Skytypers makes its mark on horizon
By: KATHRYN GILLICK - For the North County Times
VISTA ---- Companies are always looking for new ways to reach consumers ---- and the more people they can reach with a single advertisement, the better.
One North County media company, Skytypers Inc., has taken that concept airborne.
As the company's name implies, Skytypers creates messages in the sky that appear to be typed in a dot-matrix style, as it did over the San Diego coastline on July Fourth. Company President Stephen Stinis said the patented technique uses five planes flying side by side that strategically release puffs of what he calls "biodegradable vapor" to form letters that are 1,200 feet tall. It takes four seconds to make each letter.
"That's the beauty of it," Stinis said. "People look at it and say, 'What are they writing?' It's compelling."
He estimates that each message reaches 2 million people. In addition to corporate advertising, Stinis said the company also types personal messages.
Stinis' grandfather developed the technique while working as a skywriter for Pepsi-Cola on the East Coast in the 1940s. He patented the process in 1964 and incorporated Stinis Air Service. Stinis' father created a West Coast division of the company in Long Beach in 1965. In 1979, his dad bought the company's assets and incorporated Skytypers Inc.
The company maintains an East Coast division, although it only works for seven months out of the year due to weather conditions.
Under Stinis' grandfather and father, the company ran ad campaigns for several major companies, including Budweiser, Coppertone sunscreen and Kodak. It also typed a welcome message at the 1984 Olympics. At that time, the company used the World War II-era aircraft that Stinis' grandfather used to start the company.
In 1989, however, the company's planes and some of its assets were sold to a Japanese company. Most of its business went overseas at that point, although it remained a California corporation, Stinis said.
Stinis joined the company as an employee in 1996 and developed a new process that uses multiple computers ---- one in each airplane ---- working on a wireless network. The company continued to focus on overseas clients until late 2001.
Although the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 grounded Skytypers for a period of time, it provided an unexpected benefit by changing air-traffic restrictions on sky banners, which fly at a lower altitude. So not only did the change eliminate much of Skytypers' competition, it created a new pool of planes for the company to lease, Stinis said.
The airspace restrictions, which temporarily limited air traffic near large populations, also prompted the company to move its planes inland to Chino, in Riverside County.
In 2004, the company reincorporated in Las Vegas, but Stinis said roughly 90 percent of the company's business is conducted out of his home office in Vista. although it contracts with a sales staff in Oceanside. too. Stinis said the company grossed $2.7 million in 2005.
"We can 'skytype' in basically any language," Stinis said, "and we can use color."
The price per message is somewhat flexible, Stinis said, and varies depending how many messages the customer wants typed. The listed starting price for a single, 20- to 25-character message is $2,500.