by Nick Coston, OOH Media Buyer and Industry Agent
“Help Me, Help You”
That was one of the memorable lines from the film “Jerry McGuire” which every sales manager then found a way to adopt it into their own ranting lexicon. Believe me I know, I got hit with it a few times over the years. But cut to 2022 and that line still makes sense in our industry. What really hurts the OOH industry the most? A pandemic? A financial collapse? Sure, they do indeed. But we really can’t control those. What we can control is the way our products look to the public, and that has a bigger affect on business than most people think.
Last week I took an extended ride around the busy major thoroughfare’s in Montgomery County, Maryland. For those unfamiliar with the area it’s the large, rich suburb just north and northeast of Washington DC. Plenty of upscale shops, shopping malls, bars and restaurants. Big homes, some nice developments. The only thing you don’t see are billboards. Those got removed around 2005 and replaced by a very large, very clean transit shelter plant. Around 800 faces to be exact. I remember them well because I used to sell them. Then when I became a buyer I bought a lot of them. I’m a big believer in transit shelters being a big part of OOH buys, especially in a market void of bulletins or posters. For the record, Montgomery County still has bus and related subway products filled and busy.
But no bulletins and posters. And as over 3 years ago, all the transit shelters suddenly became empty. Nada. Nothing. Zero copy up. In fact there’s no OOH company assigned to that contract to sell and maintain them. Although it’s the counties fault for not contracting a selling agent, and there are plenty of companies that would want to be in that area, it’s a real eyesore to see multiple, empty transit shelters up and down some of the finest thoroughfares in America.
Wisconsin Ave., Connecticut Ave., East West Highway, Georgia Ave., Rockville Pike, Old Georgetown Road, Randolph Road and River Road to mention afew. Empty shelter faces. Not even a “Save The Children” PSA. And what does the driving public think when they drive past a complete shelter plant full of empty transit shelters? You guessed it! They think that OOH media is dying, that it’s “old fashioned and that all advertising now comes on your smart phone. Billboards? Naw, who buys those anymore, look, look at those blank ad screens at the busy intersection! See, see! No ads, I told you that’s a dying business.”
We do this to ourselves. Driving along Interstate 95 last week I also saw a lot of house ads, which means they couldn’t sell the board and instead of putting a pretty PSA the OOH company ran the usual “Lonely Billboard Seeks Advertising” copy. Or worse, just a reversed out vinyl making it a blank board. Just hit me in the face with a bag of nickels, why don’t ya.
But while those issues are on the OOH companies, the sad, aging, empty transit shelters in MOCO could use a real intervention. Where’s our OOH media governing body, why aren’t they getting involved to make sure these units at least have some house copy in it. Something promoting our industry? Why can’t they use their lobbying expertise and make sure these eyesores at least get some cover. We are just shooting ourselves in the foot when we let this go for 1, 2 and now almost 3 years on this shelter plant alone. On main roads, many of which lead in and out of our Nations Capital.
Realistically, does anyone from OAAA ever do market rides and see how their constituency is looking? Maybe make a phone call to the county office? Call the local congressman? I think what our industry forgets is that years and years of making technical advances all it takes is for some empty units, in this case a whole, major county, to really ruin it for everyone. A blank OOH unit gets zero eyeballs, zero impressions, it’s running time that you will never get back. Clients and agencies see this too. Zero revenue coming in. No taxes collected. At least donate the space to a charitable organization, hype public awareness like Getting Vaccinated. Anything but leaving them blank, even for a week let alone over 3 years.
A blank OOH product. Whether it’s digital or static. It’s the Black Hole of OOH, nothing good comes from an empty board. In this case an empty transit shelter face. Almost 800 to be exact.
Tom Cruise as Jerry McGuire pleads with the football player Rod Tidwell, portrayed by Cuba Gooding, “Help me, help you”.
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