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3 Companies Take Their Ads to the Cleaners

TIMES STAFF WRITER

America Online, Blockbuster Video, Spec’s Music and the Red Cross have plans to advertise on the plastic bags and hangers of local dry cleaners, the latest frontier being claimed by advertisers looking for new ways to reach consumers.

The Red Cross and Spec’s rolled out their ads Sunday in New York and Miami, respectively. America Online is still completing its deal, but is slated to start on Dec. 1 in San Diego, and Blockbuster will begin in Dallas on Dec. 15, according to Vincent Sancho, vice president of Miami-based ad agency Look Worldwide, which developed the concept.

“CEOs all the way down to receptionists use dry cleaners,” Sancho said. “It gets the attention of people with high income [and] white-collar professionals.”

According to Sancho, 10,000 dry cleaners nationwide have already signed on to distribute the ads as part of a 30-day pilot program in the four cities. Sancho recruited dry cleaners in neighborhoods where a high percentage of customers were likely to have an average income of at least $50,000, a college education, and be under 40.

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The cleaners are compensated by getting supplies such as bags and hangers at a 30% to 50% discount.

“This is a good deal. We need a break on the supplies,” said Joseph Penland, owner of Mission Gorge Dry Cleaners in San Diego, where 60% of his clientele are office workers. “I would have participated in this program if I saved 10%.”

In San Diego, the garment bags are expected to tout 100 free hours on America Online and a free CD-ROM from the Dulles, Va.-based firm will be stapled to the hanger.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Blockbuster and Miami-based Spec’s will have discount coupons stapled to hangers or bags.

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“It’s an interesting concept and we’re looking forward to it,” said a representative for Spec’s, which has 37 stores in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Sancho said the bag and hanger ads would cost advertisers from $40 to $150 per thousand, but he declined to give specific numbers.

The pilot program is expected to reach at least 200,000 consumers in each of the four cities, Sancho said. If successful, the program could be expanded elsewhere.


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