number of taxis and measure how many eyes are caught. Amato said, “In NYC, taxis could drive by a sidewalk, seven-people deep, and claim they could reach an outrageous number of eyes. However, we measure how many eyes actually look in the direction of the taxi.”

This presages the Traffic Audit Bureau’s “Eyes On,” or visibility-adjustment indices; eye-level cameras capture visual responses to different OOH units in various settings using filmed drive-by and walk-by scenarios that represent OOH range and complexity.

Amato said Show Media’s current plans include compensating for the economy and gaining more marketshare. Amato said the company has 45% of NYC taxi tops, but aims for 75%.

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Besides traditional rooftop displays, extensions, wraps, 3-D buildouts and lenticulars, Show Media also offers product sampling, which involves a street team of “brand ambassadors” who distribute experimental products to passersby in areas covered by taxis that also advertise the product. Advertising “reach” expands when people not learn about, but experience, the product.

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