January 28, 2013

Out of Home America adds analytics, surges in market

Photo | Pablo Robles
Photo | Pablo Robles
Key member of the Out of Home America team are, from left, Melissa Pacheco, account executive; Jon Selame, president and CEO; Moira McNally, director of sales, and Mike Goodrich, production director.

Outdoor advertising, once the slow-moving world of roadside billboards, has entered a new era as out-of-home advertising, a world that embraces every possible contact with a customer outside their home.

And an East Hartford firm is on the cutting edge of the revolution.

The folks at Out of Home America in East Hartford are no strangers to the outdoor advertising market. In fact OOHA, founded as New England Outdoor Advertising, has been at it for nearly 30 years.

Although the industry has changed dramatically, OOHA has continued to seek out growth opportunities and find its clients the most efficient and cost-effective way to plan, purchase and produce out-of-home media.

The company — with capitalized billings of about $60 million last year and the hope of reaching $100 million this year — now has about 300 clients ranging from privately owned local businesses to international Fortune 500 companies. Over the past five years, OOHA's consolidated business has grown at an average rate of 60 percent per year.

Recently, OOHA acquired award-winning Atlanta-based Wilkins Media, creating the largest, independently owned, out-of-home media buying service in the country. Combined, the two agencies have served every industry vertical and operate through dedicated industry coverage teams.

"Wilkins is a leader in applying sophisticated research and measurement techniques to out of home media campaigns," said Jon Selame, OOHA's president and CEO. "Wilkins was also the first in the industry to launch an entire division dedicated solely to digital-place-based media. The capabilities that the Wilkins team brings to bear really represented a game changer for our business."

The acquisition not only gives OOHA a presence in Manhattan, Atlanta and St. Louis, but also creates dedicated research and digital place-based divisions. Selame says the addition of dedicated divisions focused on research and digital also is a game changer for OOHA's clients.

The research division focuses solely on identifying ways to quantify results and demonstrate return on investment to OOHA's clients, while the digital place-based division focuses on identifying every single digital out of home opportunity across the country and internationally.

The Wilkins deal played a substantial role in OOHA's recent growth spurt.

"The addition of the Wilkins business was key to this growth," said Selame. "Additionally, we are experiencing strong organic growth from our current client base who are seeing the ROI through out of home media. Next, as an industry, we've made significant strides in providing audience measurement data on par with traditional media formats."

In the rapidly changing world of advertising, Selame feels that the out-of-home media industry is performing extremely well, partially due to what he calls the "fragmentation of traditional media formats."

"The OOH media industry is strong," Selame said. "Digital media has helped create an environment that limits the consumer's exposure to all other 'traditional' media, leaving out of home the last bastion on the mass media landscape."

According to Selame, technologies such as the iPad, Netflix, Hulu, and Sirius have transformed the media ecosystem into an environment that allows media to be consumed on demand, on the user's terms, turning consumption of media over to the hands of the consumer.

"Only a decade ago, media planners needed to make phone calls to only a few traditional media vendors in order to build a plan that could efficiently reach their target demographics," Selame said. "Due to the fragmentation of media used daily by consumers, integrated, cross-media plans are becoming the standard."

It is for this reason, Selame says, that the need for expert out-of-home media planners who are experts in the category and proficient with the latest research and measurement techniques is becoming increasingly obvious.

And it is that ever-changing technology that is allowing out-of-home media vendors to explore advertising avenues never before possible.

"We have gone far beyond billboards; now we have research technology that allows advertisers to reach their target audience where they live, eat, shop, and play every day," said Selame. "Using relevant research data, we map out a typical day in our key consumer's life and determine how we can best reach them across multiple touchpoints over the course of a single campaign."

Internally, each of OOHA's media planners dedicates nearly half of their day to learning about innovative new out-of-home media opportunities, and the office is constantly filled with vendors who are introducing new media formats for the team to consider.

"Our job is to have a pulse on the out of home marketplace and know about every opportunity available to our clients," Selame said. "By doing that job right, we are able to develop effective and innovative media plans for our clients."

John Lahtinen is a freelance writer based in Farmington. Reach him at lahts@yahoo.com.

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