Hail to ‘taxi tops’ man Leible

Fast-growing ad medium

Michael Leible is someone who takes the term “advertising vehicle” literally.

As exec VP of New York-based Medallion Media, a relatively recent startup of fleet financier Medallion Financial Group, Leible is responsible for the 4,000 “taxi top” billboards currently circulating the city. And what began as a hard sell now sells itself.

Advertising fees have grown from $1.5 million two years ago to nearly $9 million on the books this year, as advertisers line up to snag new taxi tops as fast as Leible can sign up new taxis. (The signage is presented to taxi owners as an added revenue stream.) Thus, Leible says, “Advertising on taxis is the fastest-growing category of outdoor advertising.”

What really got the trend rolling, however, was Broadway. Beginning with “MGM Show Girls,” Medallion has booked everything from “Victor, Victoria” to “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Having a taxi top has gotten so de rigueur that “Rent” signed up 500 tops for the entire year beginning May 1.

Still, for any new show, it’s going to be tough to top last November’s “The Lion King” premiere. With the help of police traf-fickers, Leible arranged for 60 illuminated “Lion King” tops to form a belt on 42nd Street from Broadway to 8th Avenue. All the taxis were waiting when the audience exited the theater for the premiere party downtown.

Even Walt Disney chief Michael D. Eisner, on stepping out of the New Amsterdam, was heard to exclaim: “How the heck did they do that?” Eisner later dropped Leible a line, acknowledging, “Everywhere I looked, guess what I saw!”