One man’s junk is another man’s way to pay for a truck
Ralph Homan runs an advertising business, and even though he doesn't use flashy billboards to catch attention, his advertisements are still noticed by passing drivers.
That's because the ads are hung on the sides of old forage wagons that have been retired from nearby farms.
The idea to use forage wagons surfaced when Homan bought a new truck and wanted an innovative way to pay for it. Thinking about his background on the farm, he realized that the farm’s wagons often sat next to the highway while they were in the fields. So Homan came up with the idea to put advertising on the side of the wagons, set them on his property, and rent the space. Homan AGRItising was born.
Homan found that the box shape of the forage wagon worked well for hanging two big, flat signs on the wagon, one on each side.
"I just had to put hardware on to attach the signs to it," Homan said. "They work very well."
Forage wagons are used on farms to harvest forage, which consists of plants, such as corn or grass, that are fed to livestock. The wagons look like big boxes on wheels and measure about 15 feet long and 10 or 12 feet high. Once forage is loaded into the wagon, it is taken into barns and transferred to silos.
After planning his new advertising approach, he told one local business about his idea. It took a while for the idea to catch on.
"It was a whole year later that he came back and said, 'Are you really going to do this? I'd like to put a sign on your wagon,'" Homan said. "That was my very first sign."
After that, the business venture spread by word of mouth.
“I can't say that I was a good salesman,” Homan said. “[The business] liked the idea from the onset, and it was pretty easy. The rest of my customers have been pretty much the same. It's really a business that sells itself.”
Homan has had some interesting experiences with his business. One day, his daughter called him to say that one of the forage wagons was lying on its side after strong winds had come through the region. Homan had to hook a tow rope onto the wagon and pull it back onto its wheels with his truck. He then anchored a rope in the ground and secured the wagon.
"I thought, if we get strong winds like this again, the same thing's gonna happen," he said. "I was very surprised."
That wagon was sold at a recent auction, where Homan then purchased a heavier forage wagon to use for advertising.
The wagons have now been there for several years, so when Homan is out in the field repairing wagons or hanging signs, drivers honk their horns to say hello as they pass.
While he has a low-tech approach to advertising, Homan has a high-tech day job. He works for Penn State Media Tech, where he helps students with communication projects by loaning them equipment such as cameras, tripods and wireless microphones. Homan also takes time to teach them how to use the equipment.
Video: Converting a wagon into a billboard
Homan explains the process of getting a wagon ready for display.