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Ad firm rolls out deals on wheels

The ad-emblazoned wheel covers remain stationary even when the vehicle is moving. Now they are popping up around the Suncoast.

You might have seen the unusual mobile advertising on a few cabs or other fleet cars tooling around the Tampa Bay area.

Now these hubcap advertisements known as Adcaps, which remain stationary even when cars are moving, may spread to taxicabs all over the United States.

For the past three months, outdoor advertising giant Eller Media Co. has been testing the hubcaps, developed by Tampa-based Visual Impact Media, on cabs in Las Vegas. The company handles advertisements on thousands of taxis nationwide.

Adcaps, based in the Hunter's Green home of Harris and Audrey Romaner, began marketing the hubcaps earlier this year. Company officials expect to hear final word from Eller Media any day now about whether they would like to use the hubcaps on a larger scale, said Romaner, company president.

"It's been a long, arduous haul, but it's finally in front of the right people," he said. "If they do this, it'll be really good for us.

"It'll give us the national exposure we need to move this thing along."

Romaner and his wife Audrey and partners Steve and Rhonda Kratz came up with Adcaps, which are advertisements placed on stickable vinyl and then attached to rotating wheel covers.

The couples say Adcaps have the advantage of being visible anywhere a car travels.

The gray plastic hubcaps can be snapped onto steel wheels.

The wheel covers, made by Tampa-based IWC Inc., stays motionless because of a weighted centerpiece that remains stationary at speeds up to 70 mph. As the car moves, the centerpiece, which holds the advertisement, stays horizontal so passers-by can read it.

The wheel covers can be used on cars with standard steel rims between 13 and 16 inches in diameters. Larger caps for trucks and buses are being developed. The covers can't be used on cars with alloy wheels.

A set of four hubcaps costs $299 for an individual, but Adcaps makes group deals with advertisers.

Eller Media contacted Romaner about three months ago. The advertising company had tried a similar hubcap made by a Japanese company, but wasn't pleased with its quality, Romaner said.

"Every time they hit a curb, they would fall off or destroy the art work," he said. "Cab drivers are not the most careful drivers in the world."

As of May, Adcaps had placed hubcaps on a few taxis with Yellow Cab Co. of Tampa to advertise the Tampa Bay History Center. Other clients are Gordon Chevrolet on N Dale Mabry Highway and Deco Boat Lifts in Safety Harbor.

Until Eller Media came along, Romaner said most of the attention for the Adcaps has come from outside the United States.

The company is currently testing the wheel covers in England, Italy, Turkey and Ireland.

It also hopes to place them on local taxis during the Super Bowl, set for Jan. 28 at Raymond James Stadium.

While the Eller Media deal would be Adcaps' largest deal, its greatest benefit would be the name recognition it would bring to Adcaps, Romaner said.

"We want the exposure," he said. "It'd be good for us because we want the sale.

"It'd be also good for us because people could see this thing en masse."

_ MELANIE AVE

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