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When you care enough ... say it with billboards

Looking for a better way to say "I love you," "Happy Birthday" or even "Congrats on your retirement" -- something that goes way beyond the basic card and bouquet of flowers?

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Sometimes, when you care enough to send the very best ... well, a $4 card just won't cut it. The time you want to go a little overboard, say it with billboards! Or with skywriting. Or maybe even on a giant display screen at your favorite pro sports venue.

How about a full-page birthday ad in the New York Times? Yes, it'll set you back a bit -- about the cost of an average home -- but hey, it's definitely original! You could also ask your sweetheart to marry you at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and have a skywriter blaze your proposal across the clear blue sky -- for about the same cost as a modest engagement ring.

There are several offbeat ways to get your message of love and good wishes across, especially if you've got some extra cash. Here are some suggestions to spark your imagination:

Big news: Stop the presses! The world should know that your son finally graduated from college! If you want to take out a full-page congratulatory ad in the New York Times, though, you'll probably need to raid Junior's trust fund to do it. A one-time display ad on Sunday, appearing in every edition throughout North America, will cost you $143,625. Weekdays are a bit cheaper. The same full-page splash during the week is only $128,207.

If that option is too rich for your blood, you're in good company. Kerrie Gillis, New York Times group advertising director, only remembers one person taking out a full-page personal ad in the paper in recent years. "And it was a very, very wealthy individual," she says.

Less-costly options include a small, text-only congratulatory message on the New York Times' front page -- again, appearing in every North American edition. Each 32-character line will set you back $646 on weekdays and Saturday or $856 on Sunday. There's a two-line minimum, and you can buy up to six lines. One caveat, "If there is an important news item the day your ad is scheduled, the paper may bump your message. News always comes first," says Gillis.

The more common way to get your message into the New York Times and other regional and local newspapers is via the classified ads. At the Times, for instance, "happy announcements" typically run in the Sunday "Style" section. These ads cost $35 per 32-character line, with a four-line, $140, minimum. Customer-service specialists can guide you through the process of creating your ad. You can also get details at the paper's Web site. Your local newspaper can guide you to its own rates and procedures.

Head in the clouds: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's your boss's "Happy Retirement" message in skywriting above the site of your company picnic! Aerial advertising, like skywriting or airplanes towing banners, is often used to promote company brands or special events. However, you can hire a pilot like Jimmy Stevenson, owner of the Orlando, Fla.-based Rosie O'Grady's Aerial Advertising, to create a fly-by message of almost any type.

Stevenson has towed banners and done skywriting for several wedding proposals and anniversary messages -- including a few over nearby Disney World.

Stevenson says banners are definitely cheaper than skywriting. Having your customized sign towed by an attention-grabbing Rosie O'Grady biplane for about half an hour costs $450 to start. Stevenson and other pilots may also add travel time, depending on where they'll need to fly.

Stevenson's skywriting services come at a flat $1,500 fee for the Orlando area. These specialized smoke messages often can be seen for up to 25 miles, depending on weather conditions. Stevenson advises customers to choose fairly short messages (such as "I LUV U, CINDY") for skywriting, since the writing fades as the winds change. Skywriting is definitely a fair-weather type of message, since wording is most visible in clear, cloudless skies.

You can find aerial advertising pilots by doing an Internet search for companies like Rosie O'Grady's or national brokers such as You can also call small airports near your home for referrals.


-- Posted: July 12, 2005




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