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Go Big with OOH— If Not, Go Buy Radio

Go Big

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Go Big with OOH— If Not, Go Buy Radio


by Nick Coston, OOH Media Buyer and Agent



The best piece of advice an old, old friend of mine gave me, we’ll call him David since that’s his name, he got me into selling billboards back in 2001, said on my first day at Clear Channel Outdoor, was to never make any sales that were under $10,000. It’ll take forever, it’s a waste of time and they’ll never pay you. Go for sales that are over $10,000 only.     Go Big. If they only have $3000 they can always go buy local AM radio. David knew what he was talking about as he’s been in the business 35 years and has more money than God. Just ask him.

I never told anyone else I work with what my friend David told me. It was our secret. Let them sell all those small fishes I thought. I’ll go after the chunky whales. I’ll be like David. Number 1.

So that’s what I did for the 12 years I sold out of home media, aka billboards. And I made a lot of money with only a few key clients. Each year they would buy more and go into more markets. The old selling adage that your existing clients are your best clients worked very well for me as they accounted for over 70% of my billing year after year. I developed some very good relationships, bought three homes during this 12 year span and had some killer vacations and I even married actress, Morgan Fairchild.

OK, I made that part up. But I sold a crap load of inventory nationwide, at one point for two months in 2009 I had more inventory running than anyone else in all of CCO. And all because I stayed away from small sales. That leads me to this year.

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The Covid pandemic certainly slowed a lot of buys down as budgets in certain areas were slashed or cut all together. That really stunk, and hurt a lot of companies as well as a lot of folks who lost their jobs. I know first hand as it certainly affected my business. My theory on media buying up until the beginning of 2020 was use the budget the client gives you, negotiate the best rates possible for the most static boards and then continue to use your skills to add in bonus units, usually digital or transit. That way I would always over-deliver on impressions, keep the CPM’s to an extremely efficient level, and insure dominating coverage. I had one goal, that’s to guarantee my boards made the phones ring, the websites crash and absolute overkill on brand awareness. Even when I was selling. Blow any opposition out of the water.

For 10 years it worked as our biggest client became the second largest auto insurer in the country. You could not go into a market that I bought and not see my clients boards.
A lot of them. Probably more than we needed but boy did it work. But that changed in late 2019 and into 2020.  Gone are the days of pushing for sales records year to year. Gone are the days of million-dollar market budgets. And gone are the days pushing to be number one in your category before you retire.

We are now in the era of record profitability, forgetting about sales gains, just keep that gap widening between what we bring in and what we spend. After all that’s what most corporate bonuses are paid on these days, the ability to increase the percentage of profit. But that comes at a cost. Less advertising, lower budgets, but bigger profits you say? Short term success makes everyone look good, but what happens two and three years from now when the guys behind you start buying all that advertising that you left behind. How long will it take you to catch up again? Were all those wide profit margins with less sales worth it? I think we’re going to find out real soon.

My experience say it’s not. Companies should always keep their foot on the pedal, you know what works, you know what makes the phone ring. Just to suddenly cut back and change your entire advertising pattern to please a few people at the top is shortsighted. You’ll eventually have to raise your rates of what you charge consumers as the guys that were behind you will be aggressive like you were five and ten years ago and will build their business following your model that you dumped for profitability.

It’s happened in the past especially in the automotive industry and it’ll happen again. Look at all the new categories that are at the top of the advertising list, they weren’t there five years ago.

My advice is to get back to buying big, buy a lot, buy more than you need, screw those metrics that some 27 year old determined to be effective, and make sure that when someone drives down the road or takes the subway or hops on a bus or walks down a city street that they see you your big beautiful piece of branding.

Everywhere. On billboards, on trucks, benches, airplane banners and boats. Over and over again, even if it’s overkill. Let your competition see your name in their dreams.
Because that’s what works, that’s what sells your product and makes you number one. Isn’t that why you got in the business in the first place, to be number 1?

I did.

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