On Street Media
Media planning and buying agency Bigeye’s podcast talks to On Street Media’s team about their unique out-of-home advertising solution: the static street panel.
IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: The executive team of On Street Media presents their unique out-of-home advertising solution. Bruce O’Donoghue, Brian Miller, and Cynthia Beiler explain the benefits of the company’s static street panel technology, what makes its form factor so distinctive, and the types of campaigns that have outperformed other forms of traditional media. We learn about the origin of the SSP, challenges the company faced, and On Street Media’s growth in markets beyond Florida.
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Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. We’ve talked about out of home advertising previously on this podcast. OOH – or simply “outdoor” – encompasses any canvases that exist outside of the home: digital and static billboards, transit advertising, such as posters or screens on a subway on commuter rail, on or in buses and at airports. While in-home advertising media has seen an increase as a result of lockdowns and stay at home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term trends for traditional channels – such as broadcast TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines – point to static or declining revenues from advertisers. In spite of the temporary cessation in most outdoor advertising during April and May, outdoor is set to see market growth in the long-term. As the country has slowly reopened, businesses need to reconnect with existing or lapsed customers. Outdoor ads aren’t skippable, but they’re also not intrusive in the ways that some digital advertising can be. It’s within this dynamic environment that an entirely new concept in out of home advertising has been developed. Called On Street Media, the company is headquartered just down the road from us in Winter Park. To tell us more about this new media option, I’m joined in the studio today by three senior executives from On Street Media: CEO and co-founder Bruce O’Donoghue, VP of Operations and co-founder Brian Miller, and Chief Revenue Officer, Cynthia Beiler. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, everyone.
Cynthia Beiler: Hello.
Bruce O’Donoghue: Thank you.
Brian Miller: Hello.
Adrian Tennant: So let’s start with you, Bruce. First of all, what is On Street Media?
Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, let’s describe it as being a new media opportunity that’s placed on existing electronic utility cabinets that are located on the corners of traffic light or traffic signal intersections. And it’s an opportunity for local and national advertisers, and it’s also a great program for our government partners and it gives them an opportunity to gain some nontraditional revenue or in this case, non-taxable revenue.
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Cynthia, how is On Street Media different from other forms of outdoor media?
Cynthia Beiler: Well, it sits right in between traditional outdoor and then outdoor that you see with transit, street furniture, bus shelters. So it’s at the intersections, as Bruce mentioned, but it’s very close to both pedestrian and street traffic. And the visibility is as if it’s a poster right at that intersection. It’s very rare traditional media, traditional outdoor can be right at those intersections. So we fit in this spot that’s been open for quite a while so it’s very exciting for I think the industry, but also for advertisers in this new spot to be more engaged with their community. Advertisers will have a better engagement rate, I think, in these positions than traditional and the transit. So it’s just very exciting.
Adrian Tennant: Bruce, you mentioned a relationship with government, that’s obviously key in this situation. Can you explain why?
Bruce O’Donoghue: I spent my entire professional life in the world of traffic engineering. And so working with the federal government, state and local governments, and I’ve noticed through these years that they really have a need to deal with their traffic and safety issues and they’re always fiscally behind. And so this was a thought that might work for both parties.
Adrian Tennant: What types of businesses are clients of On Street Media – this one’s for you – Brian?
Brian Miller: Well, we’ve got pretty much everybody on the spectrum. Currently our buyers are anyone from restaurants, doctors, lawyers, real estate agents. Pretty much you name it, we have it right now. So we’re tailored to mostly small business, local individuals in the community, but anyone for that matter could be on there.
Adrian Tennant: Bruce, what was the insight that sparked the idea for On Street Media?
Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, as I mentioned, as a traffic engineer, I had a friend come up to me one day and said, “Hey, can we put advertising on your traffic signal control cabinets at the intersections?” And I told him, I didn’t know if we could. And he said, “Well, go find out!” So I met with the state traffic engineer and he says, “I’m not sure if we can do this or not, but if we were to do it, we’d have to have some sort of noninvasive technology.” And at that point, he came back and said, “I think we’ve found the right partners to help us get there.” So we designed it and built it, took it to the department, and their research lab looked at it and said, “Hey, we really like this. This looks like it’ll work really well.”
Adrian Tennant: This is being built on top of existing infrastructure…
Bruce O’Donoghue: Right.
Adrian Tennant:… so is backlighting part of the solution?
Bruce O’Donoghue: It is actually. We designed it to where all of our advertising and sponsorship messages are backlit. And the whole frame goes around the control cabinet assembly and fits very nicely.
Adrian Tennant: And I should say we will include some photographs of some On Street Media in our website pages that accompany this podcast, so listeners will be able to see examples that we’re talking about. In what kinds of ways, if at all, is this different from a traditional billboard that’s typically well above a driver’s eye level?
Bruce O’Donoghue: I think one of the opportunities is at the intersection. You’re not always getting a green light and sometimes you are stopped and it gives the people who are pedestrians and the vehicles who are stopped the opportunity to look upon and gaze at that message and branding that’s being done by the advertiser.
Adrian Tennant: So Brian, how many units does On Street Media have on the streets today?
Brian Miller: Today we have 60 over the course of about two cities. Certainly we have plans for many times that.
Adrian Tennant: How long have you been actively selling the units?
Brian Miller: Our first unit went up 18 months ago and it’s been incremental and we think it’s moving towards exponential growth from this point forward.
Adrian Tennant: Excellent. And as I mentioned in the introduction, all the projections for outdoor media are very strong going forwards.
Bruce O’Donoghue: The other thing for us we’ve been speaking to a number of cities and counties and around the state of Florida, we’ve recognized from our conversations with them that they are all fiscally challenged right now. And so folks who might not have been paying a lot of attention to us a year ago, are all of a sudden saying, “We want to talk. We really want to see how this good opportunity can help us.” We’re not going to make or break a city’s budget, but it is going to be an effective source of revenue that will be continued and will increase over the course of time.
Adrian Tennant: I mean, every contribution to the economy right now is helpful for cash-strapped, local councils, et cetera.
Bruce O’Donoghue: That – what you just shared – has been told to us by a number of city officials across the state.
Adrian Tennant: That’s good to hear. So tell us a little bit about how client businesses work with On Street Media – do they work with you directly?
Cynthia Beiler: They do. So, it’s a very small staff, but someone who’s not here today, who’s key, is Gracie in the office. And she is really the core to the business and working with our clients and advertisers. And we work with local businesses. We work with agencies. It’s your typical mix of clients that we have. So between Brian, myself, and Grace, we handle all of the work directly.
Adrian Tennant: Now what’s the percentage split, would you say, between client direct and agency clients?
Cynthia Beiler: It’s almost all client direct right now.
Adrian Tennant: Okay.
Cynthia Beiler: We have a small portion of agencies.
Adrian Tennant: Alright. Well, obviously as an agency, I’m interested in how you do currently work with agencies or plan to work with agencies in the future.
Cynthia Beiler: The best way in my opinion, that media companies work with agencies is truly as a partnership. So first of all, we’re going to be quite busy sharing the story as we open up in market, going out to agencies. So they know about this new media opportunity for their clients. It’s going to be a great way for agencies to help their clients’ media spends be more efficient because I think we’re just going to be a more efficient addition to the overall media buy. Being able to increase impressions in a market and distribution at a really cost effective way, which I know is important for your clients.
Adrian Tennant: Absolutely. And I’m interested, can agencies purchase your outdoor inventory alongside other components of a media buy?
Cynthia Beiler: Sure. I think there’s a fit in any media campaign. Right now, we represent solely the assets that we have on the streets today. But my background in out of home, I see the potential with any agency’s clients, if they’re doing an online campaign, traditional radio, television… out of home is just this beautiful component to add to any campaign, to truly put the power behind a media message.
Adrian Tennant: So the question of return on investment or return on advertising spend comes up increasingly in conversations with clients. How do you currently measure On Street Media’s ROI for clients?
Cynthia Beiler: So that’s always been an interesting question whether I’m on the buying or the selling side, when it comes to a media plan. The approach that we take is really one that I’ve believed in wholeheartedly throughout my career. We first start on the client side, how does a client measure success? If we don’t know how that client is measuring their success, it’s difficult for us to connect the dots back to our medium. A campaign should be designed in a way that’s going to create that return on investment. We don’t necessarily give them the measurements, but we build it in a manner that they’ll be able to measure. So that’s our job as their partner.
Adrian Tennant: So in general, how does an investment in On Street Media compare to say placing media on billboards or transit shelters?
Cynthia Beiler: So I think where On Street Media becomes a bit of a competitive edge in a campaign is our ability to target geographically and demographics because we’re placed very intimately where people are driving and walking where people live and work. We can really understand who that population is. And then because of our proximity to the road, we’re more intimate quite frankly, with advertisers, and that’s gonna create a value statement you can’t get anywhere else.
Adrian Tennant: So what kinds of key performance indicators can advertisers establish to understand how successful an outdoor campaign is?
Cynthia Beiler: Well, I think it follows, in general, what out of home can do for an advertiser. So you look at increased visibility on their website, increased traffic into stores. You can do either branding or a targeted offer that helps measure the success of the campaign as well. Out of home in general is just a way to fuel any advertising campaign, my personal belief. So On Street Media, we’re doing the same thing and quite frankly, even more.
Adrian Tennant: Now, based on results you’ve seen for your clients so far, what types of messages or creative elements consistently outperform in On Street Media’s locations?
Cynthia Beiler: Well, it’s interesting because from my time that I’ve spent with the advertisers, it seems as if offering a particular deal has actually worked really well. In traditional out of home, those offers aren’t always as effective because of the proximity of the campaign, but again, because our medium is interacting and so engaged with the consumer, these offers actually work. Branding works just as well as any out of home campaign, but it seems as if we have an even better opportunity than some traditional out of home for those offers to really drive traffic to stores and websites and grow revenue.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
Adrian Tennant: Hello! I know you have a lot of options when it comes to podcasts, so I really appreciate you listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. Now we’re planning our fifth season, and I’d like to request your help. We’ve created the first IN CLEAR FOCUS Listener Survey. It’s mobile-friendly and super quick. It would really help us out if you could share your thoughts about the podcast, and what kinds of topics you’d like to hear more of. When you take the survey, you’ll be in with a chance to win a 50 dollar Amazon gift card – woohoo! There’s a link to the survey in this week’s show notes. Just go to bigeyeagency.com slash insights, and click on the button marked podcast. Thank you for your participation, and for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. See you next time.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to the leadership team from On Street Media about their static street panels. Are there rules or regulations specifically covering what can or can’t be advertised on your units?
Brian Miller: Well,we are using government space. We’re utilizing their properties, so we have to adhere to certain rules and basically there’s, there’s the list of nos. It’s the sex, drugs and rock and roll list. It’s nothing obscene, whether that’s specifically alcohol-related, sexual nature, gambling, or obscenity judged by the local community.
Adrian Tennant: Do you have an industry body that oversees that kind of regulation also? Or is it more of a local government’s responsibility?
Brian Miller: On the local side we deal with multiple governments, so we have to make sure that it’s appropriate for whatever government, wherever we are. On a national level, we do have the federal government who has certain requirements. Those I just listed. So yes, we have specifics from different bodies. We actually have multiple bodies that are
Adrian Tennant: Cynthia, are there any emerging technologies that you foresee On Street Media integrating with?
Cynthia Beiler: So as an industry, out of home is just on this verge of growth when it comes to technology. So we are absolutely going to explore all our options as a new medium in out of home advertising, but right now, and really for the next 18 months, we’re just focusing on bringing this new medium to market. The “Static Street Panels.” is what we’re calling “SSP,” bringing those to the markets and making sure that that value is extremely high for our advertisers and also for those government partners. So we’ll keep an eye on what’s emerging in this industry and how we might be able to tie to technology someday. But for right now, we’re very focused on just bringing our current inventory live in these markets.
Adrian Tennant: So you’re not only the media vendor, you’re also the manufacturer of the technology, which has to meet Department of Transport specs, right? So tell us how that works in practice.
Bruce O’Donoghue: We knew what the department was going to demand. And so when we got started, we felt like we had to have the quality assurance program in place, knowing what the department would allow. And so in conversation, we had full knowledge of what they were expecting and so we made sure that everything that we built, and everything that we designed was going to comply with in this case, for instance, hurricane Category 5 wind load test. It had to be fully tested by a DOT-approved laboratory. And so that was a key component of other environmental tests that needed to be independently-tested again. And so, having that quality assurance of all the products that we’re putting together gives us the confidence when we’re dealing with a department, as we’re dealing with the cities, as we’re dealing with the counties, their traffic management people know that the product that we install is safe and secure and they don’t have to worry at all. From that point, once we’ve installed everything, then very easily we manage and, and care for it. All of that is a one stop shop. We handle everything, and that’s giving our client base – both our sponsorship ad buyers, as well as our clients from government – they’re assured that all, if there is an issue, they just pick the phone up and it’s resolved instantly.
Adrian Tennant: There’s absolutely an efficiency there in having one point of contact end to end.
Bruce O’Donoghue: It is. Sometimes you’ll get a call in the middle of the night saying a car has lost control. And I’m not saying we’re a guardrail for traffic control cabinets, but we have protected them!
Brian Miller: I don’t think Bruce stressed this point that when he said we built, we’ve actually built it ourselves. We didn’t outsource it to companies, like a billboard company would do – they buy their billboard designs or their digital displays from one vendor. We built the metal in our warehouse, or we cut the metal, we put it together. And then later on, sent it to whomever we were going to do, but it came from our office in our own backyard.
Adrian Tennant: So fast forward from the fabrication of that first static street panel to seeing the first ad in place, what was that like?
Brian Miller: Well, it was vindicating. The first unit we put up probably took about 10 hours. And it was a warm, Fall day and it rained and we had an audience and everything went wrong. We forgot pieces and so we had to go back, drive two hours, collect them. Something didn’t fit right. Rain came down, whatever it may be. It took, I think probably eight to 10 hours. It was exhausting. And there were some very angry people watching, about how long it took…
Bruce O’Donoghue: Me being one of them!
Brian Miller: Yeah, that’s who I was referring to. But that unit sold in an hour and 20 minutes. But finally it went up, the phone rang and it was totally worth that 10 hours. It was new and attractive and beautiful and we got a lot of attention on it. So, I’m not sure if we got attention while building it, but we got a lot of attention afterwards.
Adrian Tennant: And Bruce, you enjoyed receiving the first check I’m sure from that?
Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, there’s nothing like receiving a payment that tells you that you have a business and it’s viable and it’s going to be successful.
Adrian Tennant: Looking to the future, how do you want to see On Street Media develop over the next two to three years?
Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, that’s a good question. And one that we’ve been thinking on and working on. So, we think the Florida market is emerging, an exciting market. Florida’s well-respected by the Department of Transportation throughout the country. But we are working on other states and outside the Florida market. We do believe that we have an opportunity for every state. And the question is what state’s gonna come first after Florida?
Adrian Tennant: Now, what advice would you give to anyone listening that has a business idea, but doesn’t know whether to take the plunge or not – Bruce?
Bruce O’Donoghue: Well, I can share with you the very first thing you should do is find a handful of people that you would trust as caring advisors so that you can get true and honest responses. I think the second thing is, is to determine what your costs are going to be. And then I think obviously there’s the barrier to entry. You got to determine what that’s going to be. And then you gotta deal with the whole cost of capitalization. And the very last thing is, is that if you don’t have a cast iron stomach, you probably aren’t gonna make it because there are so many hills and valleys, the whole word perseverance is what’s necessary. We’re a great example of that. You know, this idea started over 12 years ago, and it took us up until about 18 months ago to get onto the street.
Adrian Tennant: Right, that’s a classic case of the so-called, “overnight success,” that really has years of sweat equity behind it.
Bruce O’Donoghue: That’s right. And
like I said, having people be completely honest with you who care about you and are gonna tell you that this path is probably a dangerous path or that this is going to be a difficult decision, but it’s going to be the right decision. So you need caring, truthful, honest advisors.
Brian Miller:I mean, as I said, to get going, it took, weeks turned into months and into years, and it’s, it’s been so true here, but in the end it’s paid off. And I think it’s gonna pay off even more as we go forward. So you’ve got to have the patience.
Cynthia Beiler: I think not being afraid. So being real, take the advice of those trusted advisors, but don’t let fear hold you back because you’ve got to focus on what the potential is. And the minute you start being afraid of something, your thinking becomes very blurred. So you have to stay Zen and not be afraid, I think is key.
Adrian Tennant: Finally, if listeners would like to learn more about placing advertising with On Street Media, where can they find you?
Cynthia Beiler: I think the best place to start is our website, OnStreetMedia.com. And you’ll have all of our contact information out there. You can see this new medium and, and how beautiful it is and what it can do for your advertising message. So I encourage everybody to check us out.
Adrian Tennant: And of course we’ll include a link to that on our website, too. My thanks to our guests this week from On Street Media: Chief Executive Officer, Bruce O’Donoghue.
Bruce O’Donoghue: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting us.
Adrian Tennant: Vice President of Operations, Brian Miller.
Brian Miller: Thank you very much.
Adrian Tennant: And Chief Revenue Officer, Cynthia Beiler.
Cynthia Beiler: Thank you so much. We had a fun afternoon.
Adrian Tennant: Thank you all.
You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” That’s also where you’ll find our listener survey. Please take a moment to tell us about what other shows you enjoy and the kinds of content that you’d like to hear more of on this podcast. To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant until next time. Goodbye.
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