With orchestrated hoopla, Los Angeles County officials gathered at Manhattan Beach last Friday to take delivery of 30 pickup trucks, six station wagons and a sedan, all donated by Nissan Motor Corp.
In exchange, Nissan will be allowed to advertise the pickups as the "official vehicles of the Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors," both in their general advertising and in signs on the vehicles themselves.
County officials estimate that the deal will be worth $280,000 over five years. But they have not started asking what they will do with all the money they save.
The Nissan agreement marks the only contract county officials have snared since the Board of Supervisors voted last June to raise money by expanding advertising along the beaches. Formerly, advertising on the 32 miles of sand and surf governed by the county was allowed only on donated trash cans and some lifeguard trucks.
A Good Beginning
Chris Klinger, chief of revenue properties for the Beaches and Harbors Department, said that although the department has been unsuccessful in luring other advertisers, he believes the Nissan agreement will create a good foundation for the program.
Klinger also said he is optimistic that more contracts will be signed in coming months. The department is negotiating with a soft drink company, a radio station and a newspaper to participate in the program, he said. Klinger declined to name any of the companies.
"This is a pioneering effort," Klinger said. "I've got to believe that in three or four years we'll have a mature program. But who knows? It might come quicker, or it may take longer."
Jim Hartley, vice president of Del Wilbur & Associates, a marketing firm hired by the county, predicted that the program will meet with greater success next year because the county will be able to sell the concept to companies before they have drafted their advertising budgets, a process that usually occurs in the fall. Klinger said that after the Board of Supervisors approved the program last June, six months or so were initially spent drafting guidelines.
75 Million Beachgoers
Hartley added that he has experienced a "certain frustration" in persuading some potential advertisers that they will reach more than a localized market by promoting their products at the beaches. County estimates indicate 75 million people annually visit the beaches, he said.
Under the program approved by the Board of Supervisors, advertising for alcohol and tobacco products is prohibited. Billboards are also outlawed, but smaller signs, such as the one-foot-square signs that will appear on the Nissan trucks informing beachgoers of their official status, are permitted. All signs the county allows must be related to some sort of public service, Klinger said.
Both Nissan and county officials said that it was happy coincidence that the county's effort to find advertisers came at the same time the auto maker was launching a marketing campaign for its 1986 1/2 truck--and aiming it directly at the outdoorsy type of people who frequent the beach. Nissan has dubbed the truck a "hardbody."
"Basically, we are going after a more youth-oriented, or active, market," said Dave Hubbard, Nissan's national truck advertising manager. "And the term 'hardbody' embodies that active life style. It's a strong, good-looking vehicle to tie into the beach life style."
Under terms of the deal with Nissan, the company will replace the 37 vehicles it donated to the county each year with new ones. The county will then have the option of purchasing the year-old vehicles at 50% of their wholesale cost.
Klinger said the Nissan cars and trucks will replace all but six of the department's vehicles. Although the benefits are difficult to pinpoint, he estimates that the vehicles will save the Beaches and Harbors Department $280,000 in maintenance costs over the next five years, and the marketing firm will receive 20% of that amount for its services. The department expects that parking and other fees will bring in revenues of $6.1 million this fiscal year, or less than half its $15.6-million budget.
In return for the vehicles, Nissan gets the right to advertise them as the official vehicle of the county beaches in its advertising and can use the department's logo. The company also has exclusive rights to sponsor 10 beach events, such as volleyball tournaments, annually. All other auto makers are excluded from sponsoring beach events during the term of Nissan's contract.
The county has embarked on its program at the same time Coppertone has decided to drop its 5-year-old beach advertising effort. Since 1981, the company has donated trash barrels to various Southern California municipalities, including Los Angeles County, in exchange for the right to print the firm's name on each barrel.
However, Bill Manley, director of advertising for Plough USA, makers of Coppertone, said the company decided to terminate the program because it has reformulated the suntan lotion and decided to redirect its marketing efforts to tout Coppertone's cosmetic and skin-care qualities.
"We looked at our media program," Manley said, "and it dictated we should put more emphasis on broadcasting and magazines."