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Ocean City

City to bargain with Old Bay over tram wrap advertising scheme

(March 15, 2013) How much does it cost to turn a tram into a billboard for Old Bay seafood seasoning? Apparently, more than the city is being offered.

Despite having a relatively short time before the summer season hits, the City Council moved this week to try to negotiate a higher price for the tram truck advertising proposal brought before the city by Direct Media, the contractor who sells advertising space on transportation equipment on the city’s behalf.

According to Public Works Director Hal Adkins, Direct Media received an unsolicited offer from McCormick & Company, owners of the Old Bay brand, asking if the agency would be interested in selling full-body advertising wraps on the city’s Boardwalk tram trucks.

Currently, the trucks that pull the tram cars feature no advertising. The roofs of the towed passenger cars do have ads, to be viewed by ocean-side hotel patrons. The city’s fleet of buses features full-body advertising graphics.

The city’s contract with Direct Media could be amended to allow such advertising, Adkins said, but he wished to approach the council to gauge “any concern about ‘branding’ the tram.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight said she had been informed that Old Bay was looking to make advertising purchases in a number of resort venues.

“This is part of an overall advertising plan for Old Bay in our area that will bring even more ‘talk’ [to the resort],” she said. “It is a revenue source … Old Bay is very significant in this area. It’s an extremely well-known brand.”

“I’m all for the extra revenue,” countered Councilman Brent Ashley, “but our brand is Ocean City, and this just doesn’t look right to me.”

Old Bay’s offer to Direct Media was $24,000 for the 110 calendar days that the tram operates. Under the contract it has with Direct Media, the city receives a 60 percent profit share of the proceeds, which would be $14,400.

“I just don’t feel [the money] is appropriate for the amount of exposure they would be getting,” said Councilman Doug Cymek.

“I’m not sure that Direct Media shouldn’t have come to us first to discuss what the value of that would be before they moved in that direction [to establish a price],” agreed Mayor Rick Meehan.

For comparison, it was noted that the city receives $5,000 annually, plus in-kind benefits, from the Esskay company to advertise its lunchmeats on the clocks at the Boardwalk bathrooms.

“You could fit the entire [Esskay] sign into the ‘B’ in Old Bay on those,” said Councilman Joe Mitrecic.

Mitrecic also brought up the point that the city uses the trams to take visitors around Northside Park during the Winterfest of Lights. If Old Bay were not compensating Direct Media and the city for the winter use, the trams would have to be de-wrapped.

“It’s very hard on the surface of the bus … and may incur a lot of finish damage when we go to pull it off,” Mitrecic said. “Or would we just have the ‘Winterfest of Lights – sponsored by Old Bay?’”

“The contract … does include the value of stripping it if we instructed them to do so,” Adkins noted.

However, because of the considerable cost and hassle to the city – and the fact that such a project had not been competitively solicited – it was the consensus among council that the proposal should be further discussed with Direct Media and McCormick.

If the company is indeed looking to expand its advertising in the resort, the city may be able to work out a sponsorship deal.

“Other things that are outside of Direct Media right now could be part of the package,” said Councilman Dennis Dare.

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