Turn Around Turnover
an alternative perspective of OOH industry employment shifts
by Christie David,
Business Development Coordinator, Paragon Printing
My introduction to outdoor advertising was a bit unconventional. More than two decades ago, I was involved in a startup of an outreach center for at-risk youth. Not many of us were much older than the kids we wanted to help, but we were deeply committed to the vision of offering a safe place for kids who had tough home lives. The permits had been approved, utilities turned on and we still didn’t have many people who knew about our facility. Before internet was our chief modality of information and not knowing an inkling of how advertising really worked, our challenge was to give information in a way that conveyed a certain feeling- warmth, belonging, security- while still being attractive for teens. We knew that we didn’t just need a sign to be our location marker. With no budget or experience, we traced outlines with a pencil and hand painted a huge wooden sign with messy text and art that some might call…eclectic. Our makeshift billboard was, in essence, our lighthouse.
OOH is built on unique, separate industries & businesses coming together to make outside advertising happen.
It wasn’t until recently that I changed careers and got an opportunity to see behind the curtain at the wide scope of the OOH industry. Boards, posters on buses and the like were simply in the background noise of my life before realizing the sheer amount of collaboration and processes that allow for those to be possible. Most pieces of outdoor advertising have to through the hands of agencies, brokers, printers, graphic artists and installers. Campaigns go through idea stages, approvals, financial negotiations, analysis of demographics and other metrics- and all of this before one single thing is printed or digitized. Printers buy products from vendors, have teams that evaluate materials and scrutinize particular specifications for posting. Installers wrestle with equipment and materials and weather. Add regulatory agencies, board location software engineers…you get the point. Essentially, OOH is built on unique, separate industries & businesses coming together to make outside advertising happen.
Shifts in employment such as Boomer’s retiring, graduating classes flooding the market and workers that simply want a career change are changing the occupational landscape nationwide in each industry. However, employment in communication related (and therefore, OOH related) fields are above the national norm. Boomers retiring, the influx of graduates flooding the market and employees who are simply looking for a career change all add to employee turnover. However, when compared to the national average of 10%, the Marketing field is currently experiencing the largest turn-over of any industry- 17%, and Media and Communications positions are also turning higher at 14.8%. A survey of current agency employees conducted by Marketing Weekly in 2018 claimed 81% of respondents suggest they are looking to change jobs within the next 3 years. Couple that with a forecasted 8% industry growth for the next decade, and this research points to a prospective revolving door for advertising professionals.
“There are friction points that are unique to the OOH,”
This can (and does) present challenges all involved in Out of Home products and services, and some industry veterans are noticing gapes in consistent training and efficiencies. “There are friction points that are unique to the OOH industry,” Bryan Kemp, Vice President of Channel Management at the Buntin Group in Nashville, TN reports. “Local market intelligence and simply taking the time to understand the market dynamics are both vital to inventory selection, placement and avoiding quality issues…it doesn’t matter how incredible your creative message is, if your board is behind a tree, it will not work.” Conversely, a print professional of over 10 years, Donny Owens, echoes Kemp’s sentiments. “The field is definitely transforming…there seems to be a lack of knowledge of what materials to use…what kind of print or advertising is best to use.” Mistakes connected to the practical side of putting up outdoor advertisement can definitely be costly to the client and agency.
learn the “skill of looking at a space and really analyzing what can be done with it.”
To guard against this, training and mentorship becomes essential. “User groups” are popping all over the country up as a model to facilitate honest discussions between vendor partners, senior colleagues and “newbies” about best practices and usable information. Companies can make sure they utilize their existing vendor relationships to get answers to product questions and practical information. Peter Solomons, Senior Director, Production at Wilkins OOH Media, says that training new staff should include taking every new hire to a print shop- to touch the material and watch how billboards are being produced so there isn’t a large disconnect. He encourages them to learn the “skill of looking at a space and really analyzing what can be done with it.” He says he does this even with the overwhelm of digital formats, because he believes that traditional aspects are complementary to evolving, interactive modalities and wants to encourage the interplay between “what was, what is, and what could be” within this creative occupation. Wow.
Topics related to “ageism in the advertising industry” pull up over 400,000 hits on google, yet the OOH industry would be wise to encourage collaboration between all different age groups, using both ends of the age and experience spectrum. OOH is a uniquely creative movement, working much better if consistently invigorated by fresh perspectives. The young, new and the seasoned can complement each other, says Chip Conley, business guru and author of a widely popular Ted Talk on the subject of bridging age gaps in the workplace. “The Gen X, Millennial, Boomer rivalry is a myth. Teamwork is real.” [i] Many companies have even turned to their employees for their own market research.
At the end of the day, people are going to come in and out. This industry is uniquely qualified to utilize our ever-changing composition as a springboard for growth and out-of-the-box thinking. Yes, there are definitely challenges that turnover creates, but training and mentorship can often offset some aggravating or potentially costly gaps. Change can always be viewed with resentment or excitement. We are here to tell stories, sell products, and be lighthouses for our clients. Seems to me that the best way to do that is to embrace the inevitability of shaking things up every now and again.
 https://businessfamilies.com/resources/resources/blog/articles/2019/april/when-baby-boomers-and-millennials-team-up/. Scott McCullochNorth American Media Consultant
 Specific and accurate figures for print and installation professionals are a bit hazier since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has stopped actively tracking them.