Is Free Advertising Really Free? by Larry Williams

April 26, 2006 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Consider the possible hidden costs of the easiest exposure methodsThere are obviously many ways in which to advertise your business. In particular there are several that come to mind while “out and about” in the community. Two of the most popular forms of advertising while in the public domain are, “vehicle” advertising and on-site “event” advertising. The immediate benefit to both is that there is generally no “recurring” cost to engage in this sort of advertising. Once your vehicle or equipment sign is made…you’re home free! Well, not exactly.

On the surface it may appear good-“free advertising and no one can stop me!” However, the reality is that the use of “free” advertising can cost you dearly in the long run. Sure it may cost little or nothing from a monetary standpoint, but it is not necessarily free from complications arising from how your company may be perceived.
Vehicle Advertising

Many in our industry have taken advantage of one of the last great bastions of “free” enterprise: vehicle advertising. We can create “rolling billboards” that travel about the community and advertise our services in a very visible fashion that is “free” from recurring costs. When you think about, it’s amazing that the Federal Government, City Business License Division, Department of Motor Vehicles or Mothers Against Vehicle Advertising (MAVA) haven’t climbed aboard some sort of bandwagon to stop it, tax it, control it or regulate it. (Note: Not to worry, MAVA doesn’t really exist…yet.) The point here is that there are very few forms of advertising that we engage in that are 100% within our control. Vehicle advertising is one of them.

However, before going “head over heels” into logo-ing up that vehicle, consider the possible perceptions that could be detrimental to your business. Do you always drive safely (i.e., use your turn signals, obey the speed limit, not be distracted by the use of cell phones, etc.)? When traveling about the town, it is imperative that this “rolling billboard” represents the same manner of professional conduct that you yourself would exhibit in a face-to-face situation. Anything short of absolute appropriate behavior could have a negative effect upon how your business is perceived.

Even the manner in which you park your vehicle at events could have ill effects upon your reputation. The practice of “double parking” or the illegal use of a “handicap parking space” can be perceived negatively by clients, partygoers and facility representatives.
Event Advertising

How, where and when we choose to utilize signs or banners at performances has been discussed extensively over the years. When weighing the pros and cons of signage at events, much depends upon the event itself. At wedding receptions, for example, it would be unlikely to see any of the many service vendors (i.e., cake makers, florists, ministers, photographers etc.) engaging in forms of self-promotion. In this case, it’s the formal or private nature of the event that makes noticeable promotional displays questionable.

Public functions may provide a more appropriate venue for promotional displays, and the people who organize them are often more lenient regarding the placement of signage. This may be due to the “relaxed” atmosphere of these events. School dances are perhaps the most forgiving of all events regarding signs or banners. This probably has something to do with the many community sponsors who are often utilized “on campus” for a variety of functions throughout the school year. In other ways, they may simply be used to it!
Case by Case Basis

In the final analysis, it likely comes down to the manner in which we believe our advertising would be most effective and appropriate. Obviously, most of us do not advertise in every conceivable medium available. So perhaps it is best to approach public signage in the same fashion: on a case-by-case basis. How such advertising is created, displayed, utilized, and allowed are all important factors that one should consider carefully. Make no mistake: “free” advertising is fantastic-just as long as it is free from the dangers of negative public perception.

Larry Williams is the author of Mind Your Own Business (ProDJ Publishing). Since 1990, he has owned The Reno Tahoe DJ Company, and has served four years as president of the Nevada Disc Jockey Association.

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Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


Filed Under: Business, Issues from 2006