We sat down with Futures Council Co-Chairs Gina Stratford, VP of Sales & Marketing at YESCO Outdoor Media, and Matthew Noll, Director of Marketing & Digital Strategies at EMC Outdoor, to talk about Geopath’s new vision, their excitement for the future, and how working toward a collective vision benefits the entire industry.
Working toward a collective vision
Gina: If you look back at what Geopath and the industry have accomplished we are light-years ahead of where we were a decade ago. But in order to bring the entire industry together to work toward a collective vision for both Geopath and the industry’s future, it was imperative for us all to understand what others felt were the pain points and then work together to put OOH on the best path forward for growth.
Geopath’s initial efforts to do this opened the door for honest conversations about our differences, as well as collaboration across all facets of the industry — from buyers and media owners to brands and advertisers.
Since then, we’ve been working together toward this collective vision so that we’re all on the same page and can have the products and services that meet everybody’s needs in order to increase overall advertiser investment in OOH.
Matthew: I have had many conversations amongst constituents that have solidified for me how not only the OOH industry, but Geopath, are at a really critical juncture right now — and how important it is for Geopath to get it right when looking to the future.
As a tripartite organization, what Geopath does is so complex, so it requires a lot of heavy lifting from all players in the industry. It was so amazing to see all sides sitting down at the table together to figure out how we can best work together to make Geopath the most effective tool. It was a significant accomplishment for our industry to be able to rise above their differences like this and work toward this common goal of making Geopath the best organization it can be for the benefit of the broader OOH industry.
Where the industry really came together
Matthew: Most importantly, we have all agreed that Geopath is the foundational measurement element for OOH. If you want to build something on top of it and add additional layers with your own insights, that is fantastic, but we’re aligned on Geopath as the base that we are all going to measure and transact against.
A few years ago, we were at a data threshold where it felt like we were saying, “Here’s some data. Here’s some more data.” There was all this data from many different sources. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, Apple was reporting how many trips people were taking. But that wasn’t something we could transact against or use to promote OOH — it wasn’t something the industry could survive on.
We all have to agree that there’s one foundational measurement, because as soon as you start going outside of that foundation, how does anyone know what to believe? How do we know what measurement is right? How do we know what measurement to trust? How do we counsel our advertising clients on why these measurements are right? I think that acceptance of Geopath as the foundation is the right way forward.
Gina: Another important factor for everyone has been speed to market, which has led us to work through ways in which we can get this foundational data faster without sacrificing quality. As Matt mentioned, when COVID hit, things changed a lot and there were a lot of companies bringing data forward to show what was going on in the world and the numbers didn’t seem to add up. It was a pivotal time for us in regard to both speed and access to quality data.
How this foundation will increase OOH’s percent of the media mix
Gina: It starts with the brands. They need to feel confident about the medium, and when they do that, they will invest more.
Matthew: I couldn’t agree more — it is really critical to get the brands on board. It’s also important for Geopath to elevate its voice in the marketplace, which is what the vision they are working toward aims to achieve. I think right now it sometimes appears that we’re just playing within our OOH ecosystem, but elevating the conversation and discourse around measurement at a higher level with brands outside of the OOH ecosystem is really crucial.
On the buy side, we’re always looking to educate our clients and our advertisers, but it is an uphill battle. So this undertaking that Geopath has been laser focused on will add tremendous value as we look to bolster our conversations with brands.
Gina: When it comes to local, I think the more that larger corporations start to leverage OOH more, or encourage their local franchise owners to buy OOH, the more we will see the dollars locally.
Similarly, if small businesses see more national brands on billboards and embrace OOH, the more they will want to experience the same thing. And what’s great is that we have the information to go to these businesses and showcase how this is something that they can actually afford which puts them on an even playing field with national brands.
Matthew: I think effectively articulating what OOH can do for a brand and how Geopath can help brands make the best buy will be critical. In a lot of ways, OOH is one of the most democratic media formats. It is open and affordable for everyone.
There is still tremendous value in a standard proximity buy, such as “Exit here for McDonald’s,” but people tend to focus on that and lose sight of the bigger brand building efforts that OOH can truly drive. I think one way we can get to 8%, 9%, 10% or more of the media mix is by focusing on the brand building opportunities with OOH and emphasizing how cost effective, and scalable, the medium really is. There’s so much power for such a reasonable investment, therefore, “mom and pop” businesses can have the same impact as a brand like Wendy’s.
It is also important to showcase to brands how OOH can do different things at different stages of the funnel — and do them very well. It can fill the top of the funnel for brand awareness, but you can choose the right media in the right place. You can get dwell time and mid-funnel conversations happening where you’re speaking to a more detailed brand message. Or, you can get to the bottom of the funnel and convert. OOH can do all those different things depending on how you apply it.
Gina: I think to do this, media owners, ad agencies, buyers and tech companies all need to work together. It is up to all of us to promote the industry and showcase how OOH is a smart buy for a brand, with Geopath at the foundation.
Excitement for the future
Matthew: There has certainly been disruption over the last few years, but Geopath’s vision and the efforts they have already made toward realizing it, puts us in a great position. Geopath has a clear direction that everyone agrees on and a great path forward for enhancements.
Gina: The disruption we faced from COVID was out of our control and placed us in a reactionary position.
As a result, the industry became fragmented. But what is most exciting now is seeing everyone come back together, with Geopath as the OOH industry’s glue.
We all have a stake in the game. We all have a reason to want OOH to succeed and become a premium medium for brands and their messaging. We all want to increase our revenue through more spend in OOH. The only way we are going to be able to do that is by working together rather than focusing on competing with each other. This goes without saying, but “a rising tide lifts all ships”.