WASHINGTON-When the Tire Industry Safety Council entered the annual ``CAUSE'' billboard contest, TISC Director Kristen Karczewski didn't think the council would win. After all, the CAUSE contest-sponsored by Revere National Corp. of Cottage City, Md.-is for all non-profit public service organizations in the Washington, D.C., area. This meant TISC's worthy but unflashy message of proper tire care would compete against billboards representing such higher-profile issues as civil rights, crime prevention and the fight against life-threatening diseases.
``But I just thought, `Well, you know, we'll try it,' '' Ms. Karczewski said.
The upshot was that on Sept. 28, TISC won third place out of 12 contestants, meaning that from January through March it will have free billboard space in various locations throughout the metropolitan Washington area.
TISC won with an elegantly simple design-featuring a hand checking the pressure on a tire-and slogan: ``The only thing worse than inflation is underinflation.'' The billboard also features the TISC logo and a boldface message across the bottom: ``Have you checked your tires this month?''
Ms. Karczewski herself created the slogan and design, although she relied on outside help for the art.
``The billboard was designed as an educational campaign to alert motorists of the safety and economic benefits of proper tire inflation,'' she said. ``Billboards are a natural vehicle for tire safety promotion, because our audience travels the nation's highways.''
Ms. Karczewski doesn't yet know where the TISC billboards will be placed. Revere National Corp. will consider her requests, she said, but the first- and second-place winners take precedence, as do Revere's paying customers.
It is also unclear whether the TISC billboard will be seen anywhere after March. Three months of billboard advertising, Ms. Karczewski said, costs $5,000-a major investment for a non-profit group such as TISC.
``To get it free is great,'' she said. She intends to contact the National Association of Outdoor Advertisers to see about the possibility of placing the TISC message on unrented billboards.
``Sometimes they'll put a public service message on an unrented billboard rather than have it stand blank,'' she explained.