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Polis Report

Sell on Wheels

By Michael Learmonth

At 8:15 in the morning on a Tuesday, I'm sitting in the daily parking lot that is southbound 880 near Milpitas. Conversation with my carpool-mate has long since turned suicidal. I begin to fantasize about white diamonds in the left shoulder, or the commuter train in the median that could set us free. Then, among the legions of single-driver drones who conspire to make our lives hell by cramming themselves onto the Nimitz at Mission Boulevard, I see something so perverse, so patently insane, I almost rear-end the Range Rover in front of me. A white Isuzu truck is inching its way between commuter cars on the freeway. Behind the cab are not frozen foods, a plumber's tools or even a disabled car in tow. It is simply a billboard. Advertising what, I cannot even remember. I just look over long enough to memorize the contact number: 800-835-ROLL. Dale Young, the entrepreneur responsible for this escalation of ubiquitous media, told me that by being stuck in traffic, the driver of that truck was actually doing his job. "We typically drive against rush hours," he said from his office in Orange County. "We're targeting people sitting in traffic for an hour or more to get to their job." Young, owner of Mobile Outdoor Promotions, said that unlike the semis emblazoned with logos, his company's trucks rarely, if ever, carry anything but the billboard. "Occasionally we have done product sampling," said Young, who is still experimenting with the trucks. "It's still a young business in many respects." The trucks, Young said, are an alternative to traditional billboards, which are "maxed out" because of all the zoning regulations that control them. All of which makes this commuter wonder whether those other billboards were so obnoxious after all.

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From the April 3-9, 1997 issue of Metro

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