Few will argue that a truck trailer with a van body or tarp makes an ideal canvas for eye-catching advertising. Focus spoke to two leading players in the business of commercial vehicle branding about how to get a quality finish to your mobile billboard.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to branding the sides of trucks and vans – one believes that travelling ‘incognito’ is the best way to go to avoid hijackings, cargo theft and losing contracts to competitors who will poach your clients if they know what’s inside your vehicle. The other school follows the ‘go large’ route, boldly displaying company and product branding on fleet vehicles to promote awareness of their or their client’s enterprise. If you fall into the ‘go large’ group, read on.
According to Tent & Tarp Reef’s Chris Johnson, “there are two types of branding processes for vehicles – signwriting onto the tarp or van body, the cheaper option because it offers basic ‘flat’ colours, and digital printing onto vinyl, which produces high-quality graphics with all manner of effects”.
He added, “The right sort of tarp needs to be selected for each kind of branding process. The industry standard tarp specification for signwriting is 800 grams/m² and 900 grams/m² for digital printing. There is a wide variety of tarp material in South Africa from which to choose, some good and some bad.
“A poor quality tarp will perish rapidly with age and distort the graphic or signage. By the same token, ink quality also differs tremendously, as does the amount of ink applied to branding by different printers. Poor quality ink will fade quicker than premium ink,” said Johnson
He advises potential branders to not be sold on price. “Look at the guarantees offered by the printer and tarp supplier and where the products come from. Chinese, Korean and German products dominate the market so there is a wide choice of price and quality. Prices extend from R35/m² to R50/m². Like most things, you get what you pay for.”
It is also necessary to determine what kind of varnish is used to finish and protect the branding. “A solvent-based varnish (eggshell finish) is much more durable than a water-based varnish, which will fade after 12 months or so,” said Johnson. “A quality tarp branding job should come with a three-year warranty, although these will diminish in cover value as the tarp ages. A cheap tarp branding quote for an interlink tautliner comes in at around R30 000. A quality job for the same vehicle should cost between R36 000 to R38 000.”
Another tip from Johnson involves the length of time the signwriter takes to paint the tarp. “You want clarity and longevity from the branding so a quality, unhurried job will take around eight hours to complete. Beware those signage companies that promise job completion in less than four hours,” he says.
South Africa’s leading specialised vehicle branding shop is Graffiti, with offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and a staff complement of more than 200 people. According to Graffiti’s Gavin Schlaphoff, “a truck is a highly cost-effective medium for outdoor advertising. When one considers a typical outdoor billboard alongside the highway costs advertisers between R30 000 and R50 000 per month to rent, compared to a large branded van costing around just R300 per month for the same amount of design work, the advantages of trucks as mobile billboards are obvious.”
It goes without saying that those fleets looking to boost their market profile should not only seek the best designers for their branding but also keep their trucks clean. “Most heavy trucks will travel more than 500 000 km during their lifespan so their ‘reach’ in advertising terms is exceptional. It’s important for branding to have impact to realise its full potential and there’s no substitute for a great concept executed by professional designers,” says Schlaphoff. “It also makes sense to use a specialised vehicle branding one-stop-shop like Graffiti to ensure expedient turn-around times and quality workmanship.”
Returning to the ‘incognito’ school, publicity-shy fleet owners may consider renting out their truck signage space to advertisers in no way related to their logistics function, such as a national public awareness campaign or a new holiday timeshare resort. Armed with the cost-comparison, the hitherto low-profile ‘Trucker Joe’ could become a media mogul, raking in thousands of extra rands every month hassle-free (apart from regular truck washes), without interrupting his normal duties. And, his trucks will be so recognisable, hijackers will steer well clear of them.
Not a bad idea? Let’s face it – the space is there, it moves – use it.