Mobility Solution Helps Create Sky-high Returns for Streetblimps

About Streetblimps

Streetblimps is an out-of-home media solutions company offering innovative promotion strategies to top companies. Originally known for its national network of attention-getting mobile billboards, Streetblimps has successfully expanded its media portfolio to include street teams, nightlife projection promotions and guerilla marketing programs that are custom built and executed to build brand awareness. Streetblimps promises its clients effective advertising that’s delivered on time and on budget.


The uniqueness of Streetblimps’ strategy created logistical challenges when it came to verifying the performance of its mobile billboards. Unlike traditional media that can track readership or viewership, the company required its drivers to assist in documenting their results. Drivers had to report their locations every hour on the hour and use cameras to take photographs of the Streetblimps along their routes to show clients where the billboards had been displayed. At the end of each day drivers submitted reports and of photographs of the day’s locations to headquarters, where staff developed the pictures and sent them by overnight courier to clients. Streetblimps needed a better, faster way to demonstrate performance for clients.


AT&T suggested a GPS-based workforce-management solution that’s as distinctive as Streetblimps’ media solutions. TeleNav Track™ from AT&T lets Streetblimps drivers use BlackBerry® Torch smartphones to access GPS-enabled location tracking, turn-by-turn directions, mileage records and wireless forms. They can quickly capture and submit photos with the devices, making it easier to provide detailed records to satisfy advertisers and support Streetblimps’ continued growth.

Mobile Billboards Go Where the Customers Are 

People look up when a blimp drives by – even in an age when they’re surrounded with technology that delivers a world of news, sports and entertainment to their cell phones on demand. Entrepreneur Douglas J. Frantin made this human curiosity work for his company and its clients when he created the Streetblimps, distinctive-looking mobile billboards that turn heads wherever they go. The sleek StreetBlimp, which features an aerodynamically designed truck cab mounted with a full 22-foot long color billboard, grabs attention for Frantin’s clients across the U.S. and soon Canada.

Clients like Nike, Starbucks, GM, FedEx, AT&T and dozens more marquee names rely on Streetblimps to promote their products and services. The company specializes in out-of-home advertising – any promotion that reaches consumers when they’re away from home. Frantin, who began his career in the truck dealership and leasing business, came up with the intriguing concept in 1986 to address a real need for advertisers. “You can't buy a billboard where you really want one,” he said. “Streetblimps give clients the reach they need into strategic areas where you can’t get a traditional billboard,” with campaigns as short as a week or as long as a year.

In the early days when a client hired Streetblimps Frantin studied maps and then drove around to determine the route that would reach the right demographics and largest number of target customers. Once a StreetBlimp was launched, Frantin followed it with a camera to verify the billboard’s travels for his clients. “It was a long, arduous process,” he remembers. “This was such a new format that no one could really get their head around it. It was interesting to try to convince the advertising world that this was a great medium that could really make an impact.” Forward-thinking advertisers soon saw the benefits of the unique strategy, which became especially effective in supporting new product launches.

As the concept caught on and there were too many Streetblimps for Frantin to document personally, drivers were tasked with taking the photos. This meant parking the StreetBlimp at least once an hour and using a disposable camera to photograph the billboard along its assigned route. At the end of the day the driver mailed the camera to headquarters, where staff developed the film and sent the photographs to clients via overnight delivery. Even after adopting digital cameras the staff still had to upload the photos from a computer at the end of each day.

Driving Improved ROI

The process was the same for each of the 80 billboards that Streetblimps deploys in major markets from its depots in New York, Florida, Illinois and California. Frantin wanted a more effective way to document the strategically designed routes that help advertisers reach target audiences and deliver a better return on their investment.

The new system had to demonstrate proof of performance more quickly. “Clients love the excitement of a campaign when it's running and you want to give them feedback immediately,” he said. “One of my biggest problems was the time it took to get information through the system and into the hands of clients.”

Frantin also wanted to make it easier for his drivers to complete and submit the logs mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which required the drivers to stop every hour, conduct a vehicle check and use a keyboard hardwired into each truck to submit safety reports.

To help drivers provide evidence of Streetblimps’ routes, the company purchased a tracking system designed by the military to record the movements of submarines. There were limitations from the outset - the system provided only latitude and longitude because it wasn‘t designed to be used by commercial vehicles, and did nothing to help drivers meet government regulations. “It didn’t give me what I really wanted, but at least it provided an hour by hour indication of where each vehicle was.” Frantin wanted his clients to have a street level view of their mobile billboards. “After 12 years of using our system, I felt it was time to seek something better,” he said.

Total Accountability

A strong relationship with AT&T led Frantin to seek advice from his account team, which suggested TeleNav Track Premium from AT&T, a mobility solution running on the AT&T wireless network.  Managers are able to monitor vehicles in near real time. In addition, Telenav Track enables drivers to photograph the Streetblimps at assigned locations.

“I can’t tell you how helpful this technology is,” Frantin said. “The driver doesn’t have to find a drop-off box to send his photos overnight. At the end of the day he hits a button on his smartphone and he’s done. The ability get a picture to the clients that fast to show that their marketing messages are reaching their audience completely won my business. It’s a perfect match.”

The company no longer has to pay for cameras, photo development and overnight delivery fees, a significant savings when multiplied by the dozens of mobile billboards Streetblimps has working for clients. “The whole system is really a huge benefit to us,” he added.

GPS navigation provides visual and audible turn-by-turn driving directions, which minimizes the possibility of drivers getting lost. Geofencing capabilities further ensure that trucks don’t stray from their assigned routes. The solution prompts drivers when it’s time to do a required safety check and provides paperless forms for drivers to complete and submit using their phones.

Clients are amazed at the precision with which Streetblimps tracks the billboards; Frantin has the ability to let any client know at any time the exact location of their Streetblimps. “We also have a web portal through which clients can see a minute-by-minute breadcrumb trail of every vehicle,” he said, “so there is total accountability.” Many clients appreciate the minute detail, but most just want a recap in the form of a proof of performance report at the end of each campaign. The solution supports both.

Beyond the Mobile Billboards

The success of his Streetblimps led Frantin to explore other imaginative strategies. In addition to its innovative billboards, the company now offers street teams (including marketers on Segway® personal transporters), nightlife promotion, street graphics, vehicle wraps, projection mapping and other attention-getting ways to build brand awareness. Social media is increasingly playing a larger role.

“Our teams create excitement at the street level, sometimes with product samples or discount coupons,” Frantin said. For instance, Streetblimps once transported loads of sand, beach chairs and umbrellas to New York City’s Union Square to showcase New Jersey beaches; street teams handed out sand pails and shovels as part of the campaign.

The company continues to push the envelope when it comes to creating buzz for its clients, most recently attracting crowds in Manhattan by projecting high-definition ads onto the sides of buildings to promote an up and coming rapper. The campaign involved Streetblimps’ first use of QR codes, which customers scan with their cell phones to get more information; in this case, crowds were connected to sites that featured the artist’s recordings and other merchandise. The record company was highly impressed with the campaign. “When you get a client that’s interested in doing something innovative, that's where we really shine,” he said.

Streetblimps is able to use its AT&T tracking solution to measure its street campaigns as well as the mobile billboards. “It's a great thing to give my managers the ability to cover an event. We may have five teams of five people throughout Manhattan; the manager can see where they are, take pictures of them and send them back,” Frantin said. “We really bought the system for the mobile billboards but it’s great to be able to utilize it to document street teams or people on Segways.”

Added Street Value

Frantin believes AT&T has facilitated his company’s growth. “We now have the ability to do large campaigns seamlessly across the country, which is one of our biggest assets,” he said. Moreover, Telenav Track from AT&T has become a market differentiator for Streetblimps. “It's such a great selling tool. Having the ability to provide a detailed report on the location of every vehicle every minute is a great ROI for our clients.”

The detailed reports also make it easier for the Traffic Audit Bureau (TAB) for Media Measurement to determine how many people see Streetblimps’ billboards. “It was difficult to get audited because our old system could only provide locations every five minutes, which was not good enough for TAB,” Frantin said. “Now we can give them a minute by minute location, which is huge for us. We’re coming closer to really monetizing the numbers.”

As his company innovates on behalf of its clients, Frantin is confident that AT&T will continue to add value to his operations. “I anticipate that this system is going to pay for itself, just predicated on the expense of the pictures alone,” he said. “With the amount of business that I'm going to get, having the ability to turn information so quickly for our clients is going to give us a better position in the media world. It’s a win-win.”

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