In what may prove to be a case study in the adaptation of entertainment technology to other markets, Wybron, a leading manufacturer of color scrollers, has moved into retail with its new product, AIM/Advertising in Motion (pictured).

AIM takes Wybron's color scroller design and puts it to new uses. The product is a backlit scrolling display system--a lightbox that holds and rotates up to 12 backlit ads or posters. Ads are fixed or printed together into a scroll, then attached to motorized spools on either side of the display area. Ads scroll into the display window, stop for a programmed amount of time, then move on. The scrolls can be produced on a variety of translucent media using the digital inkjet, Duratrans, or Durst Lambda methods.

Furthermore, frames can be connected in two ways--they can be printed in a continuous line (butted together along the shorter edges) or printed individually, then fixed together with a special adhesive, which allows one to change a single frame. The product comes with display areas of 45"x30" (114x76cm) or 11"x17" (28x43cm). The displays come with an internal clock, four-button keypad, and LCD panel, allowing users to program on/off times and frame display duration.

Although seemingly simple, the product is a signal example of creative thinking. Says Jim Knutson, AIM marketing and sales director, "We've been making scrollers for 20 years, and we're always looking for ways to leverage that expertise into other markets and products." The AIM system, he says, "is an idea that [Wybron chairman and founder] Keny Whitwright had five or six years ago. However, the printing technology wasn't there yet, so it got put on the back burner until about a year and a half ago." The product was finally introduced in 1997.

The AIM system can be used in various ways. In some cases, vendors have them installed in public venues, then resell space on the scrollers to advertisers. In other cases, a unit is installed in a facility such as a bank; while patrons stand in line, the scroller informs them about several of the bank's programs. "We're doing an installation at McDonald's which is a scrolling menu board," adds Knutson. Other customers include Citibank, Norwest Banks, and Sacramento International Airport. At Vail and Copper Mountain, in Colorado, the system, constructed to withstand the elements at 11,000' (3,353m), is built into information maps for skiers.

Knutson adds that the retail market contains familiar and unfamiliar elements for Wybron. For one thing, he says, "So many entertainment lighting designers are getting into retail that we're starting to bump into people we've known for a long time." He indicates that, if all goes according to plan, the AIM system will account for a significant amount of the company's sales by early 1999. "We've just purchased a building behind us that takes up another 60,000 sq. ft. (5,400 sq. m), so we're gearing up for a pretty significant expansion into this market," Knutson says. With any luck, the AIM system should keep Wybron's business scrolling along into the next century.