“Go see Rock City”. The iconic bird house with these words painted on every barn, tree stand and even bird house within two hundred miles of Rock City Chattanooga TN. In all directions. Guess want millions did.
The first overuse of the bill board alerting everyone that you are within striking distance of Rock City even 150 miles away, a reminder every five miles, then two, one, few hundred yards, feet, inches to the grand entrance and if you weren’t convince by Rock City overload to stop, when you passed by it there are signs to remind you, turn around, for the next few hundred miles. This art form of advertising has now been copied by a strip club, gas station and a brewery. Naked gas and beer doesn’t get any better than that or so the signs say for 167 miles in either direction of the establishments.
Wilmington N.C. Winter 2015
Front Street Brewery offers tours and free samples from 3-5 Monday through Friday, so says the 115 billboards that start 20 miles outside of Wilmington on Hwy 74. As a road warrior I have seen the over use of billboards for such establishments as Pedro’s South of the Border just inside the South Carolina state line from North Carolina. Pedro’s S. O. B. is nothing more than an oversize gas station with a large souvenir shop and a searpatarium (you have to pay to see the snakes). Then there is the Bare as you Dare strip club in Ga. Both establishments start advertising on billboards hundreds of miles from their destination for every couple of miles, then every mile then every billboard as you get within 10 miles.
I will admit to stopping at Pedro’s several times and to say nothing about the Bare as you Dare club, which has a better souvenir shop. I can’t say the constant drone of billboards forced me into these places or the promise of gas, snakes and naked woman pushed me over the edge. The debate rages on.
Well into my 100th plus sign for the Front Street Brewery and I was a man on a mission. Wilmington NC is port city which hosts the USS North Carolina, which is a strange site, at dock sitting there basically at point-blank range with its 16” guns pointing right at you, it AA guns at the ready, a war ship just begging you to try to do something, staring at you as you enter the Front Street Brewery. I thought to myself this place is well protected, doubt that there will any fights in here.
The bar itself is long and narrow which a collection of bourbon and other distilled spirits lining the back wall. Lighted so they catch your eye as soon as you enter. A lot like most of the bars I have been into except for the Bare as you Dare, which to this day I don’t know if it was a bar, restaurant, truck stop, really don’t remember the bar that much, the staff on the other hand. I will have to go back and see to improve my memory, I am sure there is a bill board within 10 miles of here to get me there.
Back to the bar, since Front Street Brewery was long it had plenty of bar seats, along with microbrew blends on tap and bragging of a broad choice of Bourbons from around the region. All the fare you would expect from a microbrew pub bourbon bar restaurant watering hole, however something wasn’t right, something was out-of-place in this bar. I took a stool near the end sat and looked around. I still had this odd feeling when I realize what was wrong, what that strange feeling was. No one, not one person was on a cell phone or an I-device. I hadn’t see that since 2011, yes that long ago, people were talking, enjoying the moment. I slapped myself to make sure I wasn’t in a billboard induced haze, what’s next Pedro showing up with a clothing optional lady?
I was so impressed I struck up a conversation with the person sitting a seat away, which turned out to be Ellie whom I found out was responsible for the bill board advertising campaign.
“Do you know Pedro that SOB.” I asked as we introduce ourselves and she informed me that she was the marketing manager for the bar.
She thought for a minute “No but I have been there lured in by the billboards. They work don’t they?”
Hmm, Dare as you Bare, Pedro’s now Front Street. “Yes they do, do you get many people here for the tours.”
“We do, we will usually get 4-5 people every time. In fact my boss told me to hold off on advertising the bar and build up the restaurant.”
I found out that Ellie had gone to the local university UNC Wilmington and got her degree in marketing and a bonus got a job actually using her degree in marketing. One of the few people to ever graduate in marketing and get a job in marketing.
“So do you owe your success to bill boards and free beer?” I said as I once again looked around and still NO ONE was on a cell phone. Weird, a fun group of people having conversation. Wilmington was locked in a time warp.
“I think we owe it to our team, the brew master, waiters, bar tenders, staff. We try to keep it open and friendly.”
I added “I am sure the tours and free samples help.”
“They do, now we want to be known for our food also, try to expand our market.”
We talked I noticed that there was always someone at the bar, one patron left another took their spot not crowed, pleasant.
Ellie and I talked about the nuances of advertising, how to bring in a local crowd and generate new business. Success at one end, the bar, and how to parlay it over to the restaurant. Ellie’s food arrived, yes the staff eats the food and likes it. She grabbed her to go box of food and took off to head home and think of new marketing ideas to promote the food. I settled back to enjoy a beer or three of a nice pilsner a “hmmm” after 8 of them I forgot the name, luckily the staff remember. No one still on their cell phone so I enjoyed a new conversation with the gentlemen sitting next to me. Solving the world’s issues, relationships and taxes. Amazing what a well-placed billboard can do.