Generations later, high-flying ads still a hit at the Jersey Shore
Every beach day in New Jersey, thousands of new faces hit the sand.
Most are looking over the water, or up.
And that's the simple recipe for success for aerial advertising companies that coast the Jersey Shore from Memorial Day weekend through September, weather permitting.
"Each week is like a grand opening because we have a new crowd," Barbara Tomalino, president of Paramount Air Service, based in Middle Township, told New Jersey 101.5. "Even if they're not just bathing on the beach, they're jetskiing, they're cycling, they're playing tennis, so we take the advertisements right to them."
Paramount, which was started by Tomalino's parents more than 70 years ago, handles national, regional and local clients that want to get their brand or special message in front of visitors to New Jersey's coastline.
The bigger clients, or ones that have been signed up with Tomalino's business for generations, typically book in September and October for the coming year. And the calls come in through the winter months.
"We're very fortunate that we don't have to do much in the way of cold calling," Tomalino said.
But, like most businesses that depend on the presence of beachgoers, the operations of air-ad companies are dictated by the weather. Storms, strong winds, or fog can ground the fleet.
In cases where clients are attempting to advertise a day-of special or sale, that could mean lost revenue for Tomalino's business.
On a busy day, as many as 16 planes belonging to High Exposure Aerial Advertising can be coasting the shore, from Cape May to Sandy Hook, from 10 in the morning until 6 at night.
"We have a couple planes that basically just work local businesses. They may tow up to 12 different banners in the course of the day," said David Dempsey, president of the Woodbine-based company.
Dempsey's company tows advertisements year-round, and not only in New Jersey, but this is the start of the real rush. Prices for clients are generally based on the amount of time planes are in the air with the ad, which reflects how many beaches a client wants to reach.
Dempsey said High Exposure has an inventory of thousands of red and black letters for clients — or individuals who want to send a proposal or congratulations into the air — that don't provide a custom design. The larger, billboard-like designs can be as tall as 50 feet.
Aside from a drop in activity following the terrorist attacks in 2001, Dempsey said business has been steady over the past 25 years.
High Exposure guarantees its customers the planes "will not fly if the crowds are not present," Dempsey said, but some local businesses are content as long as there are at least 20 people per block on the beach.