NEW YORK--Fashion has fallen in love with the great outdoors--but not the quiet pastoral kind. In any major city in the U.S., there isn't a bare bus to be found. Or bus shelter, kiosk or wall, for that matter. Urban dwellers, in fact, are increasingly bombarded on the street by images from Calvin Klein, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, Daffy's, Wonderbra, Cellini or Barneys New York, among many others. This rush of fashion activity over the last few years has been a gold mine for TDI, the largest diversified out-of-home media company in the U.S., and the company responsible for many of these messages. "You want to keep on repeating the message. It breeds familiarity and draws people into the stores," said Jodi Yegelwel, senior vice president, director of marketing at TDI. In 1994, TDI's volume grew to $220 million, up from $98 million in 1989, when its current president and chief executive officer, William Apfelbaum, took over a company on the brink of bankruptcy. Fashion and fashion-related retail advertisers today comprise the single largest advertising category at TDI, accounting for some 17 percent of total volume, according to Yegelwel. Fashion advertisers are currently spending anywhere from $20,000 for a small kiosk program for three months, to $3 million for a national dominance campaign for six months, said Yegelwel. The company's media network spans 40 U.S. markets and overseas, and includes bus shelters, bus sides, phone kiosks, taxi tops, superclocks, commuter rail cards, subway posters, billboards and painted buses. In every media form, there's a revenue-sharing arrangement, such as the one TDI has with the Metropolitan Transit Authority here or MUNI in San Francisco. According to Yegelwel, fashion advertising had originally been the domain of such mainstream advertisers as John Weitz, Jou Jou and Levi Strauss & Co., but that quickly changed once Calvin Klein got into the act. In fact, Yegelwel credits Klein's outdoor underwear campaign featuring Marky Mark and Kate Moss, which began in late 1992, with giving outdoor advertising the cachet it needed. "It was so attention-getting and a major-size campaign," said Yegelwel. "This is very much a 'me-too' industry. Once smaller companies and less-prominent advertisers see the kind of success that Calvin Klein and Donna Karan are having with TDI, they want to join in." She noted that Klein and Donna Karan have been coming back each year with bigger programs and more products. "The fashion category has really driven the totally changed image of the consumers' perception of what a bus ad looks like," said Yegelwel. Fashion advertisers' visually attractive graphics and photography upgraded the whole category, she said. Plus, she noted, the fact that many of the ads are moving targets has helped enhance the visual strength of numerous campaigns. "People have gotten comfortable working within a seven-word format," she noted. Yegelwel said she hasn't run into too much trouble with censorship, even with Calvin's nude Kate Moss campaign. "We are sensitive citizens and are well aware that TDI is seen by entire communities, including small children. We do not act as a censoring board, and our clients are also sensitive to that. We've had to airbrush once or twice, but clients have been cooperative. On occasion, they have had to tone down versions of their magazine ads." One of TDI's key selling points is that it's able to target specific demographic areas or ethnic groups through its M.A.P.P.I.N.G. system. For example, it can pinpoint which sections of New York State have consumers who are most likely to buy new sneakers in the next 12 months, based on statistics supplied from leading research firms. "This is especially helpful when you get into countrywide programs," said Yegelwel. Among new developments in the fashion category for 1995 are: More co/op advertising between retailers and wholesalers, such as those done by Champion and Macy's, Modell's and Lee, and Paragon and Sweats 2. Greater penetration of college kiosks and beach media. More use of painted buses, where an image developed from computer-generated vinyl is wrapped around a bus. Deeper penetration into the cosmetics and accessories categories. Greater use of multimedia packages, combining bus sides, phone kiosks and subway cars, for example. Use of lit-up message kiosks, a tie-in with Nynex, where messages can be displayed and changed daily by satellite. A major bus and underground advertising program in the London market, using 4,000 tube cars and 4,000 buses in London, and 8,000 buses within the United Kingdom.
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