Just Once This Week, But Never Weakly
by Nick Coston, , U.S. Sales Director, The Neuron; Industry Writer
A third of my family live in Chicago, another third live in Greece, the rest in California, New Jersey and here in Maryland. So having a family reunion is pretty difficult. We do the best we can in our own individual states, or countries, but to get everyone together would be quite a feat.
But our industry pulled it off, the ultimate family reunion, just this past week. It had been three years since our last one. Oh sure it was terribly expensive, some left Covid positive, some malnourished from lack of conference food, some still without a job. However, no different than an OOH version of The Royal Tannenbaum’s, with all of its rich characters. I’m not sure who really plays the Gene Hackman role, we really aren’t all that diabolical. In fact, I found that we were all relatively happy and glad to see each other. I was glad to see all of you, it was a really, long two plus years since we last did this. Even with some key folks canceling due to Covid right at game time, we endured, we got thru it.
Of course there were the usual glitches that are unplanned for. Lots of “off-campus” AirBnb’s and their evening parties that reminded me of time I lost a kidney, woke up in tub of ice. I didn’t need to lose another one so sorry I turned down all those texted invites. Then there was the noticeable division of attendees, those who registered the actual conference and those who opted to save up-to $1700 a pop, hang out by the pool, pool bar and the beach, doing what our industry does very well, entertaining colleagues.
Either way, both sides of this divide accomplished what they came to do, sadly just not together. It’s as though there were two different receptions going on for the same wedding, but you could only attend one. I counted a minimum of 10 close colleagues that I was looking forward to spending some time with that I never got the chance to because they never attended any functions inside the hotel where they say over 700 paid attendees showed.
But there’s no right side, no wrong side, attendees were doing what they came to do, that is mingle, talk, laugh, have a drink or five, and have a chance to see people in person and kill some zombies. That’s what
I did in the game room on Monday night. But you needed an attendee pass to do so. If not, you got to pay for all those Marriott drinks on your own.
So what makes sense to ensure this division in attendees doesn’t happen so blatantly again?
Jeremy Male hit it best during the Wednesday morning CEO round table. Out of the hundreds of attendees, less than 70 it seems worked on the agency side. There was zero direct clients.
That’s less than 10%, non-OOH Company registered attendee. Shame on us.
These aren’t good numbers. We can do way better than that. Maybe some of the larger OOH companies can each, cut ten management types who always seem to show up year after year, and invite more agencies and clients. I for one will be glad to invite a client for the Nashville event next March. Who’s going to match me? What a great way to show off our industry, right? And the only way this is going work is if we lower the pricing, it’s far too high right now. Some of the smaller billboard companies simply cannot afford to have two or three people attend, that’s why they opt to put together their own outside-the-conference get togethers. They have no choice, it’s either that or they don’t even show up. That would be a shame, to be locked out due to cost. How deflating that must feel.
Let’s not continue to make this just for the big companies and the big agencies, we have enough smarts in our industry to figure out how to be way more inclusive. Imagine the 2023 conference opening with 1200 paid attendees and guests, sitting in their Sunday’s best, surrounded by barista coffee bars and breakfast snacks. A real mix of OOH companies, vendors, agencies and Lordy, some clients. Maybe this would alleviate some of separation we experienced last week in Marco. Not to be a Karen, but there were several good friends that said they were coming to the conference, told me I would see them, but I never did. They were there. So was I. Just not in the same part of the resort. We were divided by our name tags or lag of, and our price point.
Don’t blame the lineup of speakers, they were all pretty darn awesome. In fact, I thought it was the one of the most intelligent conferences I’ve ever been to. It really came down to the affordability and what you got for what you were paying. Between the registration fees, the cost of the accommodations, cost and relative hassle of getting to Marco Island, Florida, regardless of how beautiful that resort was, there’s a reason why the smaller shops don’t register. And why I missed seeing some good pals.
It really is a result of that old phrase “the perfect storm”. It’s nobody’s fault but it certainly is a combination of everyone’s. There’s no blame here, which means it can be fixed.
And maybe, just maybe next year, prior to the Obie Awards, you could at least give us starving attendees some peanuts or potato chips to munch on during cocktail hour. Geesh, don’t let us embarrass ourselves in front of all the guests we’ll be inviting to Nashville next year.
We really aren’t that far off, GO2022 was an entertaining conference, a lot of fun. Imagine how great it would really be if we made it more available to more of our colleagues. Push the big guys to invite agencies and clients and do what OOH does best, reach a lot of people at once.
It was nice getting, almost, the whole family in one place. No fist fights, just a three-day reunion of sorts where no one died. Although the bar for this year wasn’t that high, I’d say it was a good show, most of us left smiling.
And I left with my back-up kidney.