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Bus benches hot ad spot for real estate agents

The Jaycees, which installs, maintains and arranges advertising on the benches, sometimes has more business than it can handle, thanks to agents who are eager to get their names and faces out there.

By TERESA BURNEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


When Paul Langrock first plastered a picture of himself on a bus bench several years ago, there weren't many real estate agents advertising that way.

"Since then it has exploded," said Langrock of Re/Max Realtec in Clearwater.

Bus benches have become the advertising medium of choice for many real estate agents, who relish the chance to get their names and faces in front of thousands of drivers each day at a cost that seldom exceeds $100 a month.

The Jaycees organization, which installs, maintains and arranges advertising on the benches, has never had trouble finding advertisers to help sponsor the bus bench program. But since the benches became popular among real estate agents, the Jaycees group sometimes has more business than it can handle.

Often, it isn't pleasant telling the agents no when they ask for a specific bus bench, said Tom Keller, a Jaycees volunteer who handles the bus bench displays for Pinellas County.

"Some of them are the most aggressive business people that I have ever seen in my life," Keller said. "They call and say, "I've got to have this one.' "

Only about 15 percent of the Jaycee benches are available to advertise businesses; the rest are for public service announcements or non-profit groups.

"I'll tell (real estate agents) that the Salvation Army has that one," Keller said. "They'll say, "I'll pay you twice as much.' "

The Jaycees' bus bench program isn't operated to make a profit. The benches are installed as a service for weary pedestrians, and ads are allowed only on enough benches to pay for the program, said Andrew Moos, state coordinator for the Jaycees' bus bench program.

Moos traces the growing popularity to an article that ran about a year ago in Florida Realtor praising the benches as an advertising venue.

"After that there was like this mad rush of phone calls coming in, basically saying, "We want to advertise, too,' " he said.

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