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Published on February 15th, 2019 | by Pat O'Donnell

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I’ve Seen the Enemy and He is US

Pat O'Donnell

Pat O'Donnell


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This week – from Boise – I’ve been reminded why our industry can earn a poor image in the eyes communities, regulators, and yes, even advertisers.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Promoting sexually-oriented businesses, continuing to build double-stacks, erecting new telephone pole structures and not maintaining existing inventory are negatives for our industry.  We also seem to lack the will to say no to creative that simply is a waste of the client’s money. We can’t help ourselves. Short-term gain is not worth long-term damage.

Nancy Fletcher, President and CEO of OAAA, has been asking industry leaders for over 20 years to adhere to some basic guidelines and practices that hold us in good stead with the communities we do business in. She is acutely aware of the damage that is done when we do not. Often, the fallout ends up on Capitol Hill and/or at statehouses around the country.

A year from now our company will celebrate its 100th birthday. It’s a big deal to us, something we’re proud of. It also means we have a culture that looks at our business from a long-term perspective. This is not to say we’re perfect. We’ve owned and acquired some inventory that was definitely not reflective of our business values. We’ve certainly posted copy that was less than stellar. However, it has been our goal to make every structure we own an easel that contributes, not detracts, to the art that is displayed on it.

I’m approaching my 40th year of working in the outdoor advertising business. I started in the field digging holes and installing painted Butler panels. I’ve seen with amazement the changes that technology has brought to our industry and the opportunities afforded us. YESCO erected the first digital billboard in Salt Lake City, UT, in 2001 hoping there would be a market for the product. What a wonderful ride.

Our industry has some of the finest people I’ve ever met. We have come so far, yet, in many respects, we’re no different than we were 40 years ago. It is time to take the long view and discard the practices that continue to stifle our growth as a collective. Let’s build quality, energy efficient structures integrated with the surroundings and maintain them. Let’s say no to advertising that is not reflective of community values. Let’s be professional purveyors of our product and improve the quality and effectiveness of the creative we post.

Our industry will continue to prosper if we do the right things, build bridges with regulators and elected officials, and take responsibility as stewards of this great medium. It benefits no one if we provide ammunition to adversaries.

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