Advice for OOH Innovators
There are a ton of up-and-coming companies in the #OOH space.
Tech platforms, data providers, media owners, ad networks… Activating new audiences in new venues, bringing new business models, and trying to revamp older ones. In my 10+ years in the industry, I’ve never seen so much innovation, fresh thinking, and kinetic energy all at once.
This is an exciting time, and these investments in human and financial capital will propel our growth into the coming decades.
To the “new entrants” – I have a few words of advice. But before I do, let me tell you why I think I’m (finally) in a position to give it.
In 2009, I joined a VC-backed start-up, DOmedia, that aimed to “change the way OOH media was bought and sold”. We wanted to “disrupt” the “traditional” and “antiquated” OOH industry. Our online marketplace would usher in a “new age”. Our programmatic buying tool would “supercharge” … “replace” … and “revolutionize” the OOH industry!
We rode into the industry on our white horses only to be directly and forcefully (and in one instance almost physically) put in our place.
We were smug and we underestimated many things about the industry. We spoke when we should have listened. We were puzzled to not have received the “hero’s welcome”. It took us at least four years to really live down our boisterous and disrespectful entrance to the industry. It was some of the hardest work we had to do – repairing relationships and building trust – but it was essential work. Before we could do that, our attitudes needed to change. We had to take a good look in the mirror and a good look at the men and women across from us and see our weaknesses and their strengths.
I wish I would have learned the following lessons much earlier in my career. I hope that some of this will resonate with you and help you in your journey:
1) Respect the industry and the people and companies who have built it.
These are hard-wood forests. They don’t sway too much with the winds of change, and that’s a strength. They are strong, steady, slow growing, and very much alive.
Outside of digital media, Out-of-Home is the only other major media format that is consistently growing. Digital media grew on the back of exponential supply increase as smartphones proliferated to the four corners of the globe. OOH does not have the luxury of unlimited supply. We work hard for our leases, our screens, and our structures. We are architects, artists, salespeople and construction workers, all rolled into one. We BUILD the product and we ARE the product.
That doesn’t mean that your ideas will not help us grow taller and spread our limbs. I encourage you to present your ideas, products, and services in that way. “There are new sources of revenue out there, and here are the ideas I have to help you access them.”
2) Appreciate the creativity and the possibility of the media.
Keep your eyes open in your home market for great creative and executions. Seek the beauty and you will see it everywhere.
I wrote a short LinkedIn post about one of my favorite works of OOH media – The iconic Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City, Queens. I loved it long before it received “Landmark” status and before it was written about in the New York Times. The “P” is perfect, the “C”, somehow even better. The way the two letters come together is high art, and a testament to the strength, longevity, and impact that our media can create for brands the world over.
3) Realize that it’s going to be harder and take longer than you think.
This industry is notoriously insular. The first few years will be a challenge. Your good ideas and intentions, frankly, aren’t going to be enough. Invest your time and your money to support the industry and its institutions. Try to go to the conferences and listen to the presentations. Say hello to the people whose points of view and work you admire. Ask them how you can help. Be consistent. Show your ability to focus, be determined, and stick to your plan. You will earn respect when you give it. You will be heard if you listen.
In short, you’ve got to demonstrate your “tree-ness”.
4) It’s worth it. The canopy is high in the OOH industry, and the views are incredible! Don’t give up!
We were able to build DOmedia from zero customers, tech, and transactions, to the largest OOH media marketplace in North America whose customers represent $1.5B in annual media spend. I have been blessed to become friends and partners with OAAA hall of famers, rising stars, founders and CEOs of agencies and media businesses the world over.
Now, my colleagues and I at Screenverse are looking to build a generational OOH business that leverages the historical strengths of the OOH industry with the opportunity that new data, ideas, and platforms can bring.
At the risk of not heeding my own advice, I finally feel like I have something to say and have earned the right to say it.
Much love to the #innovators. Welcome!
You can reach Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
Screenverse Inc is a media sales and solutions provider serving digital OOH media owners. Led by industry insiders – David Weinfeld, CEO and Adam Malone, Pres. – Screenverse represents “Best in Class” media networks and implements sales strategies across direct, systematic, and programmatic sales channels. Screenverse boasts an impressive portfolio of More than 40,000 screens, with national coverage in grocery, pharmacy, convenience, bar & restaurants, and more.