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PJX Media —Justin Symons —OOH’s Future, Challenges and Effectiveness

A conversation with Justin Symons, Group Media Director at PJX Media

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Geopath Member Spotlight | PJX Media 

Luke Barnwell

by Luke Barnwell, Marketing Associate, Geopath

Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to become Group Media Director at PJX Media. 

I majored in marketing at The George Washington University in D.C. and having grown up in the New York area, I always knew that I’d come back as soon as I graduated to get into marketing, media, and advertising.

Justin Symons, Group Media Director at PJX Media & Geopath Board of Directors Member

After graduating, I worked at Titan (formerly TDI, now Intersection) doing local ad sales. I did that for about eight months, cut my teeth, and got thrown out of a dentist’s office in Sheepshead Bay trying to sell bus sides. I really had an affinity for outdoor advertising, but I still wanted to get into the agency world.

I then went to work for Destination Media Group (DMG), which was a division of Kinetic Worldwide at the time. We were a center of excellence within the Kinetic team and used for a variety of activations. After about four years, I was pulled into the main Kinetic group to work on, and later run, the American Express account. Seven years later, John Laramie, the founder of PJX, reached out and after a couple months of conversations, I came over to PJX Media in July 2018. It’s been a very positive, rewarding experience, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

What do you think is fueling PJX’s trajectory?

Our people are our biggest advantage. I like to think that we built a community where we trust each other, where success is earned and not given, and we never settle. We fight for every dollar because we’re an independent agency. We’re working across so many different brands trying to secure small to midsize agency partnerships with digital and creative agencies. We’re constantly evolving. And though we’ve gone through ebbs and flows, I think we’ve created a culture of constantly striving to be better that has helped us overcome any obstacles.

Our common goal is what we call the growth mindset. That thought process, combined with our people and innovation, has enabled us to build a nice niche and see success from it. In the end, great work comes from people you trust, and we have a small but mighty group that trusts each other. I think that really, really helps foster our growth.

I would imagine that translates to the client. Do they get comfort from seeing how everyone is interacting?

It’s not just the media team that makes the culture what it is. It’s across the entire company. We have everyone on these kickoff calls to talk through the terms and conditions of the contracts, the payments, the production turnaround times — if we aren’t gelled and locked-in on our end, the clients would see right through it. The team you’re introduced to at the start is the team that will take you to the end — and that has allowed us to gain client trust.

Courtesy: PJX Media

What are you most excited about right now and looking toward the future for both PJX and OOH?

I think what we’re most excited about is the ever-evolving marketplace of OOH. There are so many different things going on from digitization, new build, and measurement standpoints. We’re in an extremely unique position right now as an industry to see exponential growth over the next couple of years, and this is attracting new and emerging brands to come into the space.

Our focus is on the small to midsize agencies — when brands are in the stage of their lifecycle where they need to get into paid media. These organizations want to get into a traditional paid media channel, and instead of going right to broadcast, print, or radio, the first traditional channel they choose is OOH. They chose OOH because they see it out in the world and they want to make a statement for their brand. Putting your ad or your brand name on a billboard is putting yourself out in the world to see. You’ve got to have confidence to know that you’re going to be seen. I think a lot of brands want that and aren’t scared of it.

What are some of PJX Media’s current challenges?

The first challenge is the macroeconomics of our world right now. With Silicon Valley Bank going under, massive layoffs in the tech industry, and fear of a recession out there, there’s all sorts of things swirling around. No industry is immune to that.

On top of that, there are worries among brands when they’re building out their budgets for the year. They’re going to allocate their dollars and be safe about spending money.

Then, there’s the ever-evolving competitive landscape when it comes to OOH. You have media owners selling on the local and national level to brands directly, and agencies trying to build their client roster. We are all trying to help brands navigate the fragmented OOH landscape. This creates a level of healthy competition, which is good for the channel.

What is most valuable to you about being a member of Geopath?

PJX Media started off as a technology company. We’ve always been striving to bring automation into the space since that struggle began around 2009. PJX Media was one of the first companies to have an API integration with Geopath through our platform, ADstruc, and we’ve continued to evolve with it.

Courtesy: PJX Media

We rely on Geopath’s information to pull metrics directly from the source for proposals. We often talk to operators that are still inputting Geopath IDs into their proposals that they’re sending agencies. For us, we don’t have the need to rely on vendors for the information. We can pull it directly from Geopath and bypass the manual inputs that can lead to mistakes. We rely on Geopath every day to provide measurement to our clients and inform us to target our audience more efficiently while we’re planning.

What excites you the most about joining the Geopath Board of Directors?

Before I joined the board, I saw Geopath President Dylan Mabin making a lot of great changes and evolving the organization. I know from other roles that I’ve been in that sometimes, changes on this level can be like turning a cruise ship. It takes a lot to make these moves. Looking from the outside, I saw an organization trying to move forward and set themselves up for future success. I was excited to see it happening from the outside and eager to dig in when the opportunity came.

I told Dylan to lean on me and let me get my hands dirty. Whatever you need from me, wherever I can be an advocate, wherever I can solve problems. I would bring the agency voice whenever it was necessary.

Ultimately, I think I’m excited to get more involved and help steward in the next generation of measurement with Geopath.

What makes an OOH campaign effective?

I think what makes a campaign effective is one that exceeds the goals or KPIs that the brand sets. These could be anything from brand awareness to performance marketing. What I really think it comes down to is communication with the client. I can tell you what I think an effective OOH campaign is, but what do you think it is? If you have to go in front of your CFO, CMO, and CEO, what would you tell them that deems this campaign successful? Give me these goals and KPIs where you can take that step and say boom, we did it.

We talk a lot internally about what success means for our clients and what we’re doing to set them up for success with their OOH campaigns.

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