Ready to roll

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LEWISTON – When marketing guru Bob Tiernan decided to spike his urban lifestyle and move to Maine, he knew he’d be traveling in the slow lane.

What he hadn’t counted on was killing chickens.

“We were like ‘Green Acres,'” he said, laughing at the memory of raising his own livestock with his wife, Bonnie, on an old farmstead in Oxford. “It was an interesting dichotomy. I’d be on the phone with the v.p. of marketing for a Fortune 500 company and the next day feeding the pigs.”

Today, Tiernan and his wife still have their farmstead, but they’re done killing the poultry for dinner; now the chickens are just for eggs and ambiance. In the early ’90s the couple launched Cameo Marketing, an independent event marketing company that now counts Carhartt, Jack Daniels and the Professional Bull Riders’ Association among its many clients.

Cameo specializes in mobile marketing – getting the client’s message to a targeted audience, often in the form of a huge tractor-trailer traveling to trade shows and promotional events. Cameo Marketing designs, builds and services the behemoth, rolling promotional vehicles, and just leased industrial space in Gendron Business Park for a fabrication center.

It complements the company’s operational center in Pineland, but the two locations won’t remain apart for long. Tiernan said he’s looking for a site locally where he can combine the fabrication and operational aspects of Cameo Marketing under one roof.

“The drive between the two facilities is a bit much,” said Tiernan, killing an hour for the team of design employees who need to consult with the fabricators. “We’ve only been here two months and already we’re cramped.”

Inside the building, several vehicles are parked, waiting for refurbishing.

A Carhartt trailer is partially gutted, ready for rehab. Gone are the mannequins wearing Carhartt gear, but still inside the spacious shell are mounted panels showing famous people wearing Carhartt: George Clooney in “The Perfect Storm,” Matt Damon in “Stuck on You” and Robert Redford in “The Horse Whisperer.” A video screen shows a constant loop of Carhartt products in movies and sporting events.

The trailer is one of five that Cameo Marketing designed and built for Carhartt. They can be spotted at events ranging from NASCAR races to timber competitions to bull riding championships. The vehicles stake out a location at the event, then open their doors to visitors with staff offering tours.

“We have more technology today, but people still need to talk to each other,” said Tiernan. “It’s the same idea with advertisers. They want to be interactive, they want to create an environment that is all about you.”

The Jack Daniels bus is even more impressive. Both sides expand out, allowing 1,000 square feet of display and exhibition space. Among them: A wall of memorabilia that traces the rise of the Tennessee whiskey baron and a mellowing vat that lets visitors smell the difference before and after charcoal processing.

The 5,300-square-foot bus is a technological wonder, maintaining heating, cooling, humidity, security and electrical systems that are all state of the art.

“We build these to marine codes, not DOT codes,” said Tiernan, boasting of the higher standards for his vehicles. It typically takes three months from design to build for a custom vehicle.

The concept of event marketing started with Peter Ueberroth, who courted businesses to sponsor the 1984 Olympics. By 1995, event marketing landed about $850 million in revenues; at the end of 2005, it was $160 billion.

Tiernan declines to say what Cameo is pulling in, but it’s in the millions and supports a staff of about 50. He expects that number will rise to 75 to 80 within a couple of years as Cameo continues to grow.

A former vice president of marketing for Westinghouse Broadcasting, Tiernan said he’s comfortable with the plans, which still let him nurse a cup of coffee while taking a leisurely drive to work. He also has time for family and his other passion, flying.

“We have a unique advantage for an operation our size: We’re small enough for clients to know us, but large enough to do the projects,” he said. “We’ve never lost sight of that, we’ve never not fulfilled a promise.

“I’m living the life I always wanted to live,” he said thoughtfully. “I probably should have done it a lot sooner.”

And skipped the chickens.

“They were in the freezer for a long time.”

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