New products broaden choice

The flatiron Building in downtown Toronto is one of a kind.And it is from this ochre-colored, much-photographed piece of, yes, flat iron-shaped real estate that another sort of one-of-a-kind work emerges.It has to do with buildings, or rather the advertising that...

The flatiron Building in downtown Toronto is one of a kind.

And it is from this ochre-colored, much-photographed piece of, yes, flat iron-shaped real estate that another sort of one-of-a-kind work emerges.

It has to do with buildings, or rather the advertising that is affixed to them.

Painting on walls is not new – after all, there are petroglyphs (rock paintings) near Peterborough, Ont. that are thousands of years old – nor is draping them with advertising banners.

But what is fresh is the way Murad – which has its offices in The Flatiron Building – has married computers to murals to produce wall advertising that can be assembled, attached, seen, admired, disassembled, crated and shipped to another location.

Fraction of the time

And all of this in a fraction of the time it takes an artisan with photographs and a spray gun to paint an advertising mural on a wall, only to see it six months or a year later – after the manner of medieval artists who used the same canvas again and again – painted over with another ad.

Michael Chesney, the owner and president of Murad, says the Windproof Super Banner System his company invented is a couple of years old but little known by those who do not work directly with it.

Like most great ideas, whether in advertising or in anything else, Chesney’s banners are simple and resemble an artist’s canvas attached over a stretcher (frame).

An advertisement painted on a vinyl square or rectangle of any size is tightly bound over the aluminium stretcher – to prevent the wind from getting underneath it – and attached to the wall rented to carry the advertising.

However, it is the materials used, and the way the paint is applied to the vinyl that make the super banners so different.

According to Metromedia Technologies International in Los Angeles (the company also has a Canadian office in Toronto), the firm that developed computerized painting on vinyl, the process begins by photographing the original advertisement artwork with a graphic arts camera and making a film transparency of the photo.

Then, Metromedia says, the transparency is mounted on an electronic color scanner – a clear glass drum that spins rapidly – as a laser scans the image.

At this stage, the scanner gives a digital breakdown of the colors that make up the image, and the information is sent to a Color Electronic Prepress System.

At the ceps workstation, the image’s color can be corrected or retouched, and images can be ‘cloned’ in a few seconds.

Reproduction on vinyl

Following that, a laser proof of the image is sent for client approval, which, once given the go-ahead, leads to the final and, physically, the largest part of the entire job – the reproduction of the digitized image on vinyl.

Metromedia says the digital data for the image are sent to a main computer that drives a robotic painting machine.

A single sheet of vinyl is wrapped around a cylinder 17.5 feet in diameter. As the cylinder revolves, 16 inkjets fire as many as 31 million paint dots – which dry immediately – to create the final image in about five hours.

Closer to home, Chesney says his super banners are also produced at Artisan in Mississauga, Ont. using the same method.

No fluctuation

‘You’re working exactly from a trannie [transparency,] so there’s no creative fluctuation at all,’ he says.

‘Sooner or later it won’t make sense for a guy to manually paint a billboard and get the nose wrong when you can get it right through a computer, cheaper.’

Chesney says to produce a super banner ‘by the book’ Murad prefers four to six weeks’ notice, although he adds one can be turned out in as little as seven to 10 days if the transparency is ready.

He says there is really no maximum or minimum size for his firm’s super banners.

For example, Murad produced and erected a 50-ft. by 50-ft. super banner for Calvin Klein Jeans for a wall on the edge of Toronto’s garment district.


Chesney says super banners cost $10 to $20 a square foot to produce, but become cheaper if several of the same size are delivered.

The Calvin Klein super banner, according to Murad figures, cost $25,000 (net) to produce and gets about 75,000 viewers a day.

The cost of the super banner is about halfway between the estimated $15,500 to $35,000 cost of a painted mural for the 50-ft. by 50-ft. garment district wall.

Generally, Murad’s numbers suggest, the upfront cost of producing a super banner is a little more expensive than painting a mural.

However, as Chesney points out, once one (or more) of his super banners have been produced and shown at one location, they can be taken down and shipped across town – or across the country – to another.

Different sizes

Chesney says at the push of a button, the computer-inkjet process can make that same image smaller, so Metromedia or Artisan can create a smaller billboard in about a day, saving a substantial amount of money.

These smaller-size super banners could go a long way to change the practice of window-dressing, he says, suggesting instead of mannequins and the other accoutrements of the trade, a designer might use a dozen identical vinyl banners in his windows.

Given their portability, their entirely predictable results – the image an advertiser gives to Murad is exactly what goes on the vinyl banner – and their lower-than-wall-mural cost, if it’s amortized over the life of the banner, the super banners are worth a second look.

And it is a second look that Levi Strauss was banking on when its super banner campaign for blue jeans got under way Aug. 7.


Chesney says what Levi Strauss is doing is using super banners as enormous decals.

The Levi’s banners were produced in the same inkjet-computer fashion as other super banners, but were cut around their edge, glued on the back and stuck to already created Levi’s resin and polystyrene cutouts, creating a 3-D advertisement for the sides of buildings.

‘This is the best outdoor in the whole world Levi’s has ever done,’ Chesney says.

Equally enthusiastic about his revamped out-of-home advertising vehicle is Richard Gartner, president of Toronto-based Metromedia (not to be confused with Metromedia in Los Angeles, super banner printer.)

Old style

Gartner says although elevator advertising has been around for a long time it has always seemed like a bulletin board for the local community centre.

But, he continues, that has changed with Metromedia, which started elevator advertising afresh in Toronto about a year ago.

Gartner says his 13-inch x 8-inch ads, which he calls ‘high frequency, virtually direct mail,’ come two to an elevator and are posted in residential clusters of high rise apartment buildings.

Gartner admits elevator advertising is limited by the necessity of high rise concentrations, but says the ads compensate for that by having a high visual impact and the elevators themselves provide a captive environment.

Match tenant mix

Naturally, he says, ads in the high rises where Metromedia has contracts are selected to match the tenant mix.

And given that many of the tenants are young singles or young married couples, such businesses as tanning salons, fitness chains, video rental stores, medical and dental clinics, and fast food delivery are prominent, he says.

For now, Metromedia deals with residential properties, but Gartner says he has plans to approach commercial buildings.

He says the minimum contract for his firm’s elevator advertising is six buildings a month, with each building costing $55. The ads are posted or rotated the first week of every month.

Catering vehicles

Another out-of-home supplier, Cara Operations of Toronto, is hoping to cash in on its proposal for advertising on airport catering service vehicles.

Cara, through its Cara Airport Services division, is looking for media service firms to sell and co-ordinate advertising space on its fleet of 140 airport catering vehicles.

The deal would be exclusive and run two years, beginning in October.

Cara says it commissioned a study to assess this new out-of- home medium. It found the out- of-home industry is still growing and advertisers are looking for opportunities to buy and sell.

The study also found space on the vehicles could be sold as part of a national or regional campaign, or it could be sold by specific location – of which Cara has 11 across Canada.

Elsewhere on the out-of-home front, a new medium that takes its cue from 100-year-old Parisian advertising columns is starting to make an appearance in downtown Montreal.

The 250 Omni columns, from Omni, The National Poster Company in Montreal, should all be built by the end of September.

Rene Ducharme, senior account executive at Omni, says his company’s columns were inspired by the tall, green, metal advertising columns that are still a familiar sight in Paris.

(The French columns are decidedly low-tech. A new ad is simply pasted over an old one. The columns have advertised everything from famed Montmartre cabaret dancer Jane Avril a century ago to much more recent Socialist Party rallies).

Ducharme says the Omni columns will have 400 advertising faces to them. Three-quarters of the columns are triangular, and the rest are circular and have two sides, he says.

Each eye-level, back-lit column – 4.4-ft. high and 3-ft. wide – has a neighborhood map on it and one or two advertising displays.

Ducharme says the Omni columns are set back two feet from the road.

He says Omni is already taking ads for the columns, noting such familiar names as Molson, Labatt, Evian and Imperial Tobacco have reserved space.

He says the Omni column medium was launched in May, and Omni has a 20-year deal with the City of Montreal for the advertising.