SBI Blogs

Advice from the experts.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The Writing is on the...Sky?

Posted by on in Unique Signage
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 3905
  • Print
  • PDF
Signage has to go to great heights to capture the attention of the consumer.
I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning on skywriting and banner ads pulled by planes. It got me thinking about just what it takes to get our attention these days.

According to the article, skywriting has been around for almost 100 years, which means we managed to find a way to use airplanes to advertise only about 10 years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight. (So what’s next? I say we take advantage of those segways the mall cops use and tie a banner to the back of one of those.)

In addition to skywriting, companies can also pay to have a plane or helicopter pull a large banner with their advertisement across the skies. Skywriting and banner ads are most often seen at beaches, outdoor festivals, and large events so that the ads are sure to reach a large amount of people.

In fact, I was on a local beach two weeks ago when I spotted some skywriting advertising for Mohegan Sun Casino. Working for SBI has taught me to seek out interesting signage, but this was different.  I wasn’t the only one gawking at this cloud signage in the sky—the entire beach was gawking right along with me.

The WSJ even quotes a beachgoer as saying that she can’t ignore skywriting because there’s a desire to see just what will be spelled out.  And I think that’s part of the success of this type of signage:

  1. It’s unique—it’s not something you see all the time, so you’re more likely to look.
  2. It piques your curiosity.  We like to see things completed. And skywriting plays on this desire and has us all craning our necks to see just what secret message will be spelled out (and hopefully it's more interesting than “Drink Your Ovaltine”).

Skywriting, more so even than plane banners, succeeds in breaking through the noise and the saturation of signage to grab our attention.

And lately, that seems to be the goal of most signage creators—to be different and to break through the daily clutter of signs that we see without really seeing.

Interactive storefront displays featuring touchscreens and videos that immerse us in the action seem to have succeeded.

Ads that offer us rewards for checking into a location, using a QR code, or visiting a particular Web page are also popular (be sure to check out our September Dispatches for more on this).

It seems that signage must do more than ever before to engage the consumer. What do you think? Can a sign just be a sign? Or does it have to become something more to get us to pay attention?

If you’re interested in learning just how skywriting works, check out this video from the WSJ:



  • Arnold Pollak
    Arnold Pollak Saturday, 13 August 2011

    Great article Ashley, thanks.

    Personally I am a traditionalist when it comes to signs. I am a firm believer that Return On Investment (ROI) is the best (possibly only) way to measure the value of a sign.

    I can see where SKYWRITING may be an effective method of communicating to a captive market in a specific location. In South Africa, as in your example, this mostly happens at the beach. However, as with all 'traditional' marketing, not everyone on the beach will see or be interested in the product being promoted, and I would imagine it is EXCEPTIONALLY difficult to measure the ROI on skywriting, especially as the message is so temporary. In my opinion the ad-spend that is being spent on skywriting would probably be much better spent on traditional static or mobile signage, even if only because they have the possibility of so many more exposures.

    Regarding your question "...signage must do more than ever before to engage the consumer...", as I stated earlier I am more of a traditionalist. I think that BECAUSE we are bombarded with SO MUCH 'noise' (especially visual and audio pollution), it is becoming more and more important for signs to become simpler, with less 'noise', greater contrast between the backing board and message.

    I base my comments on my studies of human behaviour. As a species, we, the homo sapiens, have not evolved substantially in the last 1,000 years, while technology, and the world we live in have evolved drastically in the last 50 years, with the evolution becoming more and more drastic every year.

    My thinking is that because of our need for stability, we tend to look for 'familiar' things to grab onto, and thus the simpler the sign, then more likely the sign is to be noticed. This from South Africa where in my experience we generally have a LOT LESS signs than you folks do in the USA – except on the road between Denver and Steamboat Springs. (A wonderful drive for anyone with the time).

    Arnold N. Pollak
    SignForce (Pty) Ltd" rel="nofollow">" rel="nofollow">

  • Ashley Bray
    Ashley Bray Monday, 15 August 2011

    Hi Arnold,

    Thanks for your comment! You bring up many good points. For one, measuring the ROI of skywriting would be extremely difficult. I suppose if you know how many people are at a particular location (beach, festival) at that day and time, you could get a rough sense of impressions from that. But other than an actual number of potential viewers, it would be difficult to learn who had actually viewed the skywriting.

    The "noise" of signage that overwhelms us today is difficult to break through, but you bring up an interesting point. It is usually said that bold and out of the box is what breaks through, but sometimes simple is best. Especially when it comes to things like roadside billboards-- which only have a few seconds to make an impression on passing drivers.

  • Arnold Pollak
    Arnold Pollak Sunday, 04 September 2011

    Hi Ashley

    While I do agree that BOLD and out of the box generally do work, I am more conservative, so I want to make sure that these messages come at a cost that the average small business can afford. I have never looked into skywriting, as my gut feeling is it MUST be EXPENSIVE.

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments



2015 Winter/Spring Buyer's Guide


Is your shop planning to get more involved with digital signage?