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“Phil? Phil Connors? I Thought That Was You”

Once A Week, But Never Weakly. Really

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Capitol Outdoor -Philadelphia

Once A Week, But Never Weakly. Really


“Phil? Phil Connors? I Thought That Was You”

by Nick Coston, OOH Media Buyer & Industry Agent

We drove during the Thanksgiving break from south of Baltimore to Northern NJ and back on that Sunday. Interstate and highway traffic was very heavy with huge, long stops. As expected for this time of year. Billboards, both static and digital seemed stocked with fresh copy and all working lights after dusk. Big traffic moving slowly. That means more than expected impressions and far better than average dwell times. Lots of captive eyeballs.

Perfect for OOH.

Cut to this past weekend. Same family, same potty stops, same Dad jokes, same route, over the weekend.

But zero traffic. 65 mph? Most cars going 80, no slowing down, no traffic buildups. Rest stops like ghost towns, with all of the fast food walk ups closed by 7:30pm. Plenty of parking up close. On a Friday night, no less. I know it wasn’t a holiday getaway weekend like Thanksgiving but I’ve driven this route for over 20 years and never ever seen it this empty.

Even a few static bulletins had their lights switched off, usually indicating unsold space, why not save a little electricity ? Saw this driving thru downtown Baltimore and also along NJ Turnpike. Dark boards at 7:00pm is not a good sight. So is old copy, means that the beginning of 1st Q in the northeast is slow, on hold or not enough help posting vinyls.

Either way it’s not a good look for our industry starting off a new year.

On the other end, over the weekend I spoke with my nieces, nephews, sister and brother-in-laws, who mostly work in PR or advertising in NYC. They all were still or going back to working remotely, if they went into the office it was around 75% empty. Business seemed ok, but not a lot of new business, mostly renewals and carry-over. A few buys pushed back to Feb.

I always thought the movie Groundhog Day was overrated. Entertaining but overrated. But suddenly a 30 year old comedy is once again a great metaphor for describing the last 2 years. We are back to re-living the same time period over and over. Ned Ryerson too.  Only now it’s reliving the same year. For the third frigging time.

But you know who’s doing well? The digital screens by the check-out counters at grocery and convenience stores. Long lines, lots of products being bought. And plenty of eyeballs and once again, dwell time. Only thing is that after last two weekends some stores are having a problem restocking. Supply chain issues mostly caused by workers on both ends of the chain being out sick. Or maybe just testing positive, hopefully not too sick, but nonetheless unable to go to work and move these products along. Our supply chains need human beings to load trucks, drive the trucks, unload the trucks, stock the shelves and work the cashier counters. And every few days it catches up where we get behind on this chain. And in the last few weeks it’s very evident that is what’s happening. A trip to our local large supermarket today priced that.

Groundhog Day. You think we could come up with another movie by now. But Groundhog Day seems like an endless reel, playing on a continuous loop. Re-issued every year around this time.

The good news is this third holding pattern we’ve suddenly entered shouldn’t last that long. With vaccines, therapeutics and continued use of better masks, we should push thru this winter faster. Traditional media buys that now have been pushed back to maybe February or March. Movie theatres? They take another hit with this last variant but thank God for the new Spider-Man movie. That may have saved the movie going industry single-handedly. Screw getting sick, I need to see all those great characters on a big screen, box of buttered popcorn, big soda. I feel your urge.

People want to get out, and many are. People want to see other people they want to eat in restaurants they want to drive their cars they want to go to sporting events scream for their favorite team and go to the movies. We all want that. But until the fear of getting sick, even if it’s just for a few days, continues to linger on now into its third year, then we have to slow up our lifestyles even if it’s just for a few weeks. It’s not fair to the overloaded hospitals and the overworked medical folks. Our billboard ads will wait even if it’s for a month a two, we must create some breathing room.

Keep buying those itsy-bitsy in-store retail video screens, they work and they are slammed. One product takes a hit, another one picks up the slack. And the budget.

“Well, what if there was no tomorrow. There wasn’t one today.” Bill Murray’s Phil character in Groundhog Day. That seems like today, January 11th.

But keep that mask on. Get vaccinated. Stay away from huge crowds.  Because I just can’t watch this movie one more time.

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