Newest Next In Media: Ads On Employee Clothing

Why settle for an embroidered logo when you can have a four-color, 14.5 x 16.75-inch print-quality ad on the shirts of employees in big box retailers, sports stadiums, theme parks, state fairs, supermarkets, gas stations and drugstores?

Actually, that's pretty much what Solomon Emeth was thinking when he started Eye Level Marketing, the newest next in media.

Emeth, who spent a few decades in men's clothing, found himself at the turn of the millennium in a business that was limited to embroidering shirts for the Professional Golf Association and theme parks. "It was not being as creative as you could be," he says, understatedly.

Now, he and his partners have created a company that already has deals with Universal Studios, a Beverly Hills perfumery, the Indianapolis Colts and the 99¢ Only Stores in California. Eye Level Marketing (tag line: "Be Seen") is in talks with major corporations (many among the Top 100 leading national advertisers), ad agencies across the country and an unspecified racing sport, according to Eye Level's agency, MB2, which happens to be located in Indianapolis, Ind.

John Miles, CEO of MB2 (also known as Miles Brinson Brown), says they are spending a lot of time now at trade shows and conventions, even as the new medium is gaining traction, "we're still learning."

For example, he says, at a trade show in Las Vegas three weeks ago, "we realized that just showing the shirts wasn't enough. We have to make sure people realize the panels are interchangeable."

Ah, the panels. That's where your ad goes. The panels are designed by a patented engineering process to attach to the front and/or back of camp and polo shirts, bibs, vests and aprons created by the company.

Advertisements--such as your latest print ad--are sublimated on the clothing in the print process much like an inkjet printer. Miles says any graphic can be reproduced, and the clothing is washable. Details can be found at EyeLevelMarketing.com.

Universal Studios employees have been wearing the product for 18 months, Emeth says, with advertisements for its rides and movies.

Duty Free Perfumery in Beverly Hills signed on late last year and reports a 12% sales spike in January over January 2006. Store owner Avraham Zajac is blown away. "It is very, very helpful in this business," he says of the product. "We have thousands of types of fragrances. If people don't know what they want, it is difficult to finalize a sale."

Zajac has interchangeable panels advertising perfume brands such as Dolce & Gabbana on the apron he wears in the shop. "We are selling brand name products. If people maybe saw an ad in a magazine and they want to try a newer fragrance, if they see one of the three they are testing on my apron, there is a real, palpable chance they are gonna buy it.

"This is what any retailer would want. It's neat, easy, clear and a wonderful idea. I am sure it's going to go like wild."

Eye Level is talking with pro football teams after a successful run with the Indianapolis Colts (there's that Indianapolis connection again), wherein the stadium staff wore vests with front and back panels advertising one of 10 corporate sponsors, including Motorola, Chevy, Charter One Bank and a construction union.

Stadium advertising is costly, and space is often sold out.

Emeth is particularly eager to bring stadium advertising to those who heretofore could not afford it. "It creates a whole new platform or inventory in which to sell traditional [big-ticket] products or local products and services," he says. "The construction union was now able to really sponsor the day on these vests, which will attract new advertisers to the platform, and that is what got the eye of the NFL officials."

At a New York trade show, Emeth says, "we were approached by someone with P&G, who called his ad agency to come down and see this concept. We're really getting our feet under us."

Eye Level Marketing is testing the concept in the U.S. as well as in Japan, Korea, Israel and South Africa.

"We keep saying, let's move slow, do it correctly, go to trade shows and, down the road, we'll do trade advertising," says Miles. "They've only approached one side of this business--in-store, in-market people, arena people, grocery people, retailers. Once that's established, there's the agency side, where people can have inventory to sell.

"This is so strong that instead of trying to sell the complete package, it'll come with time. We're approaching all potential uses, letting people use the product so they can see how nice it is. It's not silkscreen."