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Out of Home Advertising with Melissa Howell

Posted by Maya Dolan on June 10, 2021 at 7:30 AM

Taking A Traditional Approach To Advertising

As a millenial in an old school industry, our recent podcast guest works to convince digital and social heavy brands to cut through the clutter and take a chance on a more traditional advertising approach.

Recently, our CEO, Stacy Jones sat down with an expert in outdoor advertising and experiential marketing. In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns all about Out of Home Advertising from the expertise of Melissa Howell, the Director of Client Partnerships at Wilkins Media.


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A Little More About Melissa Howell

Melissa is the director of client partnerships at Wilkins Media, an out of home specialists firm based in New York City, and she works to convince digital and social heavy brands to take a chance on a more traditional, marketing approach—out of home advertising. She has over eight years of experience in the field, connecting brands with consumers through these practices. 

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: To start off, can you share a little bit more about what got you here today in this career of outdoor advertising?

Answer: Yes. I moved to the big city of Manhattan shortly after college. I had started a career in the floral industry of all things. I went to work for a company in New York and I just wasn't really fulfilled doing that. I had advertised in marketing, and loved advertising. Growing up in Alabama, I had never seen anything on the level of advertising as it is in New York City. As I'm walking around New York, with all of these giant billboards, Times Square, it was just overwhelming. And I was like, this is so cool.

I started connecting with people in the advertising industry and on a really hot, hot summer day, I went and handed my resumes to all the top agencies around New York. That's how I got my first job in outdoor advertising. Thankfully the girl at the front desk thought I had some guts and passed it on to the CEO. And he said, "I don't know what I have for you, but I'm going to find something for you." That's how I got my start in outdoor advertising. And honestly, when they said out of home, I had to Google it. I was like, what is out of home? I didn't learn this in Marketing 101. I don't really remember it. After brushing up on my out-of-home knowledge, that's where I started my career and that's where I've been for the last eight years now.


Question: So you got hired for this job at an out of home agency and you had to look up what out of home is. Can you share with our listeners in case they too are like, "Is she talking about billboards? What is she talking about exactly here?"

Answer: Out of home media, which is sometimes called outdoor advertising, is anything outside of the home. So yes, billboards are a very big part of out of home. Every time I say, "I'm in outdoor advertising," people are like, "Billboards." I'm like, "Yes, billboards. That's about 10% of it." On top of that, you have transit media. So here we're in Los Angeles. You see the transit buses, you see the rail now that we have, the expo line, Metro. You have the double decker tour buses here. You have Uber, who actually just launched and out of home, digital car top service. That's part of out of home now. It doesn't only include those media formats, but it can also be experiential. We do a lot that we include that in outdoor advertising as well, because it's happening outside of the home, it's happening on the streets. You're reaching these consumers as they're going to and from work or to and from errands throughout the day. You're hitting them at all different touch points throughout the day.

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Question: When a brand comes to you, how do you start working with them? How do you come up with your solution of your magic bag of tricks of what is actually going to get them noticed?

Answer: It really depends on the brand. I still think the brands who know themselves and know their customer base do best in out of home. I do come across brands like you mentioned earlier that have never done an out-of-home ad before. There is a lot of educating and handholding, but I love that side of it. I definitely think just knowing the objectives of their campaign with any form of marketing is really important. Are you just wanting general brand awareness? Are you wanting to see an uptick in your sales? Are you wanting to create a buzz worthy Instagram reaction to your ad? I think it starts off with, "What's your objective and how can I help you achieve that?"


Question: What are some of the mistakes that brands can make along the way? When they're thinking, "I'm going to do out of home." And I think you've touched on one of them, which was like black and white little tiny text.

Answer: You have about, let's call it five to eight seconds if someone is in a car driving by an ad. The biggest mistake I've seen over the years is an ad that is too wordy. If that person can't read it as they're driving by on the interstate, going 70 miles an hour, we have a problem. That's a huge mistake. Also too, just because I work with a lot of brands who buy digital and social ads, they're used to creating an ad for a screen this big on our phone. So when you try to take an ad and translate it from a phone or a computer screen to a 14 foot by 48 foot billboard, you've got to change it up a little bit. I think one thing that always comes up is logo.

You want that logo to be big. You want it cheesy, big sometimes. I find that sometimes my clients will get a little too artistic and they'll want the logo to be subtle. And I'm like, "you're paying for this board, we want people to see and know that this is your brand!" I definitely think bigger the logo, the better. And like I mentioned before, black and white colors, great for something else, maybe great for digital ads, because there is a lot of color in other things, but for out of home, really those bold colors, that's always the rule in outdoor advertising. Also, seven words or less, that's always rule of thumb.

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Question: Are there any other mistakes that people make? For example, do they think that doing, and maybe you can, running one ad, one sign, one location is enough?

Answer: It depends. If it is a very buzz worthy ad, yes, but I know it's dependent on budget. I always try to push my clients to buy several different formats. You're wanting to create touch points with the consumer throughout their day outside of the home. I love a mix of a high traffic, high impact, either a billboard or wallscape. A wallscape is essentially a billboard that's on the building. And you see a lot of these on sunset, here in Los Angeles. You see a lot of these in New York and even in Dallas, Texas. Wallscapes are blowing up because they're just a little more artistic and different than just a freeway billboard. I always suggest doing a high-impact format in a high traffic area, but I really love the high-frequency format.

One of those is wild postings. I'm sure you've seen them. They are the guerilla style step and repeat posters on construction barricades, or just around street level media wise. You can see these from the car. They're great for pedestrians. That's one of my favorite formats. As well as with transit, the bus shelters. People don't realize that with bus shelters, you're not just targeting the people who are on the bus, but you're targeting every car that's going by. As I drive from here in Santa Monica to West Hollywood, I could pass probably 50 bus shelters. If every other one is the same brand, I'm going to notice that.


Check Out The Podcast!

Melissa has SO MUCH great information from her experience with out of home marketing, check out the podcast below to learn more about how to drive your business from her advice and expertise!

Each week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews