Geopath Member Spotlight | YESCO
A conversation with Gina Stratford, VP of Sales & Marketing at YESCO Outdoor Media
Decades of OOH
I have been working in the OOH industry for as long as I’ve been at YESCO — for 20 years. I actually fell into OOH by accident. I worked in the tech space prior, and like with most tech organizations, they grow really quickly and then fall just as quickly. So, I found myself unemployed with no idea what I wanted to do next. When I landed at YESCO, I thought it was going be a short-term gig but about two years into my employment, my boss came to me and said they had long-term plans for me and I had fallen in love with the company and the industry, so here I am 20 years later!
The beauty of signage out west
We have the same inventory as most OOH businesses have: traditional roadside billboards, as well as digital roadside billboards. The difference is that YESCO’s signage covers such amazing geography. I feel so lucky to live and work in the West. We currently have billboards in eight of the western states, and they are in some of the most beautiful areas of our nation: Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and more.
These are all areas that have both beautiful mountain ranges and amazing desert landscapes. We have dozens of national and state parks that are within our geography, and it makes for not only a wonderful place to live for our staff, but also a wonderful place for businesses to thrive because of all the tourism that comes along with this area. This has been especially true during the pandemic, as everyone has been taking more road trips and national parks have remained open, offering safe outdoor and socially distant places to explore.
We are right at the heart of where most of the road travel has taken place over the last couple of years, and we get to wake up every day to beautiful scenery right around us.
Unwavering commitment during changing times
During the pandemic, we have tried very hard not to change anything about our commitment to our customers. It was undeniably difficult times, but at the end of the day, we wholeheartedly felt that our value proposition to clients needed to stay the same. The same promises that we made to them to help their businesses succeed before the pandemic needed to stay intact during, and post pandemic – regardless of the struggles everyone was having to endure.
We have been on a growth trajectory over the last several years, and we see our geography as extremely valuable in a post-pandemic world, especially as more people are working remotely and moving out of major cities to more rural markets. Overall, the geographies that YESCO serves are expanding as we continue to grow our inventory and provide advertising opportunities that support these rural areas.
One thing that the pandemic has done for our business is teach us that we must be fluid. We’ve learned that nothing is “business as usual” anymore. We can’t rely on business tomorrow being the same way as it is today.
It’s really about the need for everyone to understand how dynamic businesses must be moving forward, and how we have to be prepared for the unknown, not just be prepared to hunker down and wait for normality to come back. Be prepared to pivot and make changes knowing that they’re likely not going to stick — and continue to make changes. We don’t have the luxury anymore of just sitting on our laurels and doing business the same as we always have, even if it has been successful for us. And that’s a good thing!
Educating the industry that the data exists
With the changes we’ve already experienced as a result of the pandemic, and the inevitability of changes to come, we have an opportunity to inform advertisers and agencies of the incredible amount of data we have at our fingertips to execute successful OOH campaigns. Our job is not to hand them a list of the inventory available, but to provide the audiences they can reach with that signage — and the data we have as an industry is so important to understanding who those audiences are.
I’ve always believed that as media vendors, it is our responsibility to consult with our clients, which is why I created an advertising consultation for YESCO many years ago, to teach my reps how determine a clients advertising needs. This was at a time when our standard practice was to hand a client a list of our billboards with DEC traffic counts and say “here Mr. customer, which one do you want?”. This was during the TAB (Traffic Audit Bureau) days, pre-Geopath, and unfortunately that was pretty much the extent of what we could provide, but I knew there had to be more.
When TAB became Geopath, and we had our initial round of demographic information, I felt as though we had just reached the moon — even with just the four or five pieces of basic demographic information like age and income level. It was more information than we had ever had. My team and I were so excited about this, because now we had information about the audience that our billboards could reach, rather than just ‘how many’ they would reach.
Now with Geopath insights we have a treasure trove of information about, not just the billboards themselves, but the people that travel past those billboards and we are able to provide our clients with true advertising campaign solutions.
Ultimately implementing the practice of the advertising consultation into our sales process helped us learn about our clients’ business and answer the questions of what they did best, who their biggest competition was, what their value proposition was, and instead of saying “that’s great to know, now here’s some billboards,” we could start to match up the inventory with their target audiences and campaign goals. Data has truly been our key to success.