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“Is It Safe?”

Once a Week, But Never Weakly

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Once a Week, But Never Weakly

“Is It Safe?”


by Nick Coston, OOH Media Buyer & Industry Agent

We all know that the OOH industry moves rather slowly. That’s evident by the high percentage of traditional products that still run the landscape. Static bulletins and posters, digital bulletins and transit eat up a little over 80% of the total OOH budget. These figures really don’t change too much year-to-year. Ho-hum, boring budgets you say?

Likewise, year to year the categories as well as the actual advertisers, well they too don’t change all that much every 12 months. Financial and insurance companies, fast food, entertainment, mobile phones and beer pretty much eat up most of the inventory these days. Sure, certain states like Florida, California and Alabama and have huge amounts of personal injury attorneys, and there’s always Cracker Barrel, but year to year, state to state, you’re really finding the high percentage of advertisers being maybe the same top 10 categories.

And that’s because these category advertisers know OOH is their safe place. It’s why where you see a few personal injury attorney boards, you see a lot, many of them duplicating the same roadways with different copy. Likewise with fast food, likewise with auto insurance. Reaching people who drive cars. They all need insurance, they all need lawyers if they get in car wrecks to sue the insurance companies, and they all need places to meet and eat after they have an accident to meet the lawyers, all while on the road.

What a racket.

Companies are just like people, they like to flock to their safe places. And that’s a very good thing for our industry as safe places help fill space, make budgets and keep everybody employed. And when that safe space is filled then you get to raise rates. Again, a good thing for OOH.

But we as an industry can do better than good. We really need to be aiming for great. Yeah I know you can’t drive anywhere through the Chicago metropolitan area without seeing hair restoration ads featuring NFL star Brian Urlacher everywhere. And I mean everywhere, on all size billboards. Line of sight? So what! We don’t give a hoot, just make sure the wording varies and voila, you have good looking hair. But when you think about it, someone at that hair company and someone at a billboard company decided this would be a great product to advertise on OOH. And it is, because it lends itself to awesome copy with recognizable celebrities. They stick out and they get noticed. We need more of those type of sales and clients in the mix.

My point being it seems that it’s a constant battle for OOH to break new categories. It takes forever. That’s why, pay attention here, smaller, targeted digital screens that can change copy rapidly, be bought programmatically, and use video and sound where appropriate, are winning that war of breaking new categories a new advertising clients.

Of the top 15 OOH advertisers, a lot of them don’t use smaller digital units, they rely on their safe places. But the hard-working and always grinding DOOH along with the programmatic buying agency peeps are breaking new ground everyday. They have the ability fit more flexibility, shorter and more targeted campaigns, multiple copy changes and quick turnaround times that get ads running. It’s actually easy.

If I’m a salesperson for one of the large traditional OOH companies, I’m not scoping out my direct competition, hell no, I’m checking out the malls, the gas stations, hotel and apartment lobbies, sports complexes, grocery stores and minimarts, trucks, inside and outside taxis and ride shares, boats, even the larger hair salons now have video screens.

But here’s the thing, how long before, and will it ever really happen, where traditional meets the new kids? It’s like the 1950’s when pro baseball teams never ever played each other except in spring training or the World Series. Traditional only meets the DOOH at conventions, once or twice a year at best. We usually play in different leagues.

But it’s happening. There are more aggressive digital networks and programmatic agencies, and as the networks grow and they have comparable, better numbers and efficiency to the traditional guys, the wider range of clients we will see in OOH.

message for Movia Media

Will we see Brian Urlacher’s new hair on elevator digital screens, or talking to you as you pump gas at the local Shell station? Probably. The big question is who will be the first to encroach on the others turf with a big fish?

I’m not a betting man but if I were to throw down a fresh sawbuck, that’s a $10 bill for any of you under 70, my bet is the quickly moving DOOH networks will take that lead. There’s too much an upside for the major advertisers not to start putting 20 to 25% of their budgets into the new tech that DOOH offers.

And that’s when our industry will go from good to great.

Not bad for a $10 bet.

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