My OOH Secret, I am an addict and a pusher
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My OOH secret, I am an addict and pusher
How I came to sell billboard copy to college students for their dorms and apartment walls.
Addiction issues often start out innocently, for me it started out at a very tender age. Mine started on the way to church one Sunday, I had the window seat on this Spring morning, staring out at the same scenery of well-kept neighborhoods, grocery stores, and a five and dime when, in the corner of my eye, I spotted something that would eventually alter my direction in life.
There was a ginormous Guernsey cow head on a billboard. Seconds later it was gone as we continued our journey. What was that? Why was the cow head on that billboard?
At Sunday school my thoughts strayed from the story of Cain and Able to this gigantic cow head. The billboard was so mesmerizing, so out of context in this small midwestern town that days later after school I found myself mindlessly riding my bicycle to this billboard to have a good long look. As a kid, you marveled that someone knew how to make such a thing.
This was the start of my billboard addiction. That same summer my family went on an epic road trip out west in our station wagon. Out my window, I continued my study my new love of billboard creatives as we traveled on the state highways and newly built interstates.
Wall Drug, Mitchell’s Corn Palace, and of course Stuckey’s were feeding my appetite as a billboard junkie. When I returned home that summer I had a notebook filled with details of the billboards ads I had seen on our family vacation.
The notebook was soon forgotten as my curiosity moved on with the start of the 4th grade. Years later while attending college I was taking photos of old buildings for a photography class when I happened upon to restart my dormant addiction. In the alleyway, someone wearing overalls was tossing in huge armfuls of paper into the dumpster. Waiting until this worker left I wandered across the street to take a look at what he was throwing away. My eyes widened when I gazed inside to find stacks of perfectly good billboard copy. There were ads for Bud Man, Miller Beer, and Blue Nun Wine to name a few. A light bulb suddenly appeared, and minutes later I was filling the trunk of my Chevy with the perfect dorm room decorations I could sell back at school. It was a hit, at $20 a poster in a dark alleyway near the dorms I was selling billboards out of my trunk to students; my career as an OOH pusher had begun.
Out of college, I gravitated to a sales career and found myself working in San Francisco selling bus advertising. We soon learned unrolling 12-foot-long bus ads in front of potential clients was a convincing way to sell outdoor media. But nothing contorted our media buyers face as much as receiving those little plastic minibuses. Media buyers loved and sometimes craved these little personalized tchotchkes…lining them along their desks or credenzas. Those little plastic buses a foot or two from where they sat were great reminders to continue buying transit ads.
Today decades later this industry still has a tremendous grip on me. But I am not alone in this story. Addiction to OOH is a real issue for many of us who work in this industry. It would be hard to change careers to sell say, insurance. There is a camaraderie and tribalism with OOH that makes it hard to leave.
One of the attractive factors for me was always the visuals, maybe that’s why I majored in photography in college. Visuals are an important selling point besides the impressions our media can generate. Making sure we continue to strive for great imagery of our product can only produce more clients who might just become the next OOH addict.
by Steve Lind, Chief Evangelist
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