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“…should have rode the boards”

Larry Bird, Marlon Brando and Billboards

7 1,064

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OOH  —Beware

It is mind numbing when I think about the number of times I have heard an Out of Home Buyer remorsefully share, ‘…I should have rode the boards.’  And similarly the refrain of an Outdoor Advertising Seller/Provider explaining, ‘… they should have rode the boards!’   With both parties, the reference is to an Outdoor Advertising  message(s) which have ‘compromised’ placement.

The Outdoor Provider says, “Hey, not our problem. They approved the list.” “They should have taken the offer for a market ride.” While those common comments are true, they aren’t ethically correct.

‘Buyer Beware’ should never be an accepted warning or theme for Outdoor Advertising at any level, in any instance for any company.

Brando video On the Waterfront – could have been a contender
 ‘I should have ridden the boards.’

Media directors with 25+years in OOH and newbie buyers right out of college, resignedly observe, ‘I should have ridden the boards.’  Spoken like, washed-up boxer Terry Malloy, played by Marlon Brando, before Brando was The Godfather, in the movie On the Waterfront. “I coulda been a contender.”   ‘I should’ve rode the market.’  

A comment we still hear today.  Despite the growth of OOH support businesses like buying services, measuring devices, data gathering and software companies, ‘should of rode’ is arguably heard more now than past. What was common place 20 years ago, clients and agencies rarely have the budget to support market rides any longer.

The long-term effect of compromised OOH placement may not be so obvious.  In the short-term, it inflicts a wound to the advertiser. In the long-term, no matter the specific offense or responsible party,  it is not the trusting, arguably naive, agency or advertiser who bears the burden.  The OOH Industry suffers most

The OOH Industry suffers most.

Why?  In the final analysis, it’s a rule of unintended consequences.  Outdoor is like a restaurant’s serving a plate of pasta. Stick with me here. The worst type of complaint a restaurateur or any business, including Outdoor Advertising, may have, “is the one you never hear”.  Sage advice from my first year in billboard sales, from a client restaurateur.  He explained, “It’s the worst, because if you don’t know about it, nothing can be done to correct it. One thing for sure, they are never a customer again.”  He may have been talking about cold spaghetti dinners, but that advice stuck.

Eliminate from OOH lexicon “…should have rode the boards.”

How many Fortune 500 Companies who should be buying OOH, see compromised Outdoor Advertising messages in their daily travels and consequently, choose not to consider the medium?  How much more new OOH business could be realized? How much greater yearly spend or growth would be realized? There are many reasons why we the Industry has been stuck on 4% growth, this is one of themWe need to add new advertisers to the business and keep the ones we have. Let’s eliminate from the OOH lexicon “…should have rode the boards.”  Let’s improve Outdoor together. 

Paraphrasing basketball great Larry Bird. It makes me sick when I see a national advertiser on a poor crap location, just because an OOH Provider could get away with posting them there.

It makes me sick when I see a National Advertiser on a poor crap location, just because an OOH Owner could get away with posting them there.  

“It makes me sick when I see a guy just stare at a loose ball and watch it go out of bounds.” Larry Bird, Boston Celtics, NBA Hall of Fame
bird diving out of bouds photo
“It makes me sick when I see a guy just stare at a loose ball and watch it go out of bounds.”





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  1. Todd Hansen says

    Remember that there is never a bad board but just a bad buy . Every Out of home location will work for someone , whoever that might be .If you chose not to ride then that falls on the buyer .The owner of the locations job is to sell space and to find clients that want to buy that space .Some are A locations and some are not .The A locations are the strong hold of the campaign and the others are the strong hold of the market .There is a mix that works .The stronger the mix depends on the clients commitment to the buy .

    If each client / agency had a strong relationship with someone in the market ,maybe a trusted vendor or a local point person the could be your eyes in the market .

    I find that if a plant manager knows that client has someone keeping an eye on the market that the mix from A locations to others leans towards client side .If plant manager says hey they never come to town and they have know one in market the mix would lean towards the operator .

    It takes a lot of work to manage the Out Of Home business from both sides .

    Enjoy the day and go on a ride .

    Todd Hansen

  2. Bill Board says

    “There is never a bad board but just a bad buy.” “clients commitment to the buy” and
    “It takes a lot of work to manage OOH”
    Strong points Mr. Hansen. Thank you.

  3. Robert Lewis says

    Todd got it exactly right. Every billboard is good for someone. Depends very much on the location description. To take the example of the yellow billboard above, if it was listed as targeting traffic on the highway shown, then it’s misleading. If it was identified by the media owner as being visible from one of the road bridges, perhaps it was an honest listing. It’s totally impractical for a client/agency to ride the boards for a heavyweight regional/national campaign. It only works for one-off’s or for a few sites in one location. Media owners need to step up to the plate and use a software/online service that categorizes their billboards in numerous ways. Ideally independently.

  4. joe b Vogel says

    Ahhhh…think the local car dealer ever ends up on a billboard that is obstructed (i.e. horrible read). Why is that? Because the guy who owns the car dealership is paying for the billboard and not some huge global media company.


    Very Good article!!!! That is why we inform our customers if there is a partial blockage and lower the price. If the blockage hinders the success of a campaign we dont rent the billboard.

  6. Bill Board says

    Right on point Joe b Vogel. Thank you. But who is really ‘paying for the billboard?’
    Could it be the OOH company as well, as payment is opportunity cost?

  7. Bill Board says

    Doing the right thing! Thank you August Schober. If only everyone took the same high road as Schober Outdoor, OOH would be a stronger Industry.

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