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Aug. 26, 2021

Episode 075 - Sign O' The Times featuring Robert Landau & Peter Spirer

Episode 075 - Sign O' The Times featuring Robert Landau & Peter Spirer

On this episode of OOH Insider, Robert Landau, Photographer and Author of Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, and Peter Spirer, Director and Producer at Rugged Entertainment, chat about their upcoming film Sign O’ The Times

Based on Robert’s book, Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, this film spotlights a piece of Americana and its involvement in the OOH community.


  • Billboards represent a fleeting moment in time. No matter how or where a billboard is seen, that experience will only ever exist in that moment.
  • Presently, within the Out-of-Home industry much of the conversation centers around data and targeting. It is becoming more of a performance marketing channel rather than an art form.
  • Sign O’ The Times emphasizes the opportunity for brands, entertainers or artists to connect with an audience in a way that is larger than life and on a medium that can make an impact like no other.
  • Billboards are a conversation starter. They impact audiences to take action or evoke emotional responses in the interest of spreading their message.
  • Less is more. Some of the most powerful messages are spoken through imagery alone. 



Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip Book:

Sign O’ The Times Tailer:


Special thanks to OneScreen.so for making this show possible. Check out OneScreen.ai and learn How to Beat Facebook with Billboards at www.onescreen.ai

Looking for your next job in OOH? Start here: www.oohired.com


Welcome back to another episode of out of home insider today's episode comes by way of a good friend of the show. Mr. Rick Robinson. The people's space on Twitter, uh, who introduced me to Robert Landau and Peter Spire. Robert has spent a lifetime collecting iconic images of rock and roll billboards of LA sunset strip from the Beatles to the doors.

And everyone in between Robert has captured a period of true Americana that reminds even the savviest data-driven marketer, that creative is everything. Together with famed music, documentary directory, Peter Spire. They're bringing the stories of this beautiful period of billboard and American music history to the silver screen and their documentary sign of the times.

We'll talk about how billboards made larger than life rockstars, even bigger. And you'll probably leave with a few ideas on how. Influencers today to create very much the same effect. In fact, if you're looking for a way to amplify your social media influencer strategy, check out one screen.ai to discover fun and exciting ways to make your next campaign strike a chord that echoes on through time without further ado.

Let's go welcome everybody to the out-of-home insider show, a podcast like no other hosted by the one and only Tim Rowe.

You ready to have some knowledge dropped on. You went to be entertained because nothing is more valuable than food for your brain. So sit back, relax. We're about to dive in as the best industry podcast is the bathroom.

Robert, Peter, thanks so much for being here. Robert today, we're going to talk about a pretty special project. It's one of my favorite it's well, I guess it's my favorite book on billboards, which is rock and roll billboards of the sunset strip. And you guys are working on it on a pretty special project, but I think a good place to start is with origin stories.

So, Robert, how was it that you ended up on the sunset strip? Well, first of all, my father was an art dealer. He had a gallery here now. I grew up, uh, serving the west Hollywood neighborhood and I got a camera real early. My uncle had worked in a camera store. He gave me a camera. It just really took the potential.

That was around when I was 13, then around age 16, my folks got divorced. My dad went to live up in a little bachelor pad, right above the strip. And I went to live with him there. So my backyard was the sunset strip and all of a sudden when I wanted to go out and take pictures, I walked down to the street and there would be these guys on these scaffoldings painting these giant renderings of all my favorite rock stars, all the music I was listening to.

So they'd be out there and it was just surreal. You'd see, these guys they'd look the size of an ad while they were painting Paul McCartney or John Lennon's head on, on the Abbey road billboard. So I just started taking pictures and, um, I realized that. These billboards were up for very long. Like if you didn't take a picture, when you saw, when you went back a couple of days later, it could have been painted over.

So I understood that they were hand painted that they didn't last very long. So, um, I got into documenting. It's really interesting that you touched on that, like billboards are just that, right. It's this moment in time where we're passing it, we're driving past it. We were on our way home from work. We're having a good day.

We're having a bad day that moment's only ever going to exist in that moment. And then for something. Beautiful. As a, as a hand painted canvas, that's taking something already larger than life and making it even bigger. And that, that, that, that moment is also fleeting. It's pretty special that you were able to, to, to capture these images and for the audience at home, we're not talking about digital cameras.

This wasn't on an iPhone. This one. Uh, pretty mechanical process to do this was, this was an artistic outlet. And talk to me about that, right? Like this was a different time. We were developing, filming in dark rooms and you said that right, but it's true. Yeah. These are this very fleeting. Not only where the billboards are from up at the whole period of classic rock billboards lasted a little more than 10 years, which in retrospect, it's pretty fleeting too.

But yeah, as far as photography goes back then you didn't just take a phone out of your pocket. You had to have a camera. You had to have film and have either be color or black and white. And you have to know how to get an exposure, right. And how to, you know, focus and get all that done manually. So it took some work.

It took a little dedication and, um, I really wasn't dedicated to capturing these billboards because I was short to my friends, uh, in other parts of the city. Who never got to the strip. I mean, first of all, nobody in, in other parts of the country saw these billboards, but very few people in LA saw them.

He was really on the strip. It was intended for the people going to the nightclubs, the managers, the people in the business and offices there. So it was kind of an Inn kind of thing, where they were communicating to each other. So, um, I was very lucky to have been there at that moment and to capture that because I really think this whole period could have come and gone and disappeared and nobody would have remained.

It's really significant when you think about this being a part of Americana and how we remember, remember it, and specifically as, as an industry, the billboard industry, the out-of-home advertising industry. So much of the conversation today is around data and targeting and measurement that really billboards are being sort of transformed into like what we consider performance marketing channel, but at the end of the day, They're canvas there.

They're a medium for an art form and you're right. If you hadn't taken these pictures, they'd have been there and gone and no one would remember them other than in the fading memories. So over this period of time, you've got this great collection of images, some really iconic rock and roll bands, brilliant executions of out of home using things like extensions, tease and reveal campaigns.

Uh, at what point did you realize you've, you've got something. All about four years later, I had all these slides. I was shooting Kodachrome films that all these slides neatly stored in the sleeves and put away on a notebook on my show. And someone knew that I'd been taking pictures, not just a billboards, but an LA.

And they said, would you give a talk about fleeting LA, the things that have vanished? So I did. I showed storefront signs. But all the questions at the end of the show were about the billboards. Everybody who saw us said, wow, when did, when did this billboards have? And what was that about? So I realized that it was a really unique period that I captured.

And um, decided then to take it to a book. And that fortunately soon after the book came out, I was approached by Mr. Spire here who saw the opportunity to make a really nice film about it. So, so we think it's a really unique period. We think a lot of people who love classic rock and that covers a lot of generations.

Now I have a nephew, Mary Young nephew who's totally into classic rock. So I think there's a wide appeal for that. And it crosses over along with not only that, but the whole, uh, the whole artistic aspect of it, the visual side and the outdoor advertising side. So we think we have a good story. And, and in telling that story, Peter, you saw the opportunity right away.

And when our friend Rick Robinson brought to me this story, I realized, this is, this is a story that needs to be told for our industry, for the, for the, you know, it's part of American history, right? American classic rock and roll is so significant as a, as a cultural point. And you've worked on a lot of really iconic cultural, musically music related films and documentaries.

What was it that stood out about this project that they thought that. You know, something pretty significant, you know, for me, it's a combination of things. It's the music, it's the, uh, the culture at the time that, you know, LA was ground zero for, uh, creating some of the biggest music, uh, around then on top of that, you have this advertising element and how.

Musicians who were at, particularly at the time against commercial Avation of their, of their, uh, you know, music and culture embraced the billboards. You know, I mean, they just love these things and, uh, it was a moment where you got. Hey, this guy has arrived. This guy has, you know, combination of a career or somebody coming out that we know is going to be a superstar.

So, you know, they were really, um, held for, you know, some of the biggest artists in the industry and, uh, you know, it, it kind of shows, Hey, this guy's a bigger than life, you know, rock star, you know, that image became iconic. Yeah. It's, it's interesting. When we think about sort of the modern advertising landscape and so many dollars are spent online and there's a lot of conversations around censorship and, you know, the, the, the ability to freely express yourself online through paid media.

I have a way and billboards are sort of that last bastion of free speech in advertising. It's, it's one of the few places left where you can go out, make a statement and, uh, you know, so long as the billboard owner is okay with it, you can generally generally get it up in this period of. I can roll. It was about breaking the rules and folks who aren't following the rules.

It was, it was really a, a little bit rebellious even. Uh, so the film that you're working on, you've had some great guests and I look forward to, to doing this again and, and showcasing some of the, some of the work that you've done. But talk to me about some of the folks that you've gotten to participate in the project.

I think we've gotten some of the most important people. So far Jack Holzman, who was the owner and founder Electra records, and the guy who actually came up with the idea of doing a billboard. You know, I don't know if you know the story, but, uh, tell us. Yeah. So Jack Cole was driving down sunset Boulevard and he was noticing all of these different, um, billboards, but, uh, you know, he had this band coming out called the door.

And said, you know, maybe I'll put up a billboard for, for this band that I've got. And sure enough, the first billboard was, you know, Jim Morrison looming over sunset Boulevard. And I think that, you know, if you're a rock star, you've been doubted how cool it was to have a billboard or, you know, weather.

Having Jim Morrison be that guy, they were, you know, everybody else fell in line, everybody after, after that initial doors, billboard wanted a billboard. And so, you know, we've got Robby Krieger from the doors, you know, talking about that, that initial billboard. We have Rick Nelson from cheap trick. We have Roger Daltrey.

We recently shot from the who and, uh, you know, it's interesting with Roger big because we showed. Uh, billboard. He had never seen before. Oh, wow. Tommy, you know, a lot of these rock stars. Unfortunately they were on tour while these billboards were up and they were, as Robert said, they were only up for a short period of time.

So we're actually showing them the billboard for the first time and they are just completely blown away. I mean, that's a better. Well, so go about the, uh, the who, uh, Tommy billboard was that it was a sequential billboard and the first, um, icon did not have the word Tommy on it. It just had the billboard with these two pinball, eyeball, um, uh, images.

And at the time it actually created a car accident. People were like, yeah, mesmerized by this billboard that they boom, you know, riding, you know? And, uh, so the, the, the, uh, the billboard actually comes to accidents on sunset Boulevard. But, um, uh, I showed him the second version when they put the word Tommy on it and he goes, you know, Th the one without Tommy is actually cooler, you know, I mean, and that will was so amazing.

Can you imagine this day and age where you have an image that doesn't even have, uh, a piece of text on it, it's just an image and you're not even sure how it relates to the, to the music or to the group, or, you know, so it was a very insight thing. I mean, on an artistic level, in terms of advertising, I don't know anything that was.

More, uh, kind of a serious or subliminal. I mean, it, it was. It was really, I mean, for them to spend that kind of money, to do these kinds of huge images, you know, and, uh, you know, we've shown other, uh, rockstar, Simon, Kirk, who played drums for free and bad company. I showed him one of the images. He could not believe that they invested.

They go by God. They, they put up the gatefold, the inside, uh, you know, of the album cover, not even the outside, like just the inside, which was this crazy image, you know? I was going through all the billboards and I saw that image from Robert Guerrero. What is this? Even from like, I, I'm a, I'm a big, bad company fan and I didn't even remember the inside party album cover.

So I mean, some of the stuff is so. That's awesome. And the project's coming along. You've just mentioned a great lineup of guests. Where does this stand today? The audience is hearing this, uh, you know, set sometime in the middle of middle part of July. What's the, what's the timeline like on this? I know you're not doing it for the billboard industry, but I know that the billboard industry would be very interested in this product.

Well, you know, we, we are, you know, right now we were able to get, um, uh, an investor to cover all of our principal photography. Right now. We're looking for, um, costs helpless, finish the film. And that's basically where we are. We have a few more interviews left, but primarily the story has been crafted. Um, we have, you know, we're in post production now and, you know, we, we do.

You know, a little help from the industry to help us get this finished. How can we help you? If somebody wants to get involved with the project, if there's an investor out there listening, this is an iconic film I've seen the trailer. Can't share with you here today. Uh, I'm sure if you are interested in investing, uh, you'd be able to take a look at it before doing so how do they get in touch with you if they want to get involved?

Um, I'll leave you my contact information or contact us directly. Uh, and, uh, yeah, we're looking for any, any, any one I look, I don't think there'll be another film that will celebrate this culture, like this film and, um, for any. You know, uh, I think this film will have a wide range of interest from a lot of different people, but what it does is it tells the story of the billboard in a way that has never been done before.

Um, and that's a really it's Valentine's in the industry, you know, the show. Um, and I think people will look at Biltmore if I know that. Look at billboards differently after watching our film. Yeah, I think it's, it's a critical part to out of homes, kind of going through this Renaissance right now, where, because of the last 20 years of digital marketing and things that have kind of become over-optimized, we've been staring at our devices for the last year and people are, people are outside.

People want to return to the real world. And, uh, and this is an opportunity for brands, for musicians, for entertainment. To connect with an audience at scale, in a way that's larger than life on a medium that has the ability to make an impact. Like nothing else can. This film is really about. And, and you know, like we're in LA right now.

I think that the city of west Hollywood has really connected with the billboard industry to do things unlike, I mean, I don't know too many other cities that are creating that kind of relationship. And they're building all of these futuristic billboards that we're going to actually show our film. You know, it's about the past, but in also our.

Deals with what's going on today and how billboards are impacting people today and the entertainment in the screen, even though it moved away from the music industry, but the entertainment industry definitely freezed on the billboard and said, Hey, you know, Um, this is a great idea. We have to do it. I mean, Netflix was paid, I think $120 million for twenties.

I mean, these companies are, you know, are, are, you know, they, they, they want, they want that, that, uh, space, they want that image. They want people to drive by and go, gosh, you know, this is an important show. I have to say. The billboards are a conversation starter LA is a cultural hub that starts conversations that bleed out into the rest of the country.

It's it's, you know, every, every brand, every advertiser wants to be in LA it's. It's a, uh, it's, it's a pretty impactful opportunity to, to start conversations that really spread. Peter, if you want, uh, we we'll we'll, we'll make sure to link to any contact information in the description below in case someone's driving or somebody doesn't have a chance to check that and they want to scribble it down real quick.

What's the, what's the best way to get in touch? Email? Yeah, email wire@medotcomspireratme.com. Um, or the. You know, uh, I'll give you my phone number two, three, two, three. Go, go for it. Don't bother Peter. How about this? We'll just we'll stick with the email, uh, spire@emmy.com. We'll make sure to link it down below Robert.

How do folks catch up on your work? What do you have to these. Well, uh, really been busy with this documentary, but I have a couple of other projects I'm working on right now. Talk about them just yet, but I'll let you know soon that really I'm really focused on making this happen, because I think this was an important pine really important time.

And you you've touched on one aspect of it that I think is a good lesson for people today, which was these artists, these musical artists. They weren't really, it wasn't really a hard sell thing. They weren't doing that a lot of latitude. So they were putting up images. That had very little copy and sometimes we're hard to figure out exactly what they were saying.

But in the long run, I think they had a bigger, bigger success than if they had said, you know, go to Kate Martin, buy our album. It had it created something in people's minds that lasted longer. And I think if advertisers are willing to take a chance without door, not hit people over the head, I think there's a real way to sort of get into people's unconscious and get them to really kind of relate to a product or a band or a movies.

So I see that as a really good lesson from these billboards. If you look at some of them from that period, which is mostly the 1970s, it takes a bold brand to do. Fortune favors the bold billboards are a great way to go. Bold. I love that advice less is more, it really makes it a pretty special opportunity.

Well, Peter, Robert, this has been a lot of fun. We are going to have to do a subsequent follow-ups to this as the project moves along and as it comes out and I'm just, I'm just so looking forward to following along. Thank you so much. Absolutely. This is my petition to the industry. This film absolutely needs to get made.

It's based on 40, 40 years, Robert 40 years of work. Well, uh, about 15 years of work and then about 40 years of waiting. So at least 40 years of work time. This needs to come together. This needs to happen. The industry needs this film. There's so much conversation about targeting measurement. Let's get back to doing good marketing marketing that makes an impact marketing that matters.

Hopefully you found this helpful. If you did, if you enjoyed the episode, please go ahead and make sure to smash that subscribe button down in the corner, like it, follow us, share this with anybody who you think could be interested or could get. Go for it, Robert, please. If you're interested in the book, you can go to angel city, press.com and buy the book angel city press.

I strongly encourage you if you're, if you love out of home, if you love out of home, uh, like most of us do, this is on my table at all times. Uh, I just flip open to it. I show my son he's eight. I show him how cool billboards are. Uh, you know, let let's let's help Robert and Peter bring this to the room.

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