- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

Commuters must have noticed the larger-than-life British Petroleum ads throughout the city. And if so, they might just be wondering why the District is allowing billboards after having banned them in the nation's capital for decades.
The answer is simple: These supersize ads hanging on the sides of buildings aren't billboards but rather wall ads, and they are perfectly legal.
The London-based oil company is following the city's regulations for these aesthetically pleasing signs, says Ian Fowler, a spokesman for BP. Wall ads have been permitted since 2000, when the city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs issued guidelines allowing them.
BP first put up seven of the vinyl ads, which average about 30 feet by 60 feet, in August, placing them in high-traffic areas and off of main arteries in the city, such as New York Avenue and the Southeast-Southwest Expressway.
The ads serve two purposes, Mr. Fowler says.
They are part of a campaign to make people aware that BP is developing a range of cleaner and alternative energies for its customers with a focus on solar and wind. A pictorial ad, which can be seen eastbound on New York Avenue, shows a large solar panel with the caption: "Solar, natural gas, hydrogen, wind. And oh yes, oil. It's a start." The company uses the tagline "Beyond petroleum."
Another reason for the ads is to familiarize commuters with the BP name. The oil company, which merged with Amoco in 1998, changed its name from BP Amoco to BP in 2000. It is in the process of turning all the Amoco gas stations on the East Coast into BP stations. The gigantic ads are also hanging in Chicago and New York.
Wall ads aren't new. The advertising vehicle has grown in popularity depending on a city's regulations over the past five to eight years.
"Advertisers are often looking for ways to stand out from the pack," said Seth Nieman, media supervisor at MDB Communications, an ad agency in the District.
Some of the District's BP ads only appeared for a month, but the remaining ads will stay on walls until the end of the year, Mr. Fowler says.
British invasion
The Greater Washington Initiative is targeting British executives in its latest marketing effort.
The affiliate of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, in conjunction with a handful of British business groups, is holding seminars next month in England to attract business to the District. Direct and online mails have been sent to more than 25,000 British executives, primarily targeting technology firms. The bulk of the mailing was handled by Trade Partners U.K., which assists British companies in exporting and trade overseas.
"Through the broad reach of this marketing campaign, British companies will gain knowledge about business opportunities available for firms who have a product or service that may be of value to the U.S. government," said Thomas G. Morr, GWI managing partner.
Mr. Morr says the effort does not directly compete with London's own economic development efforts because GWI is trying to get companies there to expand their business here.
"We're encouraging companies to expand into this market, not necessarily move here," Mr. Morr says. "We want to increase the flow of business across the Atlantic."
In other news
AXA Financial Inc. started a brand-awareness campaign Sept. 19 with TV ads showing people doing things "their way," as Frank Sinatra's "My Way" plays in the background. The ads, created by Richmond's Martin Agency, promote the company's brand instead of its financial services.
Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884.

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