Greatness In Shades

Greatness in Shades

“And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day”
David Bowie. (“Hero’s”)

Not sure if anyone else had the same thought I had when the Miles Standish award went off this past Tuesday evening in Las Vegas during the OAAA/Geopath convention, but first off, I had chills just being in the room in the presence of greatness, and then the second thought was, I was very proud to be an American and very lucky to have been born into the modern era.

Let’s face it, it’s just an outdoor advertising conference, right? But a woman, a second-generation Mexican American and a family of Irish descent from Louisiana. Who knew that all three could rise to such greatness, certainly with tremendous challenges, but also freely without severe prejudice.  The United States, despite all the current whining, is a great country.  For those that missed it, I am referring to Arte Moreno and Kevin Reilly Jr. presenting the 2019 Miles Standish award to Nancy Fletcher for her 29 years of outstanding service to the industry as President and CEO of the OAAA.

In my book, it’s irrefutable that Arte Moreno and Kevin Reilly Jr. (and yes you too Sean) are not only great but are also legends. And of course, Vern Clark, Hal Brown, John Kluge, R.O. Naegele, Lew Manderson, Karl Eller, Tom Martin, Dean White and several others hold that honor as well. But in my book, Nancy now joins that elite crew.

Nancy states in her farewell address, “I was 23 years old – in 1978 – living in Twin Cities, doing government affairs and site development work for Naegele Outdoor Advertising.” I could picture her back then, a real-life Mary Tyler Moore. Smart, sassy, driven and very capable. And also very much a woman, but a woman living in a man’s world and playing by “the rules” of the day. But those rules did not hold her back. Fast forward to the present. While still not completely level, we have come a long way as the result of Nancy and other strong risk-taking female leaders like Nancy.

Nancy’s retirement from the OAAA marks a milestone for me as well. I was working in the industry one week when Bruce Procton brought me to my first OAAA in 1991 in Washington DC. If you are like me, you will remember how awkward your first OAAA was; everyone else was enjoying homecoming week while I was trying to do my best to pretend that I knew the difference between a 50 showing and a rotary plan. Ninety-seven percent of the room at that time was middle age men. Maybe 98%. Then Nancy stood up in front of the audience to accept her position as President and CEO of the OAAA. I thought to myself, wow that is interesting. Wonder how that’s going to work out for her. Needless to say, better than Margaret Thatcher navigating the halls of Parliament. It worked out pretty darn well for her, and for the OOH Industry as well. Just compensation is fully codified and amortization is no longer even a word. ISTEA was put in place followed by TEA-21, SAFETEA-LU and MAP-21. My guess is, Nancy gave us a seat at the table for all of those. And while her work on the government side was impressive, her work in the face of crisis like 9-11 and the near implosion of TAB was equally impressive. But perhaps her greatest feat of all, was being able to get a bunch of supersized personas in a room and cajole them into working together.  That is no small feat!  She was and still is an extremely talented politician, diplomatist, strategist, and tactician.

So Nancy, in your words, we hope that we can find someone who is half as good as you are and can bang our heads together ever so gently, to keep us doubling down on collaboration.

For those of you who missed the memo, The Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education (FOARE) has made a new scholarship available to female students pursuing academic degrees. The Nancy Fletcher Leadership Scholarship, in the amount of USD $5,000, will be awarded annually to a woman with a connection to the out of home advertising industry who has demonstrated leadership qualities. Now that’s a great way to honor a legend!  

Originally published to OOH TODAY.