For most cable operators, company technical vans are their most visible asset — their "face" in the community.
Time Warner Cable in San Diego has decided to put a different look on that face. The Southern California operator is shrink-wrapping its service vehicles to advertise its lineup of programming networks.
System executives decided the vans were an "untapped source of available advertising space" that that could be used to benefit both the operator and its programming partners, said vice president of marketing and sales Ernie Villicana.
Time Warner San Diego began the program a few months ago, initially soliciting participation from "up-and-coming diginets," Villicana said.
It costs about $10,000 to wrap three service vehicles, and Time Warner put together a support package that was popular for start-ups, which are often strapped for marketing cash.
For a one-year commitment to the van-wrap strategy, the network received an amount of cross-channel promotional spots equal to their investment in that program. Though the commitment is for one year, the wraps, with good care, can last 18 to 24 months.
The San Diego system did not originate the idea, Villacana noted. In past years, the San Antonio system promoted premium services on its trucks, he said.
"I kind of stole [the idea] and took it a step further," he said.
The program gives the nets a little extra nonsubscriber reach for their buck, since Time Warner technicians take their service vehicles home at night, to residences that may be in neighboring Cox Communications Inc. or Adelphia Communications Corp. systems, Villacana noted.
Currently, 30 service vehicles promote digital and analog networks, including USA Network, Disney Channel, A&E Network and National Geographic Channel. Time Warner's local marketing department converted images from the networks into the van wraps.
The marketing scheme has provided a morale boost for employees, according to system executives. For instance, one day a tech reported the reactions of kids — and their parents — to the Boomerang-themed truck he was driving.
The cartoon images excited the kids and the parents, familiar with the characters from their childhood, identified the figures for a new generation of potential fans.
'We' Guy Teased
The MTV2 van driver also gets honks, as well as thumbs-up signs from other drivers, the executives said. The only mildly negative response: the technician in the WE: Women's Entertainment van reported getting teased by his fellow installers. But female customers have reacted positively, they said.
The program markets itself, Villacana noted. Vendor and programming representatives who visit the office to make sales spot the colorful trucks in the parking lot.
"Everyone who comes to see me notices them. I don't even have to pitch it anymore," he said. Eventually, the system would like to wrap all of its trucks, he said.