10 Questions with OAAA CMO Julie Thompson

Q1. What brought you to OAAA?

At the very start of the 2020, OAAA’s President Anna Bager asked me to consult on a recovery plan for the out of home (OOH) industry during the stay-at-home pandemic. Anna had been my client for years when she was at IAB and knew of my love for OOH from my early days on the agency side at Fallon & Leo Burnett. When Anna called, we thought the pandemic would last three months. Three years later, I was still consulting for OAAA, and by that time I had fallen in love with the business, OAAA, and its members. Going in-house for out of home was a natural progression.

Q2. What’s it like shifting gears and going corporate after running your own business for 16 years?

I’ve been “corporate” representing top companies and trade groups for the last 16 years with my own NYC-based consultancy. From Yahoo, PopSugar, Tumblr, ShareThis, and TED Conferences to IAB, 4A’s, IAA, and OAAA, I’ve always delivered on corporate strategy and goals. It’s a luxury now to dig deep into one industry, working across the industry from the largest global to the smallest independent companies to champion OOH.

Q3. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned since joining officially?

I’ve been surprised at how multifaceted and complex the business is – it’s media, real estate, construction, local/state/national, politics, art, technology, science, data, innovation. It’s a barometer of macro- and micro-economic trends across the country. OAAA is the convening body for the entire industry, so we get the widest view of results, trends, issues in real time. I’ve never before had to contemplate wind-load effects on small business insurance, or steel prices, or the installers who fit billboards with LED lighting and dimmers to reduce glare in the night sky. It’s fascinating and fun.

Q4. You are known for having a large network of contacts not just in marketing, media, and advertising, but across many other sectors. How do you cultivate that?

I am a natural connector, a connective thinker. My four siblings and my parents used to call me “Phone Girl” as a child. I am energized by being around people and making connections. I’m genuinely interested in what others are doing. I can’t be told about a person or a business challenge and not naturally think of 2-3 different connections to help the person or the cause. It’s absolutely involuntary. I intend to use all of my connections to elevate awareness for OOH, far and wide.

Q5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

When someone’s having a hard time or going through a life or work transition – reach out. They will never forget it, and neither will you. Always try to be of help.

Q6. What’s the best advice you’ve ever given?

Never be petty or protective of your relationships – no one can take your history away. You limit yourself by guarding your connections.

Q7. What’s your vision for OAAA Marketing?

It’s GO time. We’re building a great team and gearing up for even more industry growth. We will approach the marketplace with more confidence than ever. We’ll strive to meet member demand for more sales ammunition and occasions to sell – the research, the insights, the convening events – the exclusive access points into marketers and agencies. We’ll help educate marketers and creatives with the proof points that OOH should be their medium of choice, way higher in the media mix, more beloved than any other. Educate, inspire, elevate.

Q8. What’s your favorite part of OOH as a creative medium?

All its power and vast potential across formats. From the biggest, iconic brand spectacles to the simplest, single executions for local businesses, I love bold stunts, interactive, anamorphic, personalized … but I also marvel at hand-painted murals and print ads that are real works of art. I crave the latest technology and the most radical activations, but I also love the simplest words on static signs. I still write with pen and paper. I’m pro-innovation, but I’m also a purist. The core creative idea has to be the strongest element.

Q9. What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?

If I wasn’t in advertising, I would probably be a designer with my own interiors business. I am a serial renovator, and real estate is probably my biggest hobby. You’ll find me getting weirdly enthused about architectural trends and innovations in building materials for both indoor and outdoor spaces, of course.

Q10. What do you look forward to most in 2024?

First, I think 2024 is going to be a real moment for the industry and I look forward to the continued growth and increased power of our medium. Speaking of moments, I can’t wait for our big conference in Carlsbad, California, in April. On a more personal level, I’m excited to meet more of our members throughout the country as I continue my “Listening & Learning” tour.