Paul Slee had an advertising problem. "We tried all the usual types of ads," recalls Slee, 22, who six years ago started Perth-based Internet shopping service ezyshop.com.au with friend and partner, 23 year-old Lachlan Nally. "We used radio, newspapers, but none of it was very effective. We did get new clients, but the cost of acquisition was just too high."
A better advertising vehicle turned out to be staring Slee and Nally in the face every day, in the form of the fleet of trucks that ezyshop uses to deliver goods to its customers. Informed by a mixture of hope, optimism and desperation, Slee "started spending money on graphics on the trucks".
Sales took off. "Before we knew it, it was paying for itself," he says. "We found the response was a lot quicker that with other media. People would ring us up a day or two after they saw an advertisement." After a few weeks of this strong response, the penny dropped: if ezyshop was getting strong results from its own small fleet, surely the tactic would also work for other, larger, fleet operators? And surely sole traders like couriers would appreciate the chance to make some extra cash by displaying ads on their trucks?
"You see so many blank trucks on the roads, we felt there was an opportunity to start a business," Slee says. To launch the new venture, called Truckside Ads, Slee and Nally decided to "become our own case study to productise it".
The pair's message was that lots of advertising opportunities talk about brand awareness, but ezyshop's experience proved that trucks delivered return on investment. "Everyone talks about brand awareness and stuff, but in business, you have to put money in the bank," Slee says.
Another critical element of the new business was a system that made truck advertisements removable, which made it easy to change ads once a campaign ends.
Sharing the cash
Removable ads are also important because they mean third-party truck operators can trial Truckside Ads without having to make the big commitment of sign-writing on their vehicles. That easy entry to the advertising business has quickly seen Truckside Ads secure partners rolling around every Australian capital city save Darwin and Hobart.
"We charge advertisers $800 a month for a truck. It's usually on the road for 10-12 hours a day, five days a week. We then pay drivers or fleet owners a monthly commission of $200 to $350 a month," Slee says.
"We put the ads on the trucks when they are off the road, so there's no downtime. The drivers get extra income for doing nothing."
The medium continues to be successful – Slee says one client generated $90,000 of business in just three days.
My Business asked Slee how consumers can respond to advertisements on trucks, given that it's hard to put a memorable call to action on a vehicle that zooms past while you're driving. Slee says the call to action is less important than messaging, and that the right message brings in steady inquiries. Truckside Ads message, meanwhile, is finding receptive ears offshore.
"My last trip to Singapore was very exciting; there is definitely room for progression abroad," Nally says.
"We are busy developing a business model that will ultimately allow that transition, but for the time being, our focus is the Australian market," he said. And Australia offers the company plenty of room to grow.
"We do have some large contracts coming," Slee says. "That will increase our reach." The company is also considering other innovations to make its product more attractive. "There is some interesting advertising technology coming out of America that we are keen to use in our service in the next year or two."