A Creative Intervention with My OOH Family

With family, we can say things to each other that otherwise would be considered “too direct” with anyone else. There’s always that person in any family who we care for dearly and want the best for, but for whatever reason, they don’t live up to their potential. It takes us being honest… saying the uncomfortable things, and speaking up regardless of the fact that they might not be ready to hear what we’re trying to say.

The out of home (OOH) industry is part of my extended family. It is this group with which I share some of my best memories and biggest heartaches. It’s one that I love dearly, despite tough struggles around creativity, but tough talk can set us straight. After all, what family is complete without an intervention? So, here’s mine.

Why is there so much lack of heart when it’s heart that makes what we do great?

Yes, there are incredible OOH campaigns, but for every one of those, I swear there are hundreds of ads that are not all they can be. You’ve seen those ads – the ones that make you pause and ask, “why?”. Huge phone numbers, a photo with jacked-up lighting, showing off “look what I can do,” not “See the real benefit”.

And you know what? Those of us in the OOH industry have to take responsibility. It’s our fault. Our fault for signing the quick contract, and most of all, our fault for rushing to the end of the process before asking thoughtful questions about the incredible opportunity that’s sitting right in front of our faces, opportunities that can help clients.

It’s our fault for not caring enough sometimes.

Don’t make excuses or say that a small local client knows “what they want” or “has a small budget.” Do you know why I don’t buy that line? We are capable of more, of helping guide strategic vision. Every person and every client has passion—that’s how we as humans were made. It’s our job to share that passion and make it come to life with a compelling OOH campaign.

Creatives are people who thrive on sharing and validating passions, that’s at our core. When you think about advertising, what makes you proud to work in this industry? For me, it’s sharing the passion and heart of a business with people who can benefit from it. So, when you excuse your small ideas with your client’s small budget, don’t be surprised if I show up to shake some sense into you. Small budget? Asking the right questions will cost you nothing. Instead of over-promising ridiculous turn-around time, promise to do something great! At the very least, support the design of something you can stand behind.

This industry, the OOH family, my family, is at a crucial, unprecedented turning point. Every other traditional medium is dying, yet we are having record growth. We are more relevant than ever. We can’t screw this up. This is the medium we love, that we know best, that we are responsible for nurturing.

I beg you, all OOH companies: big, small, corporate executives, local sales, marketers, support staff, creatives – demand better from your clients and from each other. If you raise the bar, if you hold each other to a higher standard, the clients will follow. But don’t be afraid to lead your clients. Show them you are in it for more than a contract because you understand how incredible their businesses are and how incredible this industry is.

Sometimes, I feel like the high priest of OOH, because I’m a true believer: THIS IS THE GREATEST ADVERTISING MEDIUM. Not just because of all the bells and whistles, real-time data, enormous props, things glowing in the dark, or whatever cool embellishment you’re thinking of. This is the best medium because at its simplest form it still has the power to send a message, reverberating in any passerby’s mind, driving them to share personal reactions across any number of their social networks… all from one campaign. It has the power to deliver one well-crafted, thought-provoking, visceral emotion that, as people, we cannot ignore.

There is a world that we have the opportunity to create, one where OOH is considered first. A world where OOH is the foundation of every campaign, but this is only possible if you speak truth to your clients. Expect more from yourself and stop settling…PLEASE.

We are family when it comes to this industry. As your family member, I have to say, you deserve more than settling for mediocre. We can become front runners as an industry if we are not afraid to show our clients the way. We can lead all other industries if we hold each other accountable to do what’s right. We can do this, I believe in you all.

Love, your brother,