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Advertising is a social science.

Every company needs to get people to consider their product or services. They use television, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites, indoor billboards, outdoor billboards, fliers, and promotional items.

One relatively new form of outdoor advertising is car-wrapping. Instead of paint, a thin, flexible printed film is applied to every side of the car, including a perforated film over the rear windows. The result is an eye-catching three-dimensional rolling advertisement.

This form of advertising falls somewhere between billboards and painted delivery trucks. 

The van to the right is part of the buspool organization that arranges vanpools around San Francisco.

It has been wrapped in Stone Cellars by Beringer advertising, and I have to admit, it makes a big impression. When the van isn't on its long commute, it enjoys a prime parking spot throughout the working day, where thirsty tourists are exposed to the Beringer name.


In 1998, when Davina gave me the tour of Yahoo headquarters, she pointed out a wrapped Yahoo car in the parking lot. She told me that the driver received a $200 monthly check to drive his wrapped car. She let me know that there was a waiting list for the next wrap job. She didn't have a car, but it was obvious that any employee would drive the Yahoo car without much encouragement. $200 was just icing on the cake. 

In 1999, at the height of the internet gold rush, advertising prices in California quickly rose.

A clever group of advertising gurus realized that when the price of traditional billboard advertising rose, other outdoor advertising might become cost effective, in particular, car-wrapping. They announced that they were willing to lend ad-wrapped cars to highly-active drivers. They launched 

Word spread quickly.

Soon, every single car in America was driving around with an ad on it.

Just kidding.


I don't actually know what happened to I assume that when times got hard in the tech sector, advertising rates plummeted and the wrapped car phenomenon became less attractive to potential advertisers.

Their site is gone now:, and the Wayback Machine doesn't explain how they disappeared.

Of course, cars still get wrapped. I've seen an e-trade car, a Ferrari Color van, a Jelly Belly car, and several wrapped vans representing local radio stations.

People don't talk much about the free cars anymore.

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Copyright 2003