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Sticking point

By / 9 years ago / Features / No Comments

For many commercial fleets, the idea of running their vehicles without using a livery would be simply laughable. 

Liveries can provide a valuable way of acquainting people with your brand and, in particular, promoting it or your services. Fleets such as Royal Mail and British Gas have used liveries in this way for many years but more recent examples include the supermarket delivery trucks – a great way of letting people know that home delivery is available for their area.

It’s a fairly simple business practice that has been going on since carriages were horse drawn. 

But what are the more complex financial dynamics behind the practice? Just how much good (or bad) is it doing for a business in cash terms? 

Research from global products and logitistics giant 3M shows that vehicle advertising provides a cost-effective method to reach a large audience with minimal effort. The figures claim that a commercial vehicle operating in a busy area is seen by more than 3,000 people per hour, every hour of every working day, giving a possible 8-16 million advertising opportunities per year.

And this compares favourably with other formats too. 3M found the cost per ten thousand impressions (CPM) for vehicle advertising to be £0.40, and in some densely populated areas even less. By comparison, newspaper ads average at £4.90; television £48.00; and radio £121.00 CPM.

According to vehicle signage company Creative FX, vehicle liveries provide pure advertising without any distractions. Director Sean Davis says: ‘Unlike more traditional mediums, like TV, radio or newspapers, it doesn’t require consumer effort – you don’t have to tune in, turn it on, dial up or turn the page to see it – it’s just there for free, it’s unavoidable.’

Davis adds that compared to traditional outdoor media, vehicle advertising has the advantage of having more than a single-point source and can be seen over a wider area, thanks to the mobility of the vehicle. 

‘Vehicle advertising also offers the flexibility to target particular areas or cross-sections of society with selected campaigns as a vehicle can move easily from one place to another,’ he comments.

In fact, with the move to the digital era, vehicle advertising can prove an immediately accessible advertising format, with recent technological advances in mobile devices, such as phones, tablets and PDAs, having made it increasingly easy and convenient for pedestrians and commuters to note down company details and even visit the company’s website on their smart phones.

While vehicle advertising traditionally took the form of hand-painted graphics, the development of vehicle wrapping through the use of a self-adhesive vinyl film created with high-resolution digital printing has transformed the market in recent years.

As well as offering the usual livery benefits of promoting the business, other advantages of vehicle wrapping are said to include cost-effectiveness. 

According to vehicle signage company Creative FX, a vinyl wrap will cost between £250 and £2,000, depending on the size, pattern and material used and can last up to five years.

It also protects the vehicle against damage from stone chips and minor abrasions, and, compared to hand-painted graphics, is easy to remove, and simple to update if the company changes its branding or has a new advertising message or product to promote. 

So far vinyl wrapping has seen most of its take-up from van fleets. In fact probably the most well-known examples are the Sky installation vans, which feature full photographic wraps that have notably in the past featured images from The Simpsons and National Geographic. 

However, Sean Davis of Creative FX says that a growing number of car fleets are also turning to vinyl wrapping. 

He comments: ‘We’ve wrapped a lot of car fleets over the past few years, and huge numbers of them. For one client, we’ve wrapped more than 1,000 cars in the last year.’

Davis says that the firm has done a lot of work with manufacturers and often applies graphics to their car fleets: ‘We recently applied Europa League graphics to 65 SEAT Exeos and we wrapped 75 Amaroks for the launch of Volkswagen’s new pick-up truck.  We’ve also wrapped vehicle fleets for the likes of the David Beckham Academy, Silverstone racetrack, and we liveried 163 Nissan Micras in a striking Union Jack design to promote the Government vehicle scrappage scheme back in 2009.’

Vinyl wrapping has also been used to good effect by a number of police forces nationwide, as well as many high street brands ranging from retailers to estate agents.

Davis adds: ‘I actually think car liveries offer some advantages to van liveries, as they can be quite subtle, offering an upmarket image to a campaign.’

In Europe, and especially Germany, it’s common practice for firms to add subtle logos and corporate branding to company cars, and especially job-need cars, ensuring their name is seen out and about as much as possible. Of course though, this approach is predicated on the good behaviour of their drivers, because a bad driver racing about causing chaos with your company name on the side is hardly good PR.

However, Tim Andrews, managing director of signs and graphics specialist Hollywood Monster, believes that more fleets should invest in car liveries.

Andrews says: ‘I think, and the evidence from our customers would support this, that the effects of well-designed car livery are massively positive. It is an extremely cost-effective way of advertising your business and raising your brand profile, with an average life of around three to five years.

‘For many companies it acts as a moving billboard that captures the imagination and draws thousands of views throughout its lifetime in a wide variety of demographic and geographic locations. It’s clear that there are very few forms of advertising that would offer companies and fleets such longevity and geographical spread at such a low cost.’



So are there any caveats to the use of car liveries? Certainly with some graphics there’s the issue of removing them come remarketing time. This is essential to ensure that resale values are optimised and needs to be carried out by a professional remarketing firm to ensure it’s completed properly – we’ve probably all seen an ex-police or Royal Mail van with remaining ghosting from the livery.

And caution should be applied even with vinyl wraps, according to BCA Auctions. Although the firm says that this format can provide fleets with an opportunity to brand vehicles as extravagantly as required during their working life with little consequence when it comes to remarketing the vehicles post de-fleet, the firm’s communications director Tony Gannon has one piece of advice.

He comments: ‘Corporate colour schemes are often an anathema to used vehicle buyers, but wrapping gives the fleet operator the best of both worlds – an effective billboard while in service, with an attractive “retail” finish underneath that will be very saleable at remarketing time. The wrapping has an additional benefit of protecting the bodywork from stone chips and light wear and tear.

‘However, it is critical that the wrapping is removed professionally and the underlying paintwork is prepared to a high standard before sale. Ideally this should be carried out by the remarketing partner at the point of sale to ensure a good quality of presentation,’ he states.

And what about the issue of security for fleets using liveries? Are such vehicles likely to be targeted any more for crime due to the fact that they are clearly company assets and may contain valuables?

In fact, both Hollywood Monster and Creative FX say that vehicles featuring branding are likely to be more secure than those without.

Hollywood Monster’s Tim Andrews comments: ‘I firmly believe vehicles are less likely to be stolen if they are wrapped with graphics – they are far too easy to identify.’

Sean Davis adds: ‘Over the years Creative FX has wrapped thousands upon thousands of vehicles and I can honestly say I have never heard of one of them being targeted for crime or drawing the wrong sort of attention.  In fact, you could argue a livery is a good deterrent from stealing a car, because it makes the car more distinct and easier to trace.’

So, with benefits to vehicle security and damage, not to mention the clear advantages for company promotion, vehicle advertising could well see increased take-up in the future from fleets looking to enhance their marketing mix with a low-cost, high-impact form of advertising that’s just a bit different from the norm.

And it’s likely that vinyl wrapping will play a key part in that market as the technology progresses. 

Summing up the future for the industry, Sean Davis says: ‘We expect vehicle wrapping to continue increasing in popularity. As more and more vinyl manufacturers enter the market, the options available will increase massively and the prices will drop. Installation time will also decrease significantly, as the material used will become easier to install. Wrapping technology has advanced so much over the past five years, it’s likely these advancements will occur twice as quickly over the next five years.’

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.