[Introductory note: This item contains certain slang terms for urine. Don't read it if you're offended by that sort of thing.]
[Introductory note No. 2: You really know you've made it as a blogger when entrepreneurial small business persons contact you regarding their urinal-based advertising products.]
So Scott Linke is a financial advisor, but he's also a sports fan, more specifically, a Washington-area sports fan. So a few years ago he got to thinking, as sports fans do, and this is what he thought.
"My idea was pretty simple," he told me on the phone this afternoon. "Sports fans are pretty rabid people. What if the Redskins were playing the Cowboys, and you could empower the fans by letting them piss on the Cowboys' logo. Or if Jimmy Johnson was the coach and you could let them piss on Jimmy Johnson's mouth."
"What if," indeed. This idea was particularly dear to my heart, because, if you remember, some enterprising Caps fans had done that very thing with Sid Crosby this year, putting his image on little discs and dropping those discs into assorted Verizon Center urinals. I'm telling you, those discs were the buzz of the concourse. People loved 'em. They were the talk of the message boards.
Anyhow, several years ago Scott got to talking with his then-neighbor, Anthony Simeone. Tony was in high-tech sales and business development but had always fancied himself an entrepreneur. The two friends were discussing some professional frustrations, and possible solutions, and all the usual stuff.
"You know, I had this idea," Scott told Tony. "Tell me what you think about this."
Scott explained his plan, about how many eyeballs you could reach by putting messages in front of sports fans during their potty breaks.
"You know, Scott," Tony said. "That's actually not a bad idea."
This is how the Web site describes it:
A unique and very focused, event-driven, indoor advertising medium that can easily "Target Your Message", uninterrupted, at a minimum of several times per event, for up to 2 minutes per exposure!
And nice use of the word "exposure," considering the context. Anyhow, the idea was originally to put sports-themed images on puck-shaped apparatuses that would then go on top of urinal cakes. The guys spread the idea around and got some feedback. They decided that instead of a puck-shaped apparatus, they would go with a seven-inch vinyl circle that would fit around the urinal cake, to increase the size of the advertising image and to facilitate installation. They can also make them in various shapes; footballs, for example. They decided that their target market shouldn't just be sports arenas; that they could do office buildings and concerts, that they could court mainstream advertisers and run public service announcements. They were advised to expand from urinals, so they also created a sink-based version. They realized they weren't the first into this market; there's Wizmark, for example, which is interactive, can sing and be heat-activated. (AdFreak has extensively covered this market, I guess.) They incorporated, and applied for a patent, which is still pending. And they needed a name.
Scott suggested PissOnDisc, but they thought they might be too offensive. Then they considered uPod, which stands for "U Piss on Disc," and which I think is a brilliant name, but that was rejected too. Eventually they thought the name should get away from the whole bodily fluid thing, so they went with BlueLine95. (Scott is a hockey fan who has since relocated to Connecticut; BlueLine is for hockey, and 95 is for the interstate.)
Sure, there were doubters. Their wives, for example.
"Let's put it this way: our wives were skeptical," Tony told me. "It's up to us to prove that their skepticism is not justified. It's up to us to prove it's viable. Then, we'll have some believers."
Others suggested that corporate advertisers would not want to have their logos desecrated in bathrooms; would certainly not pay for that privilege. Tony wasn't convinced by this argument then, and he still isn't.
"Well, you know, marketing is about building brand awareness," he told me. "If you come out [of the bathroom] and say 'Did you see that,' then you've raised awareness."
They also conducted some research. Tony, for example, told me about a Dutch study that found that if an image of a fly were put on a urinal, men would tend to aim for the fly, thus increasing bathroom cleanliness. Airports, he told me, have incorporated this technology, which I guess is common knowledge but was new to me. Also, Scott goes to a lot of sporting events, and now he studies the behavior of the restroom patrons. In the pursuit of science, of course.
"Most men don't look side-to-side, most men tend to look down," he said.
"They don't talk, they don't look around, they look down," agreed Tony, who estimated that most men spend 30-60 seconds at a urinal five-to-eight times over the course of a game, depending on liquid consumption . "With something in there, people will see it. People will read it."
The BlueLine 95 guys have talked to some prominent sports arenas about using their product. Although they haven't gotten any big deals yet, they have landed some advertising space in New York City bars. They also made a mock-up urinal oval advertising the Sports Bog, which was sweet of them. Anyhow, I have no idea whether this will work, whether the market has enough space for more urinal advertising, but Tony and Scott's confidence hasn't leaked. They're just getting into their flow. They're proud with a capital P. They're still going to give it a go. Their efforts will not go to waste. Etc.
"If you're really looking for buzz marketing and you're looking to target your market, this is a no-brainer," Scott told me. "I think the upside is huge, I really do. As long as people can get by the fact that it's sort of in a urinal."