Van Wagner Flies Lightship Group

BlimpVan Wagner, the out-of-home advertising company, will be flying more. With a fleet of some 30 planes that pull banners over beaches and race tracks, the company has acquired blimp advertising operator Lightship Group.
 
Lightship has been operating about six blimps domestically, notably two for MetLife and one for DirecTV with an LED video screen on the side. Van Wagner would like to increase the fleet, but will immediately increase the sales force.
 
Lightship has had a single salesperson for a decade. Van Wagner has at least 30 from various units that can offer clients space in the sky.
 
The acquisition also includes American Blimp Corp., which makes the blimps for Lightship.
 
MetLife and DirecTV use blimps in conjunction with network deals. The airships fly over events and networks provide on-air mentions and screenshots.
 
But more regional smaller-budget advertisers are taking advantage of blimp-vertising. There have been recent deals with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and dairy HP Hood.
 
Prices can fall within a range of $400,000-$500,000 a month.
 
Traditionally, advertisers have bought blimps under a contract lasting several months, but John Haegele, CEO of Van Wagner’s Aerial Media Group, said the company would like to allow advertisers shorter runs to coincide with special promotions and events.
 
Goodyear operates three of its famed blimps itself in the U.S., but uses Lightship internationally, including for flyovers during the recent Olympics. Orlando, Fla.-based Lightship has let blimps loose in some 35 countries over the past 20 years, including China and India.
 
Lightship put together the deal for a TBS blimp to promote the launch of Conan O’Brien’s show several years ago. TBS used it as a stepping-off point for a multifaceted campaign.
 
Haegle said blimp campaigns can be amplified by social media as people who catch one may shoot a photo and post it on a Facebook page or tweet about it.
 
“It generates conversation,” he said. “It’s just something people notice.”

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