Under Wraps: Portable Restroom Advertising Adds Revenue

Under Wraps: Portable Restroom Advertising Adds Revenue
Many PROs aren’t eager to branch into the advertising business, but it isn’t impossible to overcome.

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Our attention spans are short these days. Really short. 

For instance, we don’t like television commercials. And now, thanks to handy-dandy DVRs and streaming programs, we can zip right through them with our trigger-fast, remote-control-happy fingers. That’s a challenge for television advertising, but an opportunity for alternative advertising. 

Advertising opportunities on portable restrooms, whether wraps, side panels, small 8.5- by 11-inch plaques inside the unit, or even urinal advertising, are a small segment of a category known as “out of home” advertising, or OOH. OOH, which includes billboards, bus terminals, restrooms and other targeted, location-specific advertising, accounted for $6.7 billion in revenue in 2012, a number that has grown each year since 2009. 

For portable restroom operators, this means there’s opportunity for an additional revenue stream. However, it doesn’t come without challenges. Beware, oh faint-of-heart. 

Market sizes

Let’s start this discussion by splitting the market into two segments: the large market and the small market. Large market would be big events with, let’s say, 50,000 attendees and perhaps large clients that work through an advertising agency. Think international speedway events and clients like Harley-Davidson. The small market would be local businesses and smaller venues. Think local festivals or races and clients like a chamber of commerce. 

Jim Paar, president of PMG Outdoors, specializes in portable restroom advertising for the large market. To put it in a nutshell, PMG Outdoors does the work. Paar’s company coordinates deals between a client and a PRO and arranges the printing, installation and even removal of the advertising wrap. The PRO receives an additional $25 to $35 per unit per event. Easy, peasy. 

“Our advertising falls into more of a micro-target advertising,” he says. “There really isn’t a formula for this. It’s tailored to the client and the brand. Sometimes, it even depends on the restroom itself.” 

Paar, who just completed a successful portable restroom campaign for the Johnny Knoxville movie, “Bad Grandpa,” is building momentum in restroom advertising. 

“Restroom advertising really didn’t seem to catch on until eight or nine years ago,” says Parr. “I feel it’s an easier sell now, only because we’ve been at some really high-profile events since then. When people see it, it’s really eye-catching. Companies want something that’s going to grab people’s attention.” 

Now, Paar is building a database of PROs, events and clients and continuing to expand PMG. 

“Knowing what PROs have for inventory, if they have a particular race, for instance, that’s good information to know,” he says. “Then we can go back and talk to our clients and brands. We want to help operators gain events and new opportunities.” 

The small market is a different story. 

In the small market, PROs are often left doing the legwork, including finding advertisers or sponsors and coordinating the printing of promotions. But according to Tom Gebka, president of Piccadilly Concepts, small sometimes means opportunity. 

“Huge golf tournaments or NASCAR events, where you have clients lining up to get into these events, there’s really no way the typical PRO can secure that type of sponsorship. Really, the large numbers, I believe, are in the small markets,” he says.

“It’s an opportunity. When PROs approach an event, typically it’s ‘Who’s got the lowest price?’ With advertising, that changes the equation a little. It’s something PROs need to sell up front as they’re presenting costs for an event.” 

The good and the bad

So advertising can mean money in your pocket. It can set you apart from other suppliers. It can make your businesses stand out with eye-catching advertising. 

It can also come with a few hiccups. Emphasis on visual advertisements can be good, but don’t lose focus on why you’re in this industry in the first place — portable restrooms. 

“People don’t necessarily want to advertise on a portable restroom,” says Nancy Gump, of Andy Gump Temporary Site Services in Santa Clarita, Calif. “Our goal is for portable sanitation to be the reason an event is a success. You can’t put advertising in front of the priority.” 

Gump also says that a huge challenge for PROs is time and resources. When running a full-time business, it’s hard to shift focus even the tiniest bit. 

“We have frames, and we’ve thought of putting advertising in our local units,” she says. “But right now, we’re just trying to get the job done.” 

Combine time restraints and limited resources with a hard sell, and it’s easy to understand why many PROs aren’t eager to branch into the advertising business. But that, says Gebka, isn’t impossible to overcome. 

“It’s a challenge for PROs,” he says. “It’s just one more thing they have to do. But if someone gets good at it, it could differentiate them from the other guys that are out there.” 

Tips for small market advertising

If you’re ready to try advertising as an added revenue stream, consider these tips:

  1. In small markets, start with the chamber of commerce. It’s a good way to connect with local business and perhaps establish a printing connection.
  2. Spend some time figuring out which businesses are appropriate targets for buying restroom advertising. In a small market, you might approach auto shops, plumbing or service-related businesses that aren’t intimidated by the nature of restroom advertising. Then, as your advertising opportunities become more visible, expand to other areas.
  3. Keep your restrooms as clean as possible. “If the restroom’s not clean, the advertiser doesn’t want their name associated with that,” says Gump. “You have to have a standard of expectations.”
  4. In small markets, you can also let the event coordinators handle advertising. “Indirectly, the PRO gets some money back by charging a little more for the restrooms,” Gebka says. This solution takes the pressure off PROs to solicit advertising.
  5. And do your homework. Gump advises PROs to seek out others in the industry who have experience with advertising, and she reminds PROs to always have a contract reviewed before signing it.

Taking the plunge

In a busy world, portable restroom advertising has some big things going for it. For one, the audience is captive. They’re busy standing in line, or using the restroom, and in both situations, there’s no remote control to conveniently make the advertising disappear. 

In fact, in a survey that Paar conducted after one of his events, 77 percent of those questioned could recall the advertisement, and 70 percent felt the advertising was appropriate. Those are great numbers, and a testament to the effectiveness of portable restroom advertising. 

“With restrooms, people have to use them,” Paar says. “It’s very effective, and I feel now is really the time to do this because advertisers are struggling to reach their customers.” 

What has your experience been with advertising? Do you think there’s opportunity for added revenue for your portable restroom business?


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