Take Your Brand for a Ride
Over lunch in Manhattan Laurence Hallier stops eating and starts
gesturing wildly toward a window.\"Look! Outside! Six of them, right
there!\" he says. \"You\'d have to be dead--or sick for a very long
time--to not see a taxi in New York City.\"
The yellow cabs get Hallier, chief executive of Show Media, all fired up because his outdoor ad company sells backlit ad displays on top of 3,000 New York cabs--25% of all those on the street. It also puts ads on cabs in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Because the displays are two-sided, Hallier\'s company can place up to 15,000 ads a month on them. Show Media\'s clients include AT&T, NBC and Nike.
Not long ago taxi-top ads were most popular among such homegrown outfits as strip clubs and city news programs. Hallier, a tireless salesman, still accepts ads from gentlemen\'s clubs?ads for Flash Dancers irked some New Yorkers in September. He is responsible, however, for turning this into a more popular medium.
Hallier says a $40,000-a-month, 200-taxi campaign, which is pretty standard, might be seen by one-quarter of New York City\'s residents a day. Can he prove it? Yes, if you look at a study he commissioned. That\'s a good deal, he\'ll tell you, compared with the $150,000 a month you\'ll pay for a billboard on the city\'s West Side Highway.
Also a real estate developer, Hallier is known for coming up with creative ways to get his advertisers--and his company--noticed. In December Show Media developed an eye-catching three-dimensional display for Levi\'s jeans. Images of an unbuttoned pair appeared on 400 taxi tops in New York. Coming soon: scrolling signs with an LED display. Hallier says Show Media is close to inking a deal with a bank that might use it to flash updated CD rates in real time.
Hallier, who likes to press personalized toy cabs into the hands of executives he meets, got a plug for Show Media during the U.S. Open tennis tournament last summer when its displays were featured in a series of Nike videos starring boxing promoter Don King. The videos then appeared on YouTube, where they have been viewed some 5,000 times each.
At 40 Hallier is getting his second ride in this business. He started his first taxitop ad company in 1994 when he offered cab companies $50 a month for rooftop rights in Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco. He created backlit displays to give the ads more pizzazz. The company, called Taxi Tops, brought in $2 million in revenue in 1995. Three years later he expanded to 13 cities. That helped boost revenue to $20 million in 1998. Hallier sold the company two years later to Clear Channel for $124 million. After plowing the profits into Vegas real estate, Hallier returned to taxi-top advertising with Show Media in 2007. It\'s smaller than Clear Channel Outdoor, now a separate company, which puts ads on 5,000 taxicabs in New York City. Hallier thinks he can beat them at the game he created.
\"It\'s not like advertising is going to stop,\" says Hallier. \"Smart people get stuff done in times like this.\"
The top TV show in the U.S. has been working with Show Media for years. Ryan Seacrest, American Idol’s host, is good friends with Hallier and even served as best man at his wedding.
“Laurence is constantly reinventing himself, finding solutions and new ways of doing business,” Seacrest says. “He is allergic to losing.”
Last year, Hallier saw a billboard in Los Angeles that sparked an idea: a 3-D display. Hours later, he had Show Media’s creative team mock one up with a pair of jeans on it. They pitched it to Levi’s in concert with OMG Portland, and the results soon hit the streets. Levi’s stores in New York received so many calls from the public that they had to start forwarding them to the company’s corporate offices.
Once again pushing the boundaries of advertising, Show Media created a complete one-day branded taxi experience for Louis Vuitton for its 2009 fall-line launch event. Using 30 cabs that featured designs from the work of the late fashion designer Stephen Sprouse, Show Media shuttled event attendees from a store opening to an art gallery and then to a gala event.
Outdoor advertising all-stars Posterscope, Vizium and Sow Media joined forces to unveil a special campaign in Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival. Show Media’s 10 van-taxis were seen by Hollywood’s finest, and the droves of groupies who followed them, for the festival’s 10 days in January.
NIKE US OPEN
Last summer, Nike was promoting the possibility of a “Grapple in the Apple”--a match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the U.S. Open. The company had no plans to advertise on taxis, but Show Media proposed having the legendary boxing promoter Don King get in taxis and ask passengers who they predicted would win. The campaign generated considerable buzz, and “Grapple in the Apple” videos still abound on YouTube.