Pop Up Ads — Do they Work?

I have no clue. But I will tell you one thing, they have trained me to close them immediately without even looking at them. Often they have moved the “close” little “X” that is usually in the upper right hand corner. Now it could be anywhere.  And even disguised as a “No” or “Not now” or ‘check with me later”.

Ad agencies have to become more cleaver. Remember “Burma Shave” signs along side the road (of course you don’t).  You actually looked forward to them. They told a little story, kinda like a tweet.  OMG did I really say that.

You message needs to be attractive enough to get your attention. Remember the dark ad with the Buick SUV driving through the streets of New Orleans. There was no question is was about Dracula and blood and murder. When the car stopped and the window rolled down, Tiger Woods said “Who were you expecting.”  Well OK, that was back when Tiger could putt.

You got a good view of a sexy car, but the message grabbed you and held you.

Delta and Virgin have great safety videos.  They are smart, funny and keep your attention.  You look forward to them instead of tuning them out.

Pop up ads simply distract. And tend to make you mad. Get with it internet people. You have a good thing going here, don’t ruin it.


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Marketing Results – How do you Measure?

You run an ad — you want to know if it works.  Back in the day you counted bingo cards to see how many people actually responded to the ad. Bingo cards have gone the way of the Dodo. (Many of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Google it)   Today you count click thrus. That’s the number of times someone happens on your message on the ‘net and clicks on it. They they go to your site or page and hopefully react positively to the message.

About three decades ago, I had a conversation with the head of an ad agency who operated in the parking sphere.  She was ruminating about the fact that bingo cards were going away. She told me that she counseled her clients to work out a marketing plan for a half year or for a year.  Stick with the plan, and then look at their results for that period. If the results were up, it was a success, if not, fire her and find another agency. Tough words. But in reality is there another way?

Counting click thrus is important.  You know immediately if your message is creating action.  Are people actually interested?  But you must do more than just put your logo on a banner ad. You must have interesting content.  A logo that says “Dirt Altering Labs” doesn’t do a lot. However a banner that says “Turn Dirt into Gold” will attract interest.

In our industry, the Logo “Apex Parking Systems” is like “so what.” But “Double your lot revenue in one day”  might just attract the attention you want. How could you not click on that. Get it, its not the media, its the message. Eat your heart out Marshall Mcluhan.

So you put your message out, count the results and if its not working, change the message.  We are fortunate that unlike three decades ago, we can get a feel for the results of our message withing a few weeks. Then it took months and even then we weren’t sure.

But what if tons of people click thru, but no one buys. Is it the media, the message or the product?  Then it might be time to rethink your solution.

Marketing is everything you do. Its sales, its PR, but its also design, customer service, and what your product actually does.  Hula hoops are crazy, they are fun, they are cheap, they make us laugh.  Chia Pets, not so much.

Lean marketing means having an idea, creating the product, getting it to market, measuring the results, and then learning from the measurement and adjusting (or abandoning) the product and pressing on. It is a circle that is fast, lean, and endless.

You must count.  You must measure. The metric, what you count, depends on the product, the media, the message, and the audience. Mass marketing depends mostly on ‘impressions.”  How many people actually saw the message.  A million bucks a minute for an ad on the Super Bowl might be cheap, if 100,000,000 people saw it and reacted to it.

In niche businesses its more difficult.  You put out a banner and get 50 click thrus, and assumed you failed. However if your product costs $100K, and you got two sales from those 50 click thrus, maybe your message is spot on.

Its not “if you count” its “what and how you count.”   And then, after you count and analyze, do you discuss the results with your ad agency, PR agency, and the media you use.  Then do you adjust using all this input?

Whether you are a Coke or Nike, or a garage start up, the process is the same, the scale is different.


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Fines Not Stopping Illegal Parking in Handicapped Spaces

In Toronto, fines for parking illegally in a handicapped space have tripled. It’s not doing anything to stop those parking in handicapped spots with fraudulent or nonexistent handicapped permits, but it’s giving law enforcement a hefty bonus. Thestar.com reports that a study conducted several years ago revealed major abuses of the system and steps were taken to address the issues. Fines were raised and permits were taken away from users who were, in fact, dead. According to thestar.com:

One case involved a midtown travel agent who parked her Jaguar for free in Yorkville using a disabled parking permit before walking to a salon appointment in high heels. She said she received the permit after a leg injury, but records showed it belonged to someone with a serious heart condition.

Since the study was conducted, concerted efforts to implement handicapped parking policy has revealed that people just don’t care how much they pay when they’re caught. Ticketing rates remain steady.

Although parking enforcement officers have slapped drivers with nearly $45 million in tickets for parking illegally in a space for the disabled since 2005, they have written about the same number of tickets each year.

My guess is that people are still pretty comfortable with the amount of risk they take when they park in handicapped spaces illegally. Maybe the fine is high, but their chance of being caught is still low. Now, if they got a ticket every time they parked illegally, they’d stop.

Thestar.com reports there are highly-abused several spots in one Toronto neighborhood. If I were parking enforcement there, I’d stake out those spots for a few weeks and hand out tickets on the hour if needed. After that, word of mouth will do a lot of the work for you.

Read the article here.

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My Mother the Car

Yes, it was a silly sitcom that lasted on season in the 60s. But this article in the Washington Post says that not only are kids today not in love with cars, but the culture is changing to a point that the lure of rumbling pipes and ice blue paint is being replaced with smart phones and texting.

Whereas in our youth we looked at a car as an extension of our personality, and customized it accordingly, today, so says the Post, kids customize their smart phones with covers and apps. I got my license the day I was eligible (well maybe a couple of weeks after, since I failed the first test). The youth of today may wait until they are in their mid 20s if ever.  Wow!

The Post article is slightly contradictory, in one place saying that there was a drop off in auto sales due to the recession, and that sales are up now as money isn’t so tight. But in the next graph it says that the drop off is cultural, not economic. Which is it?

I wonder if this is becoming a self fulfilling prophesy.  If I am writing a story, I can find people to quote (half a dozen or so in this article), that will make my point. If I wanted, could I find just as many in love with horsepower and chrome.

If what the Post posits was true, why is it that traffic seems to be getting worse and worse? Would it not be the case that the opposite would be happening?

That is not to say that we shouldn’t be prepared for change. It will happen. Because the only constant is change. But the form it will take, or the culture shock that will arise, who can say. Einstein predicted that there would be no nuclear power, Ford’s lawyer was told that the automobile was a passing fancy, at one time IBM thought the total market for computers was 5, the head of DEC computers couldn’t imagine why anyone would want a computer in their home, Darryl F. Zanuck said no one would want to spending their evenings watching a plywood box.  It goes on and on.

If there are enough predictions, some will be right, most will be wrong. I predict there will be a subset of people who will continue to love cars and embrace them. That number will be a percentage of the total population, and that percentage will fluctuate as generation come and go. As our population grows, even a relatively small percentage of car lovers will keep Detroit in business AND keep parking in business.

I don’t believe the suburbia is going away. Many people still want to own a piece of dirt. They want to be able to drive a nail into their personal wall. They want to mow their own lawn. They want their kids to be able to breathe fresh air. They want piece and quiet. And if you live in the burbs, you need a car. Hell if you live in LA you need a car —

I know this isn’t the European ideal where you live in 500 square feet and ride a bicycle to work but we are a different country, and a different culture –  hopefully will stay that way.


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Pope Causing Parking Problems

In Center City, Pennsylvania, a special guest is creating parking havoc. Pope Francis will be making a stop in the city later in September, and some residents, the less devout, obviously, are quite unhappy with the sacrifices they’re going to have to make to accommodate him. According to 6abc.com, residents have to keep their cars off the street for more than a week before the visit.

“We think it’s a terrible inconvenience. It’s not fair,” said Diana Staukus of Spring Garden. The cars parked in her neighborhood have to be off the street or they’ll be towed starting Monday the 21st at 9 a.m.

“I mean we have trouble parking here when the roads aren’t closed, so anything will be better than driving around for an hour, getting closed off somewhere,” said Laura Cover of Spring Garden.

Residents face towing and fines if they do not move their cars out of the security zone.

To help out, the city is making 2,000 parking spaces available in six parking authority garages and lots. They’ll cost $20 for the entire weekend. However, the garage fee will be waived for those with a current, valid residential parking permit inside the papal visit secure zone.

Garage parking isn’t going to help Vince Thompson, a Center City resident who runs a plumbing business from his home.

“I thought that I could maintain my business until Thursday by parking on the street, but now I have to move out Sunday, so I’ll miss a week of work,” he said.

I’m not Catholic, so it’s hard to say how excited or uninterested I’d be if the Pope visited my town. It seems a lighter touch might be needed if city leaders and authorities want the less interested groups to be supportive. Then again, this is a man that 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide consider the “Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, and Servant of the Servants of God,” so maybe he needs the protection.

Read the article here.

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Park(ing) Day

Its held on the third Friday in September — That’s this week.

The idea is to take a parking space or two, and turn it into a park — Roll out some sod, or AstroTurf, bring in some potted plants and trees, put up a bench and enjoy. The founders of the fad, a design firm named Rebar in San Francisco (of course) see it as a way to draw attention to the often dirth of open space in the urban environment, and perhaps get people to think a bit more about the good earth and a bit less about the hustle and bustle of urban life, at least, as they put it, until the meter runs out.  I think they are  closet anti car bicycle riders, but they don’t stress that aspect.

I must be mellowing, because when this started in 2005 with one space in Baghdad by the Bay, I poo pooed the idea as a passing fancy. in 2014 there were nearly 1000 parking space size parks in 160 cities in 35 countries on six continents.  What no Antarctica?

This project seems to have taken a life of its own. Parklets, as they are called, are now themed, changing with flora, fauna (dog park), and other themes. One in Phoenix this year even has a “pillow fight” theme.  Here’s a Phoenix Parklet from last year”


If we haven’t already, why not embrace Park(ing) day as an industry. Or at least make it easy for groups to set up parklets and give guidelines as to dos and don’ts. I can see little harm, and great PR. Imagine — evil parking Nazis sitting in a park built on a parking spot. People might even speak to the officers and who knows…make a friend or two.


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Do Legacy Parking Suppliers Exist any more?

I was checking out Parknews.biz and noticed that virtually all the companies mentioned were new, hot off the press, app companies. There was no mention of the legacy companies that built this industry. Skidata, Scheidt and Bachmann, Amano McGann, Tiba, Designa, Hub with Zeag and Datapark.  Its like they are nonexistent.

I spoke to our Parknews Editor, Astrid, and asked her about the phenomena. She says that she posts every story she finds on the ‘net and those she receives directly from companies. Those companies appear to hide their light under a bushel. The new app companies, she laughed, notify her and publish when they flip a light switch in the morning.

I know for a fact that these companies are successful. They are selling and from what I could see at the NPA show, they are creating new products to sell. So why don’t they promote their activities?

When asked this question, the CEO of one of the companies listed above said “should we really mention when we install a new system?”  I was stunned. Why wouldn’t you ‘mention’ a successful installation of your product?  Particularly if the ‘mention’ is free.

If you check where its not free, the Dutch based Parking Network, only one of the companies listed above has news promoted since June 1. And all of them paid beaucoup bucks to be noted on the site. Does this make any sense at all?

One of the companies that has been struggling in the past few years in the US market, has had some good success in the past year. I saw a map of installations, including a major airport, in their booth at the NPA. I walked over to their president and asked why we didn’t know about all this.  He said “I’ve just been too busy.”

Too busy to fire off an email with a current list of successes? To busy to promote his company particularly when they have not had a greatest success in the past? To busy to assign someone in the office the job of contacting the media (that’s me) when something happens (new dealer, new sales person, new office address, new 60 lane airport installation etc etc etc).

I think the issue is that most CEOs work their way up through the sales or engineering ranks. Their focus is sales, or its design. They forget one player in their company’s future success. Marketing.

Marketing is building brand awareness. Its getting the company name in front of potential customers. Its creating a brand so when people describe a product, they use your name (Coke, Frigidaire, Ipad, Xerox, Fedex) How many people say they are going to “Fedex something” even though they are going to use United Parcel Service?  That comes from all encompassing, never ending, kickass marketing.

I understand that niche market suppliers like those listed above don’t have the multimillion dollar budgets that Coca Cola, Xerox and Fedex do, but there are resources available that don’t break the bank.

When I took over the Fillmore Herald from my father, the owner of a local clothing store came into my office and said “I don’t ever want to see an issue of the Herald that doesn’t have my store’s name in it.” He said he would make sure he did his part, but if he slipped up, it was my responsibility to get it done. He had basically shanghaied me to become his marketing department, and I was happy to do it.

And Parking Today Media is happy to do it for you. But you have to take the initiative and contact me first.  You must show some interest.  Call us, talk over what you want to do, and I’ll put you on my call list to contact you every month and find out what is happening with your company. Show some interest, we will do the rest.

jvh@parkingtoday.com   astrid@parknews.biz   marcy@parkingtoday.com


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How was YOUR weekend?

Everyone who says ‘hi’ on Monday asks that question. I thought about my weekend and at first blush, not so great.  No movie, no clubs, no great revelations, Nothing, Nada, Zip.

But as I reviewed the two days that end and begin weeks, I realized I got a lot done. Little things that I had put off and frankly had been bugging me for, in come cases, months.

There was a screw missing in the bracket that holds the sun visor in my car.  As long as I don’t move the visor, its fine.  But it ticks me off every time I look at it.  Its a tiny little screw. On Saturday, I searched the bottom of my tool box, found the screw and all is right with the world. I gave the car a congratulatory wash.  Washed the other car too, didn’t want it to be jealous.

The back gate latch has come out of the wood that holds it. 15 minutes and a power drill and we are in business.

I have put off cleaning and covering the BBQ for winter.  Its done.

That wonky sprinkler head in the front yard is fixed.

I had to gear up for it, but made a trip to Costco — all alone.  Completed the shopping list.

Walked to the hardware store, did 2000 additional steps (I have a fitbit)  and brought insecticide for the roses.  Maybe next weekend I’ll spray them.

I read two books and two short stories.

Watched four episodes of MASH.

Drank a little adult beverage and slept very well.

Wow — guess I had an active weekend after all.


Re: Fitbit — its a sort of watch you wear and it counts your steps. The goal is 10,000 each day. My regular day would get me about 5000 so I have to come up with places to walk in addition. I do about 8500 to 9000 and on some days, like when I go to Costco, I hit 10K. If you have friends who also have Fitbit you can connect with them on line and then its a challenge to see who does the best each day. I ran into a neighbor who was wearing one and he told me he averages 15,000.  He’s a contractor and gets a lot of mileage in on the job. Another friend will walk around the house before bedtime to reach a certain goal. It begins to shame you in to additional exercise.


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Is the Parking Industry in the midst of Disruption?

Astrid snagged an article for Park News by Aashish Dalal from Parkwhiz over on Tech Crunch. Aashish is talking about disruption and whether we are in a disruption right now or not. You can read the article here.

Aashish posits that before parking will be disrupted, it must become frictionless.  He uses the example that when you pull out of your driveway, the car immediately knows where you are going and with one tap on a screen, you can reserve a space, pay for parking, and be directed to the spot. You will do nothing more., except steer. The process will be completely automated.

He says that companies like his and SpotHero plus mobile payment types like Passport and ParkMobile do parts of the process  but aren’t there yet.  He notes that they are constantly striving to reach the goal, and are making changes almost daily to that end. All the parts must come together and work seamlessly. Then disruption will take place.

Its easy to be a skeptic. What he is asking is a lot. Cars have to become ‘connected.’ Parking reservation apps have to combine with mobile payment apps, and all have to have an interface that makes it easy for the consumer to use. Not in my lifetime, you say.

Think about it, 25 years ago the ‘net was in its infancy. Cellphones were for making phone calls, not finding addresses, buying clothes, or sending text messages to the person sitting next to you.  Amazon was a river in Brazil. We thought Netscape was the bees knees. But now Google, and its ilk handle our mail and our searches. The phone company has replaced Netscape and AOL.  Same day delivery was unheard of, same week delivery was great if you could get it.

Now, all those things are normal parts of daily life. And the changes are coming faster and faster. Just as Moore’s law predicts that the capacity of memory doubles  (It has slowed slightly now to every two and a half years) the speed of change and the adoption of technology to consumer use has kept apace.

The Automobile industry has thrown itself into the connected car and they are beginning to roll it off the assembly line. Companies like SpotHero and Parkwhiz and Passport and ParkMobile are expanding their reach.  How can you not see their features being cobbled into the next Ford or Toyota you buy?

If we take all this as gospel, what parts of our industry will be disrupted?  There will still be places to put cars, and they will have to be cleaned, lit, secured, and the like. There will have to be enforcement, whether with gates or by personnel. But what of the entire process of collecting revenue.  P and D, POF, Tickets – They all will become unnecessary. But what will become more important — parking guidance, high tech enforcement and LPR, low cost lighting, security and the addition of other features to the parking process will take over. Will the legacy companies be able to turn on a dime and react accordingly, or will they simply hold the course, right over the cliff?

Someone is building a box right now that can be placed in a garage and will talk to another box that will talk to Pay by cell, reservation systems, and the like. It will be cheap, easy to install, and will work. Will it take a quarter of a century. I doubt it.

It will happen in my lifetime, and I”m a codger.




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Life Insurance for Parking Meters?

If there is insurance coverage for parking meters, that’s the business I want to be in. One of my last blogs was about parking meters in Iowa being stolen off the street, and now there’s news from Yarraville, a town in Australia, about meters being heavily vandalized. According to theage.com, between 15 and 20 new meters have been damage intentionally. Many have had their screens smashed to bits and others were smeared with construction glue.

The article reports that some 3,000 members of the community in Yaraville signed a petition against the installation of parking meters. It reports:

Local traders and residents have launched an aggressive campaign against the introduction of paid parking in the area, arguing it will negatively affect business.

That aggressive campaign has gone beyond aggressive and well into destructive. If I were police, I’d be looking at the names on that petition for my suspects. Of course, the leaders of the opposing faction have, in very vague terms, denied responsibility.

Yarraville Village Says No to Paid Parking convener Megan Darling said the council had “blatantly disregarded” community sentiment. Ms Darling said it was “awful” that people felt vandalism was the only option left to take.

So far the damages are at $40,000 and climbing. Read the article here.

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