I was explaining a business plan I had in early 1993 with an outdoor industry veteran, when he quickly responded with “You’ll be The Billboard Police”. I hadn’t really thought about my new business idea in that context, as I simply wanted to provide OOH advertisers with a 3rd party pre-ride and post buy audit service without sales influence or a vested interest.
Advertising agencies at that time were beginning to scale back the expense of sending OOH field reps on the road each week, and after spending 15 years as an OOH buyer/field rep, I knew first-hand the value of having outdoor locations evaluated and inspected the old fashioned way – by a trained representative in the car. It was that reason that I started building an independent field network with a handful of experienced outdoor people that had moved on to other pursuits, but wanted to stay involved in the industry.
In the early days of Carroll Media Services, there was little use of the Internet, no cell phones, and no digital cameras; so we used SLR cameras and film to take our photos and Fedexed the reports to our clients from the field – with the photos carefully taped on a Word document for each unit. Just as the OOH industry embraced technology to move from posters to vinyl, from manual to online management systems, from static to digital, and to many new tools – like facial recognition and data integration – we have moved forward also.
Our clients still receive our detailed pre-ride and audit reports with photo documentation within 24-hours in their inbox; however we have invested heavily in smart online and mobile reporting systems that capture data on each location we evaluate and generate audit summary dashboards our clients can access 24/7. We also provide an Excel spread sheet of our findings that our clients use to merge with their data, take the appropriate action, and use for future planning and buying OOH/DOOH.
In the last 25 years we have assembled a hand-picked Network of 150 field representatives in North America and various other regions around the world that understand the OOH/DOOH industry and provide our clients with a 3rd party assessment of their programs. Their dedication and professionalism, along with the efforts of various team leaders and Rachel Virden, my Director of Operations, has always humbled me. We have inspected or evaluated well over a million OOH / DOOH displays in almost every format the industry has to offer, and consulted with various trade, industry groups, and Wall Street over the years as a trusted 3rd party. In addition, our work with OOH clients has evolved to include in-store audits at retail for CPG marketers and specialized auditing at the Point of Care for pharmaceuticals. We have been blessed with smart advertisers and agencies that understand the medium and the enormous potential of quality locations, good creative, and a measure of performance in relation to contract obligations. Our approach has always been positive and proactive in regard to why our services should be considered, and our clients continue to tell us their ROI from our services is substantial.
I have always loved the OOH industry and the people affiliated with it. The industry is gaining larger percentages of the advertising pie by integrating technology, introducing new formats, and providing advertisers with the right message at the right time to the right consumers. Whether we are referred to as “The Billboard Police” or just the guys that still get in the car to evaluate outdoor the old fashioned way, we are looking forward to the next 25 years in a dynamic and growing industry.