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Spreading the News

Innovative advertising is catching the eye of both consumers and franchisees.

Advertisements just aren't what they used to be. Billboards have become a part of the scenery, TV commercials can be passed over with the touch of a fast-forward button, and advertisements are no longer confined to the pages of a black-and-white newspaper. There's a new generation of marketing companies using creative, innovative ways to get their messages to consumers. These companies are also using franchising to give people a chance to unleash both their creativity and their entrepreneurial spirits.

Discovery Map
Visitors to a new city will always need accommodation, food, shops and a map to lead the way. So what better way to combine both the advertising needs of local businesses with the navigating needs of tourists than by creating hand-illustrated maps with enough space on the back to list 200 advertisers? That's what Discovery Map, an Anacortes, Washington-based franchise, figured when it first mapped out the business concept in 1987. In 2002, the franchise gave the maps a modern look and feel by creating an interactive web version, allowing visitors to virtually explore a city before ever setting foot in it--and letting advertisers see just how many eyeballs scan their listings.

Gotcha Mobile Media
Consumers these days are out and about, so the best time to reach them is when they're on the go. Gotcha Mobile Media is attempting to do just that with a customized, eye-catching, billboard truck that displays advertisements on all four sides. The truck not only attracts consumers' attention, but also captures it with ads that rotate every eight seconds. "Drivers can't look away, and that's what advertisers love about it," says Dan Tudor, vice president of the Shafter, California-based franchise. "In our society, we've come up with devices to block out commercials. We can mute TV stations, flip past ads in a newspaper, change radio stations--but this is something you really can't look away from." Gotcha Mobile Media is on the go just as much as its target audience, with plans to double in size to more than 20 franchises by the end of the year.

Homes 4Sale by Owner Network
The internet has changed the way consumers interact with the world. People purchase goods and services and gather information in cyberspace. And now, thanks to Homes 4Sale by Owner Network, people can even buy and sell houses online--without the costly services of a middleman. The Toledo, Ohio-based franchise features a high-tech website on which sellers can post a property listing with pictures, monitor their visitor counters and even create custom fliers with the click of a button. Founded in 2002, the company initially served only northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, but as word spread, franchising became the only way to keep up with demand and maintain a high level of customer service. "It's the wave of the future," says founder and CEO Michelle Hudson, who started franchising the concept in 2004 and plans to franchise nationwide this year. "Homes 4Sale by Owner Network has brought a new service to meet the needs of a new market."

AllOver Media
With 25 franchisees located in 30 U.S. markets, AllOver Media, which started franchising in 2002, already has a far-reaching presence. And similar to Gotcha Mobile Media, its advertising concepts are designed to steal the attention of today's mobile consumers. Based in Maple Grove, Minnesota, the franchise specializes in four advertising methods: indoor print advertising, including advertisements displayed in public restrooms; gas pump advertising; digital indoor advertising; and taxicab advertising. "People are more on the go than they've ever been," explains Jay Mitchell, director of franchise development. "Our product really catches them as they move throughout their day."

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This article was originally published in the April 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Spreading the News.

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