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Writing our Clients across the Sky

Yusuf Danesi

Thirty-three years ago Mort Arken retired from the U.S Navy after serving on the U.S.S Enterprise in the Pacific. Six months immediately after, he bought five SNJ-2 Navy fighters; today he owns six of the eleven in existence.

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia (sixth edition 2001), skywriting is an advertising medium in which aircraft spell out trade names and sales slogans in the sky

Skywriting is a single plane twisting and turning at an altitude of about 10,000 feet emitting a biodegradable trail of vapour to form spectacular letters and symbols in the sky. A single skywriting letter is 2,400 feet tall, i.e. the size of two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other (Skytypers 2002). It is a spectacular form of mass advertising, and it is great for grand openings, new products, major sporting events, anniversaries, etc.

According to Kathy Prentice, columnist for Media Life, sky-written ads date back to the 1930s when Pepsi put its message up among the clouds from coast to coast. Today aerial companies are offering features like reproductions of logos, elaborate graphics and typed messages in addition to the traditional smoky looped letters (Skytypers).

The Columbia Encyclopedia describes skytyping as a more modern form of skywriting which involves the use of five to seven planes. They fly rigidly parallel and equidistant courses as nearly in perfect unison as possible. The message to be written is arranged on a master control panel and as the planes fly abreast electronic signals cause the smoke-emission mechanism in each plane to release puffs of smoke accordingly.

Skytyping messages unfold like dot matrix printing across the sky. Air messages are targeted at sports events and concerts, beaches and commuter traffic or can be aimed at a general audience (K. Prentice). Skywriting is perfect for short messages or logos, says Mort Aken. But for longer words, the answer is skytyping. Mort describes skytyping more practically thus: A special transmitter on the lead plane sends information to receivers on each of the other aircraft. Smoke puffs out in a pattern read from a perforated tape. The tape looks like a little player piano roll. Whenever there s a hole the appropriate airplane releases a puff of smoke.

Creative material varies with the type of skywriting and is usually provided

There is no doubt that skytyping is an excellent way to get consumers to notice you. Some of the benefits of skytyping include: (a) it stands you out in the every day clutter; (b) your aerial billboards are brought to the crowds; (c) you do not bother about artwork and construction time delays as in conventional billboards; (d) curiosity compels anyone to read messages on the giant aerial billboards; (e) it is the world s largest billboard created in the open.

Though sales at ticketed events and crowd estimates at parade and other public events may be used, Wayne Mansfield of Aviad, a company specializing in a different type of skywriting, opines that it is not a measured medium. However, it is very impactful. For him it would be very difficult for everyone on a beach of 1.2 million people not to notice an aerial advertisement.

In the U.S entertainment (especially movie premieres) does well on the medium. Also, automotive manufacturers, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, Internet, travel, packaged goods including candy and personal care items such as suntan lotion, etc. actively patronize aerial billboards. Not left out are public service announcements as well as sponsored reproductions of works of art in the U.S. Stinis attests to the fact that his company advertised Wonder Bra and the manufacturer called to stop the campaign because they were totally sold out.

As regards cost to an advertiser, campaigns could be based on the number of showings per location in addition to number of locations. Weather and availability may also determine the lead time. Pricing may also be determined

Clients who are already in the sky in the U.S for example, include Cadillac, Buick, MGM, Universal Studios, Budweiser, Lycos, Tootsie Rolls, Pepsi, Dunkin Donuts, Heineken, Japan Airlines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Aqua Fresh Toothpaste, Toyota, Disneyland, General Foods, The History Channel and the U.S Postal Service. In 1999, NicoDerm CQ- Nicorette Skytypers were a major component of SmithKline Beecham s Nico Tour 99, a smoking session cessation campaign. Mort Arken was thrilled that his World War Two airplanes were once more being used to fight an important battle, i.e. against the health hazards related to cigarette smoking.

Mort Arken used his computerized skytyping method to spell out stop-smoking messages like LEAVE SMOKING TO US- GET NICODERM CQ or NICORETTE. Writing clients in the sky is already a technique in Europe, Japan and South Africa. Skytyping is literally 1,000 times larger than a roadside billboard, and it is custom placed over your specific demographic area or desired event that will give you maximum awareness.

Whereas there are several retired Nigerian pilots who are unsung, in the U.S Skytyper pilots are heroes who sign autographs for young fans at airports, etc. The skytyper pilots draw big crowds wherever they operate and serve as ambassadors to millions of consumers annually

This is first a challenge to our outdoor advertising sector and then other stakeholders in the Nigerian advertising industry; let us have more creative, vibrant and exciting out-of-home media. The various stakeholders should go to the drawing board on this even as I challenge the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) to spend time studying their counterparts in South Africa; there, out-of-home is simply a wonder to behold!

Open House: of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own

Black Issues Book Review , Nov-Dec, 2004 by Denolyn Carroll

Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own by Patricia J. Williams Farrar, Straus & Giroux, November 2004 $24., ISBN 0-374-11407-2

Williams, a professor of law at Columbia University, is one of only a few writers who can engage me in reading about race, gender and other critical social, political and legal issues without making me feel as if I were embroiled in academia at its most uninspiring.

In her fourth book, Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own, Williams, a 2000 MacArthur Fellowship recipient (a.k.a. the "genius grant"), invites readers into a series of candid accounts, informed by her own personal and family histories. From "The Fourth Wall," to "The Outhouse" "The Kitchen" "The Boudoir," "The Music Room," "The Pool Room," "The Crystal Stair" and "The Dusty Parlor," the writer engages our sensibilities with provocative comments on issues that affect us on personal and societal levels.

We learn, for example, of the author`s Aunt Mary, who in deciding to "pass," "became an early pioneer of `don`t ask, don`t tell` assimilatinnism ." Williams also asserts that "the general paradox of African Americans` attempts to render ourselves mainstream is that the very rituals of proving that we are `just like` the girl next door are themselves the proof of our marginality." She mentions/discusses such African American personages as Muhammad Ali, Halle Berry, Michael Jackson, Sidney Poitier, Chris Rock, Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey. These are in the context of "the subtle configurations of racial imagery that permeate the American landscape of great, if idiosyncratic, celebrity," and, by implication, the ways in which these patterns highlight the nuances of our day-to-day interactions.

"All of us," she notes, "have experienced the contradictory categorization by which the appearance of one of us is a marvel, two of us a miracle, three a mission accomplished, and four--hey, time to sell."

Williams`s down-to-earth storytelling style, peppered with humor, makes her witty and insightful points accessible and entertaining. Author of The Alchemy of Race and Rights: A Diary of a Law Professor, The Rooster`s Egg: On the Persistence of Prejudice and Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race, she also writes a regular column for The Nation, and is a regular columnist for Ms. Magazine and The Village Voice. Williams welcomes and deserves our ear.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Cox, Matthews & Associates

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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