Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Howard Rogers: Pilot’s passion helps create memorable advertising

Howard Rogers takes to the skies to help others advertise.

MODESTO — For nearly two decades, Howard Rogers has taken to the skies to advertise for various Central Valley businesses.

At just under 2,000 feet in the air, Rogers’ billboard can be seen by tens of thousands on any given weekend.

Rogers began flying more than four decades ago. His family instilled in him a passion for aviation at a young age. He’d play with toy airplanes, he recalled, and while growing up in Hughson, he watched aircraft from Castle Air Force Base in Atwater.

His uncle – a pilot – was of particular influence to him.

“If he had time to breathe, he had time to fly,” Rogers said.

The adventure of flying drove Rogers’ passion. At 16 years old, he received his pilot’s license. A friend later introduced him to aerial advertising, he said, “It looked like a lot of fun. I [was] up for anything new, and gave it a shot.”

So, he obtained certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, and in 2000, founded California Aero Sports and Sky Ads. Since then, the Modesto-based business has provided advertisements for such companies as Apple, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Robert’s Auto in Modesto and multiple other local and international brands.

Each weekend, when conditions are right, Rogers flies his Cessna 188, a lightweight, single-passenger plane, with a billboard in tow. He flies up to altitudes ranging from 1,500-1,900 feet.

California Aero Sports and Sky Ads provide billboards via a separate company, located in Florida. The Federal Aviation Administration certifies the aircraft to tow the signs, which are approximately 75 feet wide and 150 feet long.

The process of towing a billboard is challenging, said Rogers. It can be physically demanding before takeoff and while in the air.

Rogers said he usually prepares for a flight a day in advance. The process can take up to two hours to set up. “We have to check the airplane out, fix anything, [and] fuel up.”

Then, the billboard (which features the advertisement) is loaded onto a truck, and taken to the runway where it’s unfolded, and attached to a 400-foot line between two poles.

This line, said ground crew member Donna Rogers, is then fastened to two poles. After takeoff, a hook attached to the aircraft catches the line. As the plane climbs in altitude, it begins to tow the billboard.

Of course, the job comes with its risks. But Howard Rogers is “an instinctive pilot with a lot of experience, and doesn’t get rattled,” Donna Rogers said.

Once in the air, Howard Rogers flies for about two hours. Typical flight paths include Modesto, Riverbank, Ripon, Waterford, Patterson and Turlock.

“If flight conditions are really good, I love it. When it’s bad, it wears you out,” Howard Rogers said, referring to the Central Valley’s particularly turbulent atmospheric conditions.

Howard Rogers’ career has taken him around the U.S., and to Central and South America. He’s advertised above Lake Havasu during spring break, and over the Panama Canal.

In the years following the 2007 economic crisis, Howard Rogers said business has declined. His services have become somewhat of a novelty. Aerial advertising, which has been around since the 1930s, is a dying industry, he said.

With the invention of the internet, advertising went digital. This evolution, Howard Rogers said, has hit his industry hard.

However unconventional, this marketing strategy can be highly impactful and cost effective for dedicated businesses seeking large audience … especially car dealerships, or online and tech companies, Howard Rogers explained.

Each hour he flies, Howard Rogers exposes more than 20,000 to the billboard in tow. “If you’re paying $450 an hour, that’s .45 cents per thousand,” he said.

That number can be much higher, depending on the time and place – like the mall during the holidays, or during rush hour traffic on Fridays.

“You can read an ad in magazine, but when you see a showing like [an aerial ad], people seem to enjoy it more,” Howard Rogers said. It resonates.

In fact, according to an Arnold Aerial Advertising study, “88 percent of people remembered seeing [an] airplane aerial banner go by after 30 minutes; 79 percent could remember the product or service being advertised; [and] 67 percent retained at least half the message from the aerial ad.”

Dennis Noland, co-owner of Robert’s Auto in Modesto, said this form of advertising shows results.

The dealership has worked with Howard Rogers for 15 years. In this time span, Noland said the business has received a high customer response rate.

“The customers always mention the plane,” Noland said.

This form of marketing fits the dealership’s business philosophy. Robert’s Auto mostly advertises by word of mouth, and does not push sales, Noland said. The aircraft acts as a constant reminder “that we are around.”

It is the consistency of their aerial ads that have benefited the dealership, Noland added, “The plane is almost synonymous with Robert’s Auto.”

“It gives us an exclusive feel,” he said, “It’s something different.”

Noland said that the number of ads people are exposed to everyday is staggering. “In the world of visual bombardment, it’s neat to have unique way to [get someone’s] attention for a minute.”

“It’s an artform,” he said. Overall, “It’s a love of aviation that I think keeps us going, and it’s beneficial to the company – we draw upon that uniqueness.”

Original article can be found here: https://cvbj.biz


  1. Cessna 188 -- "Single-passenger" :)

  2. Wonderful article. Everyone should pursue the passion they feel towards a certain kind of work.