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Published on April 19th, 2016 | by Nancy Fletcher

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We Are Not Throwing Away Our Shot

Nancy Fletcher

Nancy Fletcher OAAA President and CEO


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Good morning colleagues and friends! We’ve come here to beautiful Boca Raton to celebrate some important milestones. And we’re also here to take a look at what we need to do – together – to ensure the continuing success of OOH.

Before I go any further, I’d like to give a special thanks to our conference co-chairs: Helma Larkin and Scott Wells. And, Kym Frank, congratulations on your terrific presentation. Now, let’s take a look at just some of those milestones.

In 2015, the OOH industry hit a new revenue peak of $7.3 billion after racking up 23 consecutive quarters of growth. In fact, OOH is the only traditional advertising medium that has achieved such a long and continuous winning streak – of that we should all be extremely proud.

And today, we celebrate another milestone because today we mark the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). For 125 years, OAAA has been here to protect, promote, and advance our industry. (But I do want to clear up one misconception. It is absolutely not true that I’ve been at OAAA for all 125 years.)

Now, you may have recognized the music playing when I came on stage. It’s a song called “My Shot”, and it’s from the smash-hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” The show has become a cultural phenomenon. It’s a magnificent piece of work and incredibly inspiring – so much so that I’ve already seen it twice.

It tells the story of Alexander Hamilton. For all of our guests and leaders from other countries, Alexander Hamilton was one of America’s most fascinating Founding Fathers. The musical takes one of the oldest stories in American history and reinterprets it for our times. By using hip-hop and rap, it tells a well-known story in a completely new way.

Hamilton raps:

I’m just like my country
young, scrappy, and hungry
And I am not throwing away my shot.

At the time our nation was born, Hamilton was surrounded by a lot of people who wanted to slam the brakes on change, but he and the other Founding Fathers persisted and eventually they fanned a spark into the powerful flame of an independent nation.

Just like Hamilton, the OOH industry was – and still is scrappy and hungry – and we are definitely not throwing away our shot! Over the last 125 years our industry has been through a host of changes.

From standardizing posters in 1900, to offering bulletins in the 1920’s, to creating a beautiful array of OOH formats today.

We glued paper to wooden boards, moved on to hand-painting on wood or steel, then we began computer-printing on vinyl, and now we’re designing digital displays.

For 70 years we were counting cars, and then ten years ago, we launched TAB OOH ratings.

Each time, the change was disruptive. Each time, there were those who wanted to slam the breaks on change, but instead the industry broke through and made the significant investments required.

It was never easy, but each time the industry embraced innovation, and leaped forward. And what made us strong then will make us strong now. The fundamentals of the OOH industry – our vision, resolve, and unity – they give us everything we need to make the next leap forward.

That’s how we protected private property rights on Capitol Hill and at state legislatures, and it’s how we were eventually able to find relative peace after decades of draconian anti-billboard proposals. It’s also how we developed Eco-friendly materials and systems. And, it‘s how we established a successful regulatory and technology framework for the rollout of digital billboards. We successfully made our case with those who opposed digital billboards –and from big markets to small, we’ve begun to make the capital investments required to make another leap forward.

As we’ve grown, we’ve learned from our history. Because of the smart decisions the industry has made – decisions going all the way back to 1891 – we are facing the most exciting future ever, in 2016. As proud as I am of those industry wide decisions, I am even more proud of how the industry has made them: with vision, with resolve, and most important of all, with unity.

Despite being 125 years old – OOH is still scrappy – and we are very, very hungry.

And so today I want to talk with you about how we are going to build that bright future. What I see are five specific steps we need to take – together – as an industry.

Here they are:

  • Closely Connect OOH & Digital
  • Make OOH Easy to Plan, Buy & Measure
  • Make the Most of Data
  • Tell the Story of OOH
  • Serve the Public Good

Step One

The first step is to closely connect OOH & digital. As you know, ad revenues have been flooding from traditional to digital media. And when I say digital media – I mean web, search, social, and especially mobile. Information from MagnaGlobal shows actual market share for 2010 and 2015 – and projected market share for 2017 and 2019 – for the six media types in America. It shows that all traditional media (except OOH) is losing market share. It shows that by 2017 OOH will have a larger share than magazines and that by 2019 OOH will have a slightly larger share than newspapers.

But here’s the big news story: by 2017, digital will end television’s sixty-year reign and become the largest advertising medium in the country. Digital’s share of the media pie triples; from 18 percent in 2010, to 2019 when digital will have 49 percent of all ad revenues. All types of digital media – web, search, social, and mobile – all are projected to continue to grow at a rapid clip – and here’s why: advertisers like digital media because content is easy to deploy, detailed audience analytics are available, and return on investment can be calculated.

But, while all this has been happening, OOH has held its market share. OOH has become much more relevant. And, OOH has become a part of that same interconnected media mix that includes digital. Of course digital billboards, interactive kiosks, and place-based screens are prime examples of more digital OOH. But we’re also seeing more and more activation using printed OOH formats, connecting our medium with mobile.

OAAA has been working to define OOH’s role in this larger media landscape. As we’ve proven by our research and in our campaigns, OOH is an accelerator of digital advertising of all types. That’s because OOH drives people to search, interact, and transact with brands on their mobile devices, out in the real world, right then and there.

As an industry, we have to get this story out more forcefully. When we do, advertisers will see greater value in OOH. We need to show them the essential role OOH plays in multiplying the effectiveness of digital. We can prove that OOH is the medium most often shared by consumers. It generates more tweets and reviews, move “likes” and posts on Facebook and other platforms, than any other advertising form. And we can prove that OOH is by far the most efficient and effective driver in the real world of clicks in the digital world. But if we are really going to take our shot, we need to do more.

We need to convert and build more digital OOH displays. But digital displays aren’t all we need. We also have to connect printed OOH displays to digital, with calls to action driving consumers to engage or transact with specific websites or social media channels. Every OOH company, whatever its size or shape is going to need to ramp up both its digital strategy and its digital investment. And, as always, OAAA is here to help pave the way through education, research, standards, and communications.

Step Two

The second step is a familiar one, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging: we have to improve our customer experience by making OOH easier to plan, buy and measure. For years, we’ve heard customers say that OOH can be difficult to use – that it can be hard to buy. We’ve heard that OOH planning tools aren’t on the desktop and that OOH is sometimes ignored by advertisers because it’s so different.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “There’s got to be a better way!”

Well, a better way is coming. Automatic and programmatic transactions are becoming a common method for evaluating and buying all forms of media. The OOH industry is following this inevitable trend by building platforms and offering solutions that allow fast and easy transfer of information.

A better way is also coming at TAB. The new TAB will make OOH easier to measure and I want to congratulate Kym Frank and her team, who have created a new vision for OOH ratings through their pilot program called “Operation More.” It’s important that we support TAB and their continued development of common measurement – because if we do this:

  • It means the industry can unite around a better way of measuring OOH.
  • It means that OOH can be planned alongside other media.
  • And that OOH can be considered right alongside print, broadcast and digital as a first choice for advertisers.

Step Three

The third step we need to take together as an industry may be the most revolutionary idea of all: make the most of the power of data. Many of the leading minds in OOH believe that data is our industry’s single biggest opportunity. Well, think about it. New capabilities in how we collect, process, and analyze data will allow us to understand, segment, and target OOH audiences with a lot more precision; let us engage consumers with more relevant messages; and let us measure OOH’s return on investment like never before. And, here’s the thing, we can do it all while protecting the privacy of consumers. For our advertisers and for the OOH industry, data is a transformational opportunity.

Recently, several companies have announced the launch of new products and services, which when coupled with data and analytics platforms, promise to provide information that extends beyond basic audience measurement. These new capabilities have the power to improve, and improve significantly, the effectiveness of OOH campaigns. And they’ll be able to prove it.

Better audience information and tailored demographics will allow us to target audiences like never before, and thanks to insights we gain through data analysis, every OOH display can have its own personality and unique audience.

The OOH industry should seize the opportunity and the power that data offers. Some of our leading companies and suppliers have begun new initiatives, and are already making impressive progress — but this should also be an industry-wide focus. TAB and OAAA should work with our members to develop education, guidelines, and common standards, so that the entire OOH industry can participate and benefit. Plus, let’s publicly state our respect for privacy. Let’s update the Industry Code of Principles.

Step Four

Now it’s time for our fourth step: to loudly, clearly, and proactively tell the story about the creative strengths and competitive advantages of OOH advertising. In the midst of massive movement of ad dollars to digital, we need to break through all the noise and let the world know just how real OOH is – and that OOH is not subject to ad blocking, online ad fraud, or ad skipping. We need to remind people of OOH’s powerful ability to build brands. We need to continue to highlight OOH’s creative canvas – and show just how large it is, how engaging, high impact, and how relevant it is to time and place.

In this age of digital and social media, marketing success very often depends on changing the current narrative. And that we’ve started to do. We’ve been changing people’s minds – by telling our story with campaigns like “Feel the Real,” and you’ll be hearing more about that tomorrow morning. We targeted media planning and buying professionals from ad agencies in top markets across the country. We told our story of how OOH advertising in the real world drives clicks and engagement in the digital world. And then we proved it – by driving thousands of advertising professionals online to learn more about OOH’s value proposition. It was a tremendous success and it changed the conversation.

We have to keep this up. We have to tell the OOH story to a whole new generation of media and advertising professionals. Next, we’re planning a localized second phase of “Feel the Real” – and we’ll be breaking through in other ways. We’ll be launching a brand, new industry campaign that celebrates the power of OOH. There will be new public-private partnerships to highlight our unique storytelling ability, like the Art Everywhere US and the National Park Foundation centennial campaigns. There will be more celebration of award-winning creative work, and more cutting-edge research. If we expect to be a bigger part of the media mix, then in 2016 and beyond, our top priority must be to keep raising the OOH profile and building the OOH brand.

Step Five

And then we have the fifth and final step: to serve the public good. This step, which is all about connecting our business with the communities we serve – makes everything else possible. Without it, there wouldn’t be an OOH advertising industry. The OOH platform – and indeed our entire livelihood – depends on municipal contracts, planning committees, zoning boards, national and state legislatures, city councils, and even the courts. Our success has been built on strong industry advocacy. It’s built on lobbying and partnering – that’s what will maintain and expand the current OOH platform, as it always has.

OOH is not only one of the oldest forms of advertising, it is also the most public. We are seen on public streets, buses, train stations, subways, malls, and airports. OOH advertising, more than any other medium, is intrinsically linked with the communities we serve. So, we have a special responsibility. We must be good corporate citizens. We must always give value to the communities that support us.

The best way to ensure our success is for the industry to stay united in the legislative and legal arenas under the OAAA umbrella, and also to continue our industry-wide commitment to public service, so that we are an increasingly positive part of the American experience.

We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Like Alexander Hamilton during the American Revolution, the OOH industry has an opportunity to become part of something much bigger. We are at a critical point in our 125-year history, and we face a range of challenges and choices that will determine our future. But here’s something I know. I know we have the vision to make the right choices. We have the resolve to make the necessary changes. And we have the unity to come together, no matter what the market throws at us.

I look out here and I see a strong, vibrant, and creative industry. I see an innovative industry, and I thank you – all of you – for being part of it. As Alexander Hamilton says elsewhere in the song, “What are the odds the gods would put us all in one spot?”

OOH has what it takes to succeed – and we are not – I repeat not for an instant – throwing away our shot!

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