Just like most of the structures they decorate, the building wrap market segment is a multi-story affair. And each story must be told in order to do the topic justice.
One of those stories has to do with the decline in business during one of the worst economic downturns in America’s history. A second exposes the increasingly punishing legislative environment for building wraps. Another captures the challenges of creating and installing some of the largest pieces of art ever created. And another story focuses on the sizable financial and personal rewards to be enjoyed servicing this market.
Building wraps aren’t as prevalent as they were years ago, said Tom Wilhelm, president of GP Color Imaging Group in North Hollywood, CA. GP Color is a company that began in 1968 as a color photo lab, but transitioned to wide- and grand-format printing in 2001.
A prediction by I.T. Strategies that the outdoor building material would grow 15 percent between 2006 and 2010 isn’t being borne out in the Southern California market, Wilhelm said. The reason is the growing impact of municipal legislation.
“There are very few cities with restrictions lenient enough to allow a complete wrap of a building,” Wilhelm said. “Sunset Boulevard is a huge place for building graphics, but they will generally wrap only the west- and east-facing sides. What’s happened is the city ordinances have clamped down on it. We are currently having a war with our city council [in Los Angeles]. They limit the size of the graphic based on the size of the building, usually to a 1:12 scale. And on the vinyl, you can only cover 25 percent in text. So your printed message tends to get a little lost. Yet, they will allow some old and ugly buildings to remain, just hanging around being old and ugly.”
As a result, building wraps have declined in popularity since their peak around 2004 or 2005, Wilhelm said. “The use of the complete wraps locally was short-lived, simply because of the cost and time to do it,” he said. “There was a realization [advertisers] could get more bang for the buck, still get their messages across, their 100,000 hits a week, by doing wall murals instead of building wraps.”
An additional factor has been more stringent control of budgets, he added. For three or four years, advertising budgets have been squeezed, leading to tougher times and major financial hits for artists, producers and installers. “Everyone has been beat down over the past couple of years,” Wilhelm said. “They want it done for next to nothing. But the posting companies, the guys selling the space, have not taken a hit.”
Much the same is true in the region served by Mammoth Media, a six-year-old Pembrook, MA company. “We see ourselves as both an outdoor company and an indoor, point-of-purchase company,” company president Mark Rowell said.
In the Northeast, building wraps have fallen off big time, he added. “Building wraps are not as prevalent as they were, because the ad agencies’ budgets do not have the money to focus on building wraps. It’s a one-shot bang, as opposed to something like transit advertising. You have to have the money for the big splash, for the big bang.”
However, significant demand for the wraps can be found in some market niches. Property owners and property management companies are looking to building wraps to help promote unsold condominiums and unleased apartments, Rowell reported. Larger entities like airports are looking to wrap structural walls facing major traffic arteries to help bring them much-needed advertising revenues during the economic downturn.
Mammoth Media created an enormous wrap on the back side of Boston’s Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, that featured another legendary Beantown presence, the Patriots’ Tom Brady, promoting a vitamin-infused sports drink. And five years ago, before the resurgence of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, the then-struggling pro basketball franchise commissioned Mammoth Media to produce and install a building wrap.