Windshield Advertising, Effective Marketing or Nuisance?

windshield advertisingPosting advertising flyers on car windshields is probably the most controversial method of marketing you could possibly think of… perhaps we’ll explore that as a topic in the future.  In the meantime, let me ask if you recall the last time you had a marketing flyer posted on your car windshield?  Do you remember how it made you feel?  How about this, do you even remember what was being advertised?  I’m not sure that last question was really fair as we sometimes don’t remember what’s being advertised in more traditional mediums like radio, television, or newspapers.

Okay, let’s start with “how did you feel when you came back to your car to find a flyer, postcard, or business card wedged under your windshield?  Personally, I like to think I’m a fairly easy going feller and try not to sweat the small stuff.  Perhaps I’m biased considering I make a living in marketing and advertising.  However, in doing so, I still have to consider the audience that’s on the receiving end of the marketing message and the medium in which it’s delivered.  On the other hand, I’m an individual with my own independent opinions on what I approve and disapprove of in my life.  This happens to be one of those things that I don’t mind…. IF, my car isn’t totally covered in them, it can be done without “snapping” my windshield wipers, AND to promotional message is “family friendly”.  Again, that may be just me personally, but I prefer not to have the local strip club featuring their star dancer posted where one of my children can get at it.

Is Windshield Advertising Effective?

Not only have I wondered if marketing on car windshields was effective, but you might also ask, “Is posting ads in car windshields legal?”  Well, I’m certainly no attorney, and rest assured that I haven’t researched this topic state by state.  However, I do live in California and found this video answers both questions as to whether it is legal to put ads on your windshield, and if businesses feel it is a viable offline marketing strategy.

I think you might find the answers surprising, I did.  I also think that if you asked around to your friends and colleagues, you’ll also be surprised at their responses.  I’ve found that most of the people I’ve talked to personally have given me mostly negative responses and a few that I would consider “neutral.”  Here’s the funny thing though, although from the several people I’ve talked to, I haven’t heard anyone enthusiastically claim they love finding ads plastered on their windshields, I have received some responses that they’ve actually taken advantage of what was offered on the ad or patronized the business that was advertising.  Of course, on the other side of THAT coin, I’ve heard a few people that you could tell were enraged by just the idea of it and stated they would NEVER patronize a business that put advertising material on their windshield.

Speaking from personal experience, yes, I have used this method of marketing (don’t throw things at me, I did it responsibly).  Okay, I hear some of you asking, “How do you do this responsibly?”  Well, one of the reasons I don’t use this offline marketing strategy often is because it’s time consuming if you’re going to do it “responsibly.”  The first thing I consider is what is the cause of the worst reactions from the recipients of these ads?  Or, even what would irritate ME most about receiving one of these ads?  The most common answer to that is, placing the ad into the windshield wiper.  I give this consideration for a couple reasons.  One is that if you hire someone to do this for you to spare yourself some time, they might not be as careful and snap or slap the wiper blades down on the windshield.  This could cause damage to the blade and possibly even the windshield.  Secondly, just simply having a foreign object (paper, postcard, business card, etc.) slipped under the wiper blade can cause that blade to warp or otherwise become unaligned and as a result, become less effective.  I view the windshield wiper as safety equipment… people need to be able to see clearly when driving in the rain or snow.  I don’t like messing around with safety equipment.

Another consideration I bear in mind to keep my car marketing on the “responsible” side is the perception of “littering.”  Now, most people who get angry at this type of offline marketing strategy, consider the advertiser to be littering.  You may argue this, but it would seem to me that the person who actually tosses the ad to the ground is the actual person guilty of littering.  Again, your own morals and local laws should dictate who actually wins that argument.  As for me, I’d rather avoid the argument altogether and return to the targeted area either later in the day or the following day and pick up any pieces that may have “accidentally slipped out of someone’s hand.”

Alternative to Windshield Advertising

If you’re going to use this sort of offline marketing strategy, then again, I would recommend staying away from using the windshield wiper as a place to anchor down your marketing material.  Instead, I’ve used either the door handle or the door jam area at the very edges of the door.  I believe these are better placement areas for your ads for a couple reasons.  First, part of the reason that people who get annoyed at the windshield placement is that sometimes they don’t notice the ad on the windshield until they actually get into the car and sit down.  Then they have to open the door again, get out, and remove the ad.  This leads right into my next reason why the door handle or jam is a better placement area… there’s no way the driver is going to miss your ad prior to getting into the vehicle.  Not to mention that the chances of doing any kind of damage to the vehicle is reduced significantly.

I Don’t Care What You Say, Windshield Marketing Sucks!

Okay, I hear and understand the folks in this mindset also.  If you’re one of those folks who simply despises car marketing, then you’ll probably appreciate this video:

So, what are YOUR thoughts?  Have you used windshield advertising as an offline marketing strategy?  What were your results?  Would you patronize a company that uses this form of advertising?  Give us your feedback by leaving a comment below.

2 Responses to Windshield Advertising, Effective Marketing or Nuisance?
  1. jack albee
    April 22, 2012 | 2:59 pm

    I am reading this because I have done it for insurance and am considering doing it again. I haven’t done it enough to have any results, but I wonder. Using a postcard size card, and only do it on vehicles that have a rear windshield wiper and parked in such a way that the recipient would see it when they came to their car makes sense to me.

    I also have packs of bandaides with name of agency on it and put a tag on that says: Free for Golfers or watchers and put on the trunks of cars so they see them when they put their clubs in.

    Please comment.

    • JohnV
      April 23, 2012 | 11:04 pm

      Admittedly, I’ve also done this sort of marketing and received a wide range of feedback. All things considered, I think it’s an effective offline marketing strategy, if used wisely. In regards to your idea, I’m not a big fan of putting anything in windshield wipers whether they are in front or back. People tend to be REAL touchy when it comes to their windshield wipers. For maximum visibility, you simply can’t beat sliding your ad material in the driver’s side door jam, or even the door handle if you can manage it. The driver absolutely won’t miss your ad and in most cases will look at it before tossing it aside, or deciding to act on it.

      Better still, if your content will fit into a smaller area, I would recommend using $100 Dollar Bill Drop Cards and slide them into the driver’s side. These “drop cards” look like real 100 dollar bills and can be customized with your ad on the back. Money ALWAYS gets attention!

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