Van Wagner Takes To The Skies

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

New York-based Van Wagner Communications LLC, believed to be the largest privately-held outdoor advertising company in the U.S., has acquired The Lightship Group, the world’s largest blimp advertising operator, and the American Blimp Corporation, the designer and manufacturer of TLG’s exclusive Lightship model blimps, the most popular advertising airships in the world.

No financial details were disclosed.

Through these acquisitions Van Wagner’s Aerial Media Group provides advertisers a powerful array of non-traditional advertising and experiential marketing opportunities. In addition to fixed-wing planes carrying aerial banners, the group now includes blimps and complementary experiential marketing teams which will help brands engage consumers in unique and memorable ways.

Richard Schaps, principal owner and CEO of Van Wagner Communications, has named John Haegele, a 10-year veteran of Van Wagner’s senior management team, CEO of the Aerial Media Group.

“These acquisitions constitute a perfect strategic and operational fit with our iconic billboards, sports group and banner towing business,” said Mark Johnston, president of Van Wagner Communications. “We have a unique ability to help build brand awareness in major city, sporting and event environments.”

Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, The Lightship Group has operated in over 35 countries in the last 20 years, providing blimp advertising, broadcast services and related promotional programs. TLG is currently flying such notable brands as MetLife, DirecTV, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Hangar 1 Vodka and HP Hood.

“Aerial advertising is a powerful, proven medium for creating awareness and elevating brands above competing messages,” says Haegele. “In addition to owning most of the blimps used for advertising worldwide, we also have the only Lightships that are internally illuminated for maximum visibility at night, and the only commercially available LED Lightsign that can show full color video on a blimp. We are firm believers in the opportunity to integrate this new offering as a part of broader national and regional campaigns with integrated promotions, broadcast tie-ins and experiential events that are core to Van Wagner’s business.”

Over the past 30 years, blimps have been used in a variety of ways and are especially recognized for their televising coverage of sporting events. TLG has provided turn-key broadcast services for television and radio remotes, having successfully broadcast well over 2,000 live events.

“Van Wagner’s Sports Group has contractual advertising relationships with over 200 professional and collegiate sports teams,” says Haegele. “We expect that these relationships will provide an important boost to the Aerial Media Group.”

American Blimp Corporation is the exclusive designer and manufacturer of TLG’s blimps, including the A-60+ model, the most popular airship in the world. There are more A-60+ blimps in commercial service than those of all other manufacturers combined. ABC’s airships have flown on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. In addition to the use for advertising, the company has also built airships for a number of military and civil projects. It is headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Since posting its first imprint in Times Square in 1979, Van Wagner Communications has been recognized as one of the most innovative industry leaders in the development of outdoor advertising. With operations in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami, sports properties in over 40 states, and blimps on four continents, Van Wagner serves major advertisers in the US and overseas.

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