Thursday, February 27, 2003

Moving the ad message

Published in the Current

As the Goodwill Industries trucks roll across the state of Maine, their new designs are thanks to a Cape Elizabeth man, who has found a way to make
money from the sides of trucks.

Don Mackenzie has founded Mobile Marketing Solutions, which sells space on what are, after all, basically moving billboards.

Mackenzie used to sell technology to trucking companies and was familiar with trucking fleets in other areas of the country that sold ads on the sides of their trucks.

Eight months ago, when Mackenzie and his family moved to Maine from Atlanta, he decided to put his idea in motion.

His first challenge was to find a trucking fleet that would work with him. He found it “very hard to find a fleet” that was interested. Most companies wanted just their own logos on the sides of their trucks, if there were any markings at all.

One day, when Mackenzie was driving somewhere, he saw a white truck with nothing really on its sides and followed it to a Goodwill store. When he called to ask if the company would be interested, he found that someone there had always wanted to do just exactly what he was proposing.

In exchange for an ongoing ad campaign for Goodwill on the side of one truck, Mackenzie’s fledgling company had its fleet.

Best of all, the Goodwill trucks run regular routes in populated areas, picking up donations at drop-off centers and also delivering goods to the company’s retail stores. Most trucking companies run their routes far from where people are, because traffic slows them down. And many of them run at night, again to avoid congestion.

Not Goodwill trucks, which are on the road for six to 10 hours per day.

“They’re always where the people are,” Mackenzie said.

He had the trucks fitted with what are called “changeable fleet graphic systems,” essentially easy-to-change billboards. Aluminum rails hold a heavy vinyl sheet tight against the side of the truck.

The vinyl itself is printed by a firm in Seattle that can put any graphic or text on the fabric. It takes a couple of hours to put on a sign, which Mackenzie often has done at Wagon Masters in Scarborough.

His goal is to get the company to $60,000 in revenue by June and triple that by next year. He wants to expand the business beyond Maine, into the New England region and then into the mid-Atlantic states.