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Politically Themed Vehicle Wraps Create Bipartisan Appeal

‘Tis the season to pursue this largely untapped market



Graphics-laden vehicles have long been a standard component of political advertising. Whether they were banners mounted beneath a wagon or horse saddle, or rigid placards hung over a convertible’s doors, signage (usually with patriotic colors) has maintained an integral role in creating a positive impression with voters.

As with other signage facets, political advertising has modernized with the times. The advent of vinyl-graphic fabrication provides more durable, professional-looking graphics. And, correspondingly, the evolution of printers, inks and air-release wrap media now allows a long-term, promotional solution that racks up thousands of impressions for a fraction of the cost of a TV ad or radio spot.

However, despite all of the potential benefits, political wraps remain a largely untapped market. Consider how many local, district, state and national candidates run for office, and how many ballot issues arise during an election. Contrast that with how few politically oriented vehicle wraps you see cruising the streets.

Here are three examples of political- and issue-oriented wraps that shops have recently fabricated. The window may still be open for you to wrap for local candidates. Stop by a candidate’s headquarters and ask to speak with the campaign manager. Or, go to a county’s political-party headquarters. Perhaps they’ll have a whole slate of candidates or issues they’ll wish to publicize. If your candidate wins, you’ll likely be remembered when it’s time to run for re-election – or a higher office.

One caveat with political wraps – be sure to get paid early. If the candidate loses, it may be very difficult to collect any delinquent payments.

Hablamos (We Speak) ACLU
Whatever opinion one has of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), you have to give them credit for thick skin. The organization staunchly favors an open-immigration policy, which alienates conservatives. Conversely, the ACLU, by equating political contributions with free speech, also supports Citizens United – the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited campaign contributions from independent, political-action groups – which incenses liberals because the ruling ostensibly favors well-heeled corporate, and usually Republican, interests.


The organization emphasized its immigration stance by ordering a bilingual wrap that espouses its opposition to SB 1070, Arizona’s strict immigration law, which allows law-enforcement officials to check someone’s legal-resident status during traffic stops and other routine procedures. (In June, after the wrap campaign, the Supreme Court struck down many elements of the law, but preserved the right to check legal-residency status during the course of performing other law-enforcement functions.)

Its campaign, titled “Estamos Unidos”, entailed ACLU staffers and volunteers driving a van across the U.S. seeking support for its stance against SB 1070. In anticipation of the Supreme Court taking up the case, the ACLU enlisted Custom Vehicle (CV) Wraps (San Francisco) to execute the wrap for the Dodge Sprinter Van the group drove from San Francisco to NYC. The graphics, which feature the slogan and photos of supporters, were delivered to CV Wraps as vector art. Shop designers enlarged the images and made color adjustments using Adobe Photoshop.

To produce the wrap, installers used 3M™’s Controltac™ with Comply™ v3 air-release technology, which it decorated on the shop’s Mimaki JV3-160 SP solvent-ink printer. Onyx’s ProductionHouse RIP helped the CV team proof the wrap’s production, and 3M’s 8519 luster-finish overlaminate, applied with a Royal Sovereign RSC-1650C laminator, made the graphics resilient for the cross-country trek.

“Most of our wraps stay in our local area,” Kwasi Boyd, CV’s marketing director, said. “It was exciting to have a wrap that traveled across the country as part of a high-profile campaign.”

A Doggedly Determined Wrap
Dennis Keene, a centrist Democrat, has represented the 67th District in the Kentucky House of Representatives since 2005. A strong proponent of investment in infrastructure, he claims to have helped garner $2 million to help his district complete improvements to assist transportation and tourism.
In keeping with his enthusiasm for enhancing roads, Keene purchased a wrap for his Toyota Tundra truck that touts him as “Campbell County’s Frankfort Watchdog” (Frankfort is Kentucky’s capital). He hired Crux Roadboardz (Hebron, KY) to decorate the vehicle.

“We install, on average, three politically related vehicle wraps during an election year,” Adam Coffaro, Crux Roadboardz’s president, said. “We get jobs through referrals. We expect 50% of the project’s price as a deposit, which is our policy with any new customer.”


For this job, Crux Roadboardz received graphics from a third-party advertising agency. Beforehand, the shop sent guidelines for preferred format prior to delivery (Coffaro said they preferred vector art because it’s the most easily converted in Photoshop). Prior to wrap production, installers coated the truck with Rapid-Tac® application fluid and coated curves and other adhesion-challenged areas with 3M’s Primer 94.

“Laying out the wrap, the American-flag background, was a bit challenging,” he said. “We had to make sure the red or white stripe wraps over the edge corner of the hood/fender met with a stripe of the same color.”
Crux Roadboardz printed the wrap with its Mimaki JV3-160SP on 3M Controltac with Comply media. To enhance the wrap’s sheen, they applied 3M’s 8519 glossy topcoat with the shop’s Seal 54 Base laminator.

A rare treat, Coffaro enjoyed the luxury of serving a low-maintenance customer: “He was very easy to work with,” he said. “He even let us keep the truck for an extra couple of days to make sure we got it right.”

Rolling for Rollins’ Campaign
As a former Miss USA beauty-pageant winner, attorney and the widow of real-estate tycoon and former Delaware lieutenant governor John W. Rollins, Michele Metrinko Rollins understands the importance of image. When she ran for election in Delaware’s at-large congressional seat in 2010, she hired Signs Now #389 (Wilmington, DE). The shop’s experience – the franchise has devoted 12 years to vehicle wraps (they comprise roughly 25% of the shop’s business) and has earned designation as Professional Decal Assn. of America Master Certified installers – helped it earn the business.

Rollins’ campaign selected the Signs Now shop after Mark Carlson placed a pay-per-click ad on Google AdWords. The customer provided the graphics, which bedecked Rollins’ personal vehicle. Rather than implementing the traditional, red-white-and-blue motif, the graphics employ the medium-blue and gold that comprise the University of Delaware’s school colors (with curved lines that reinforce the impression of progress). After having enlarged the vector art to make it wrap-worthy, the shop’s design team perfected and formatted the wrap design, which adorned a Chrysler Town & Country minivan, with Adobe Photoshop.

Carlson’s shop removed tar, washed the car and made a final wipedown with rubbing alcohol. It fabricated the wrap with Avery MPI 1005 Supercast air-release wrap media, and printed the job on a Roland DGA SolJet Pro II V645-EX (the shop has since purchased an HP L26500 latex-ink printer). Avery’s DOL 1000 cast overlaminate, applied with a Seal Image 6000 Ultra, kept the graphics brilliant throughout the grueling primary season. To decorate the windows, Carlson’s team applied Clear Focus Imaging’s perforated media.


“There’s little space for copy on a minivan,” Carlson said. “Wrapping with a single panel from headlight to taillight keeps everything registered. Wrapping without seams boosts the customers’ wow factor.”

Unfortunately, Rollins lost by less than 600 votes in the primary to Glenn Urquhart, who ultimately won the seat.




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