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Barbarians At The Gate

"Once a week, but never weakly".

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Vector Media Wrapped Double Decker for Jaguar


Barbarians At The Gate


by Nick Coston, OOH Buyer & Consultant/Agent


“Once a week, but never weakly”

Since 2012 when I jumped from high level OOH sales to equally high level OOH buying, I was the part of the team that entertained all the new OOH products. Many are still around, most of those that are, are doing very well. They should as they are excellent products. But at the time, everyone of them got shut down by our biggest client. None made it to the final buy list. Close on some, but none closed. Little did they know they didn’t have a chance. I tried.

“Don’t you ever present digital billboards to us again, I will cut your budget completely if you do” That was 2007 in Miami during The Super Bowl. That’s was the then VP Marketing.

Or what about 2012 when the client did a head spinning Exorcist move at lunch proclaiming “I can’t stand that product, every time I pump gas it’s so annoying that I would forbid you from ever considering buying that product”. That was the VP Advertising.

I told you I tried.

Hubcap Advertising? Fortune Cookie Advertising? Gas Station Radio? Coffee Cups Ads? Grocery Store Radio?

They all called on me. And regardless of how frivolous I thought the product may have been my job was to make sure I presented everything to the clients. With a smile. And meant it.

Yes, even Hubcap Advertising. I don’t believe any of these in the original forms are still around as OOH products. Well, I hope not.

There are other products who got the same brushoff, however they are more than successful these days. I was a fan then and I’m a fan now.

Granted, our clients never bought from GSTV, Vistar Media, Wrapify, Westfield Mall Media, Captivate, Health Media Networks, Orange Barrel Media, Firefly, Carvertise, Vector Media, or Starlight Media, to name a few. All terrific products, all have lasted and endured. And they have great salespeople.

Yet our biggest client never really considered buying them. Millions of impressions never to be reached.

Don’t even get started with programmatic buys.

So who’s fault is this? And it’s not just my clients I worked on, look at the top 20 current OOH clients, how many regularly use the companies mentioned above?

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You see, while there are some awesome new technologies and outdoor products available to us, more than ever, we still seem to be stuck in a slow motion buying pattern. Bulletins, posters, transit, maybe 20% digital OOH, and then there’s everybody else.

It’s a huge reason why total OOH spend continues to get stuck at an incredibly slow growth rate here in the U.S. Latin America, Europe and definitely in the Far East, OOH thrives as well as eats up a much bigger portion of the advertising pie. We just don’t embrace the wide variety of newer products, especially digital, that are available at extremely affordable rates, unbeatable CPM’S and in hard-to-reach places. If you just planned your OOH media buys around traditional static and digital boards you’re missing well over 80% of the country. Guess who gets that other 80% of these ad bucks? Radio, TV, cable, digital, and even sad little, slowly dying off print. That’s who.

So who’s fault is this? Media buying agencies? Most just follow what their client pushes them to do so they can keep the billing. The OOH companies? Don’t blame them they do everything they can to sell their products. The clients?

Yep. A lot of these static, year to year OOH buys barely change. Sure budgets may go up, but how many new products are they really using, how much new tech are they really employing, what are they really doing to increase their market share? Are their increased budgets simply duplicating what they already are running? Do they have specialized marketing folks that actually take the time to look at these new products to assess new ways of reaching potential customers? I don’t think so, most of them have the same people year to year and then replace them with the same type of people. Who then train the next set of planners.

OOH buying here in the states needs a complete re-thinking if we are to push our new products and our new tech forward.
Clients need to step up their personnel with wider and more progressive thinking, stop the micro, same style buying.

OOH buying here in the states needs a complete re-thinking if we are to push our new products and our new tech forward. Clients need to step up their personnel with wider and more progressive thinking, stop the micro, same style buying. I’m not saying bring back Advertising on Taxi Hubcaps or try and read the back of a fortune cookie fortune. Nope. Instead consider the products and buying agencies that did make it, that are selling millions in advertising and pushing millions of impressions every week and then go after that 80% of the country you aren’t getting with your continued, staid buys.

Look at digital taxi tops, look at wrapped cars, look at parking lot signage, in-window digitals, look at coast-to-coast trucks, look at digital networks in hard to reach areas. Increase that market share, carve off a piece of your budget for new OOH products. Maybe hire a programmatic agency and give them a whopping 10% of your buy. Unthinkable?

You’re beyond playing it safe, in fact you’re dated along with most of your ad copy.

You aren’t helping yourself by not changing and you aren’t helping our industry.

Time for an OOH reckoning, don’t you think?

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  1. gideon adey says

    Nick you’re spot on, environmental and contextual planning of OOH sits often in the “difficult” box. Perhaps it’s more profitable for buyers to buy what is easy to sell on – same as last year please. But cohesive metrics (audience delivery) across formats has got to be a starting point.
    (I’m an OOH audience guy by the way)

  2. Two OOH Guys on Barbarians at the Gate and cohesive metrics. Thank you Gideon.

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