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That Missing Link

Once A Week, But Never Weakly

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Once A Week, But Never Weakly

“That Missing Link”

by Nick Coston, U.S. Sales Director, The Neuron; Industry Humorist 

We’ve come a long way in OOH Media. When yours truly began in the industry, circa 2001, there was no DOOH, no pDOOH, no weekly impressions based on multiple factors, and certainly no “buy by wire” like we have now. We now have more screens, more products, more displays, and quicker means to place copy. We’ve done some incredible encroaching on both television and the online industry, people are starting to get us confused. We ought to be pretty proud of ourselves.

Or should we.

As we pounded our chests at the last few OOH conferences, are we really in another “Golden Age of Outdoor? When was the last one? Did I miss it or was it that long ago? And is that a phrase we really want to use in 2022, “A Golden Age”? When I think of that term I think of my grandparents dancing to big bands, men wearing derby hats and Al Capone. Of course, back then there were a ton of billboards, they were everywhere. Usually, one on top of another. It was the major outlet for hyping a product or service. If you didn’t have a billboard you probably used the local newspapers. Radio was scattered and television had two or three channels at the most and went off the air at midnight. Was that our “Golden Age? For sure the percentage of out of home advertising was way higher than our current 5 to 7% of total advertising considering there weren’t that many other outlets. So maybe by the numbers it was “Golden”.

Even with all the advances in our industry, more than ever we face stiff competition from even newer products. Online digital, satellite radio, podcasts, multiple cable networks, and the most serious competition, mobile phones. I don’t even need a computer anymore, I can write a novel on my cell phone, while buying airline tickets, balancing my checkbook, downloading a recipe for dinner, binge-watch Breaking Bad, get yelled at over a call by my wife, and text with my brother about the Sox game. That’s the ChiSox, mind you. I’m even using my cell phone to write this piece you’re reading now.

My point is, that’s real competition. And although we’ve done a lot in the last 10 to 20 years, our industry still needs to pick the pace up. We have to continually prove that we are not just a one-on-one advertising tool, but a one-to-many format. Numbers matter. We are definitely heading in the right direction.

So to say we are possibly in another Golden Age of Outdoor, I find that phrase grossly counterproductive. It screams “look, we really ARE old school, we aren’t kidding this time, grab that flapper dress, pile in the ol’ Packard and chug on down to the dance hall. Don’t forget a pack of Marlboro Reds, either.”

Here we are, trying our best to advance our industry using new technologies, brighter screens, full motion spots, sound, 3D, ability to change copy on a minutes notice, and we use the phrase “Golden Age”? How old is the average media planner? Have they even heard of that phrase? “Age” is not a word that’s on their mind.

Imagine if Radio and all it’s new offspring began using the phrase “Golden Age” to describe where they are and where they think they ought to be, you would have them all committed. Why do you want us to go backwards by using a phrase such as that when in reality we’ve had so many wonderful advancements?

There are so many other terms or phrases you could use, maybe “Renaissance”, or “Resurgence”, even “Revival”. But “Golden Age”? My head hurts.

We can and must do better. We’re in a business where words mean things, people pay attention to what we say, they want to see and hear good copy. Heck, we give out awards every year to the best copy. With all these brilliant minds and some of the best advertising agencies in the world, we recycle the phrase “Golden Age”? We can’t do better than that? Nobody right now wants to jump in the “Way Back Machine”, not when we are pushing the envelope on all the new technologies at our disposal.

There’s so much talent in our industry, both at the OOH companies and at the agencies, that please Lord, God! someone, somewhere come up with a more exciting phrase worthy of the 21st-century to describe where we are and where we are heading as an industry. “Golden Age” I’m afraid it ain’t.

We are almost there. I don’t know what that missing link is that can propel us to the next level, but I like all the talent that surrounds us. Chances are it’s not just one link but a few. We will find them through more inclusion, pushing creative, pushing tech and taking some leaps of faith.

Please, heed my advice. I don’t wanna have to learn the Charleston all over again.

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