Welcome to our new website!
April 27, 2020

OOH Insider - Episode 026 - Daniel Wilkins, Founder of AGENCY672

OOH Insider - Episode 026 - Daniel Wilkins, Founder of AGENCY672

There aren't many people with a story so deeply tied to the roots of Out of Home Advertising.

For Daniel Wilkins, he is the namesake of an industry icon who shaped the landscape that brings campaigns to life around the world.

As a young executive,  tasked with carrying on the family legacy, Daniel faced challenges most of us can relate to:

Falling out of love with your industry. 
Losing connection to the pieces that fuel your passion.
Having to let go to reconnect.

Daniel has rediscovered that passion and is making the world a better place because of it.

Join Daniel Wilkins, Founder of AGENCY672, and I as he shares the hero's journey we may all one day be asked to take...to find out the truth about what happens when you let go of the thing you love.

Learn more about AGENCY672 at: https://www.agency672.com/

And definitely connect with Daniel on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielbwilkins/

As always, you can connect with me on LinkedIn as well by going here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/troweactual/

Support the show (http://oohswag.com)

Welcome to the out of home, insider the loudest voice, and out-of-home bringing you tips, tricks and insider insights. And I'm really excited to share today's guest with you because if there was a Royal family of, out of home, he'd be the Jack of hearts. None other than Mr. Daniel Wilkins from agency 6 7 2, Daniel.

Thanks so much for. Right. Absolutely. So you come from a lineage within the out-of-home space. Tell us about how you were first exposed to out of home and how you got to be where you are. Sure. So I was exposed first exposed to add a home. I think when I was born, uh, my father is bill Wilkins. He's uh, a member of the out of home, uh, hall of fame.

Um, he got his start in his early twenties, um, in the fifties and on a hall on the lease acquisition side and, uh, moved into sales, worked for Don Ray and foster and closet. Um, ran the plant in Las Vegas in the seventies, um, which has got phenomenal stories about that was a great time to be there. Um, and eventually made his way to, uh, to Chicago.

And then, um, I took a job as the head of the Institute of outdoor advertising, the IOA, before it merged with the AAA and, um, ran that organization. It was primarily the marketing arm, uh, for the out-of-home industry. So he would go meet with Coca-Cola Budweiser, big advertisers and tell them all about the wonderful things about him home.

And, um, and in the process of doing that, he, he found that, you know, you'd have these meetings and they'd say, great, we love outdoor. We love the idea. Can we just work through you guys? And he would say, well, no, you know, we're a trade association. You actually have to call the individual vendors. And I'm like, well, we don't want to call seven, eight vendors.

We want to just work with, with one group. And I tried, I think once or twice to take highway private, um, to be that service for the major advertisers and wasn't able to do that. So we bought up. Small rep firm and, um, in Roswell, Georgia became Sandy Springs, Georgia in 1986. And, uh, I was five at the time and we moved down here and he abolished the.

Uh, exclusive agreements that that rep firm had. And, uh, essentially it became a rep firm for the out of home industry as a whole, no exclusive agreements. Uh, and at the time, you know, billboards, real simple traditional stuff. And, uh, it was called Belkin's outdoor network. And in the early nineties, he changed it to Wilkins media company because it started to encompass more forms of, out of home as they came about.

And, uh, And so, yeah, so I grew up going to, to all the conferences and knew everybody, everybody knew me as Bill's son run around at the conferences, probably in a way everybody. And, but I never really understood what he did never had any dreams to get into the business. And then I graduated high school and my dad asked me, what are you gonna do?

So while I'm gonna go to Georgia state and get a business degree, great, what are you going to do with that business? And he's like, well, that's like millions of Americans were going to school for business. What else am I going to? The business three I'll do business. And he said, all right, well, I'll tell you what.

Why don't you come work for me for a semester and start in the spring. And then maybe that, you know, three or four months can, uh, inform your decision of where you want to go with that degree. And they did, and it was only supposed to be temporary. Um, and one semester turned into two and two turned into three and say, we're about maybe about a year and a half in.

And we sat down and had a conversation about whether this was going to be long-term. Uh, I was going to go ahead and go to. Go to college. And at the time I, I liked what I was doing and, um, you know, it was starting to actually make sense. And, uh, and so I decided to stay on. And so we had, uh, a handshake. I said, look, you know, I'm a little bit older, so I'm 38.

My brother is 83. So he was sort of at the tail end of his career. And he said, I've only got so much time to teach you this business. So you're gonna be on the fast track and the second can't handle it, uh, you're out. And I'm not gonna keep you around just because you're, my son doesn't mean I don't love you, but you know, that's, that's the way it's gotta be.

And he said, but at the same time, if you don't like it at any time, just tell me and you won't hurt my feelings and you know, we'll part ways. And, um, And so we did, and that was that. And I worked in every department at Wilkins media company, uh, accounting, contracting, marketing sales management, and, um, moved to New York, did sales in New York for welcomes in the early two thousands, and then came back and was running the company from 2007 till we sold the business in 2000.

And. It's an incredible story. And the reason I ask is a little bit selfish because my son's going to turn seven later this month. And, um, you know, even just in my short time being an out of home, it's something that he's gotten into. 'cause he thinks it's cool. He thinks billboards are neat. Um, you know, we see them when we're on the way to the hockey game and he sees his team up there or, or, or he sees things that he recognizes from playing a video game and he goes, that's DJ marshmallow.

How do you know that from Fortnite? So there's this great social connection. I appreciate you sharing your experience coming up through that. Was there ever a point where you're like, you know what, I don't think this is for me, or did you just know it was in your. You know, funny enough, I think the only time I thought that it wasn't for me was by the time we sold in 2012, I'd been running welcomes for four or five years.

And, you know, at that point as the CEO of the company, I wasn't doing what I actually enjoy doing, which was the planning and being creative and working with the clients. And I didn't really get to spend very much time developing the relationship, continued to develop the relationships that I have with the vendor.

You know, from the previous seven or eight years. And so I found myself just either kind of putting out fires with my employees or with my vendors or with my clients. Um, and to be honest with you, by the time we, I was so exhausted by it at the time, but I honestly don't think I was quite mature. To be doing what I was doing, but, uh, I thought I just I'm like I'm done with the industry.

I don't want to do this anymore. Really. It was more about, um, at that age again, just don't think I was mature enough to really be managing 20 twenty-five people. Um, and dealing with the things that came with that I just wanted to be everybody's friend, you know, I didn't want to deal with the conflicts and the things that, that you have to go as a mature business person and, um, And so I stayed on with Wilkins for a little while.

Um, you know, I thought maybe, maybe it would work. And I think about a weekend, I figured out that that wasn't, that wasn't going to be the case. And, uh, and so I left and in that time period, um, I thought maybe I'll go work for. Uh, an agency and get some other advertising experiences. I know advertising, I can, I can talk, I can walk in that door without a college degree and be able to pick up and start running.

Um, and quite frankly, it was, you know, we sold 2012. We were on the, uh, ish turn of the recession, but it was still a period when, you know, nobody wanted to look at, uh, You know, a 30 year old resume with CEO and all that kind of stuff on it. I found it really difficult to get my foot in the door. Um, in the traditional agency sense, I ended up going, working for, uh, another adamant buying service on the west coast for a little while.

And, um, you know, that worked out for about six months. And then I launched agency 6 72. And when I launched. Agency 6, 7 2. You know, the idea was I want to do all the things that I want to do, and I want to outsource the things that I don't, I'm going to pay my bills, doing that. So, yeah, outsourced accounting, outsourced, uh, the things that I wasn't really comfortable doing, and then just really concentrated on providing service and my expertise and out of home to clients and agencies.

And, um, and I worked and I realized I do still love being in this industry and I do love what I do. Um, you know, I just didn't really want to do the management part of it. I guess I give you a lot of credit. Cause it's the architectural. You know, hero's journey, right? Where w we've ascended, we've, we've Crested the mountain.

And then there's this challenge. We fell out of love with the thing that with the mountain, with the, with the journey that we just submitted ourselves to, and, and then sometimes have to rediscover ourselves. So you've done that with agency six, seven to social impacts is really been a core pillar of, of why you do what you do.

How do you see social impact? At play today and out of home in a time where we're confined to our homes, how do you think that those two things work together? Well, I think the out of home industry is uniquely positioned in terms of its public, very public facing, um, identity to educate and aware, build awareness, um, for causes and, and different social impact initiatives.

I didn't really intend necessarily to. To get into that part of it. A close friend of mine launched a nonprofit, a second alternative to the ad council called public foundation. And so when I launched ACG 6 72, he was using my expertise and my relationships to help access for pro bono space for the different causes we were working with.

And. Yeah. Through a series of events. I found myself the executive director of that organization as well. So I straddle both, um, public works, not only in and out of home, but in all forms of media. And, um, and so I really got exposed more to what was going on in the social impact side of things, how to use our powers for good and the power of media.

To effect change. And we've been a part of some really amazing cued pains, um, addressing sexual assault with the Obama administration called it's on us. Um, we've worked on things for PETA. We worked on things for, uh, other animal rights issues. You we've really touched pretty much every cause. Uh, there is, and we do a tremendous amount of work with the UN right now we're planning some things with the UN and the who, um, around chronic.

Um, information and, and I do, I love what the industry is doing in terms of, um, social impact and, and things in this particular environment. Um, you know, quite frankly, I think what's interesting is that stuff is good. Um, what I really liked to see, and I think we're an opportunity is being missed from the at-home community is, is extending that Goodwill.

To the small business community. Uh, it's great to talk about social distance saying it's great, but I think we're getting hammered, especially at this, you know, we've been doing it for six weeks now. Um, I think there's an opportunity that's being missed for the out-of-home industry to extend that Goodwill, to, you know, the small business owner that needs to use the power of our media right now to stand up.

How should add a home companies or agencies be approaching that conversation trickier even so on the agency, right. Agency side. Right? Cause you need to satisfy both parties, but what could we be doing that? We're not in terms of supporting those local restaurants, local businesses that are still open, that you would like to see that maybe it's not being done as.

You know, I, I think every operator needs to approach it on a, on a case by case really down to the plant level, um, they'll know their local business partners who does business with them frequently has now dropped off. Um, in my experience, most of the time, the local sales managers and the reps have really good relationships with their local clients, you know, they may have Sunday dinners with them, you know, whatever the case may be.

Uh, I would imagine they've got a pretty clear you're on the pulse of what's going on with those customers. So you can look at it from extending opportunities, limited opportunities to your, um, historically ongoing local clients. You know, it's also an opportunity to bring in, uh, local clients that maybe haven't tried out of home in the past.

And, you know, it's just. Uh, there's open inventory. Um, there's, there's enough inventory to go around for the social messaging things. And then you'll make 15% of your digital inventory available to local businesses and rotate them in, in and out every other week. Something like that. I mean, there's a bunch of different ways you can cut and dice it, but, you know, with the fact that it's digital, there's no printing costs, you know, you've got.

Six to eight spots per location that you rotating. I doubt anybody sold out at this house at this point. Just seems like a, a way another step that the industry could say to show that it's here for businesses, small businesses in particular, um, for the longterm and that we're, they're invested in them. I mean, it's a massive part of our business and just feels like they're getting left behind.

Speaking of the industry taking the next step. It's sort of a point of contention. We're seeing, you know, some studies, some reporting geo path has released a little bit of data now. Um, There seems to be two sides behind the impression conversation right now, the traditional legacy mindset of don't release this information.

It's going to damage, you know, the, the out of home space. And then there's the other side that says no release it. It's going to legitimize our case as we go through this. What are the long-term ramifications of that conversation? Which side wins? Why is that a good thing? I think honesty and transparency, especially within the Autohome community community, uh, winds out long-term every day.

I mean, the rub on out of home has always been sort of the fuzzy math behind the numbers. Um, and this is an opportunity to show transparency, um, to make the adjustments and the impressions make the adjustments in the rates. Keep advertisers on the space. Um, and if you're transparent and they understand, and everyone agrees on the numbers that are reduced then to me, that logically says that they should, then things start to turn around, have faith in the numbers as they come up and be willing to be more accordingly.

Um, that just seems like a logical relationship to me. I think that also allows us to start moving towards raising the rates. More Cooper. I think we, we know people are on the roads. Advertisers don't think they are. We do know they're there. So the sooner that we can just say, look, you know, it's not as bad as you think.

Here are the numbers. Here's how we got there. Okay. That makes sense. Um, here's how we've adjusted the rates accordingly. Okay. That makes. And then as soon as things starts to turn around, cause I, okay, look, you know, things have got up 20%, so weights are going to go up 20%, whatever the relationship is. Um, it allows us to get back to normal quicker.

If we pretend that there isn't an issue, um, people are going to continue to. I think that we're not transparent or where they were hiding something. They're not going to trust what we're saying so that when we come back and we say, no, no, no people are back. You know, they're going to say, well, maybe, and it's going to be on their terms when they feel people are back not on.

When we tell them through data, when they are, you can't sit here and say, we're not going to release the data. And then surely you're going to release the data when the numbers come back up. So it's like, why didn't. It just, you have to be transparent. And then I think that builds trust long-term and it really starts to change the conversation around how out-of-home addresses its members.

That's been a legacy. Um, this is the perfect opportunity to do that. And I think we're a little late. It's good to see that that geo path release that data. I think it's a step in the right direction. That point, not quite there yet, but for the last three or four years, we've been talking about programmatic and how we've got our finger on these numbers.

And the data is so rich, you know, everything that's going on. And then all of a sudden, nobody can come up with the numbers. And that to me is a little. I mean I'm in it, committed to it. I'm still scratching my head saying I don't understand that. Sure. It just does. You got the whole equation, but it doesn't add up.

It doesn't quite make sense. So, and on that transparency, you talked a little bit about the business model ish of agency 6, 7, 2, right. We're going to outsource the things that are not necessarily. The things that you want to do, let's focus on the things that we do keep the passion pure. What is it that made makes agency 6, 7, 2, so unique, uh, for advertisers for your clients.

So I think it's, it's the, the one-on-one direct conversation with the business owner, uh, decision maker, 20 years experience in the business. Um, you know, I've. One accounts maintained accounts competed against some of the larger buying services that have 50 to a hundred people in them. And you know, one of the things that we always come back to is you're more responsive.

Turnaround is quicker. Um, we know that we're getting a decision. I get to make the decisions about my business directly with my clients. It's not necessarily a young buyer and things like that. That's not to say that there aren't advantages to having a large staff and a big buying team, all of those types of things, but.

Where we really stand out as in the service side of it and how nimble and quick we can move. I think that's a unique. Condition of our, of our current environment is that it's, it's really snuffing out the teams that are able to deliver a high cost high end customer experience, um, because it's in their DNA, right?

This is just a changing of formats, just changing the way we interact the teams that weren't necessarily good at have certainly been challenged by this data. You're on record. Five six years ago, talking about digital screens, becoming more interactive that as a trend for out of home and you were spot on we're in, I hate to use this term cause everybody is we're in unprecedented times.

What's your prediction, five years from now. How is out of home changed from this five years from now? I think we're going that far out. Um, you know, I think in terms of getting back to. The growth and, and to the robust and by business environment that we had over the last couple of years, I think we're back there.

I think where I'm a little bit more bearish is on how quickly we come out of the situation that we're currently in. Now I've seen some thought pieces and some things that have come out relative to, you know, out of homes to come out hot. You know, here are all the reasons why, and I just. And I don't think we have enough information to make those types of predictions right now.

We don't know if people that get this are immune to it. Uh, they are immune to it. How long are they immune to it? Uh, we don't have a reliable treatment for it. You know, there's talk of a second wave coming in the fall. Um, potentially. So I think until a lot of those questions are answered. We can't even get to them.

Well, what does life look like as we start to go back on, we, a lot of those thought pieces that I read seem to assume that we're just going to flip back on the light and then it's going to be this B shape in terms of, you know, our decline in or are coming back. And I just, I mean, I hate to be pessimistic about it.

I think I'm trying to be realistic is that I, I just don't think it's going to be that way. I don't think. Right out the bat. We're going to be allowed to go back to restaurants. I mean, you can stay well, you can social distance at a restaurant, but can you, I mean, you're still sharing bathrooms. You're still talking about people's saliva on plates.

You're still moving things around that later goes table to table the table. Um, you know, some of the pieces I saw talked about. You know, people's eagerness to get back to sporting events and things like that. I would be amazed if there is one fan in an NFL game this season, I think the seasons will go on.

I think there'll be the empty stadiums because the broadcasting rights are the most valuable component, uh, for those organizations. So. Not that don't need the fans, but you know, there there'll be an appetite for the games and people will watch at home and they'll preserve their broadcast rights. I don't think people are going to be going to concerts right off the bat.

I don't think people, um, are going to be gathering in large groups. I think that coming out, you'll see more built, put out a great piece about hyper-local and how that sort of, you know, trying to patterns are changing around that. I think that will be. The case for a while. I mean, when people start going back to offices, you'll see commuter traffic come up and things like that.

But I do think people are going to be staying closer to home outside of their commutes to work. Uh, I think social distancing is here for a minute and we're just going to have to get, get used to that, you know, in terms of their activity and just sort of general trajectory of growth and changing our industry.

Um, you know, I made that prediction five or six years ago, and while it may have been correct, I think I was actually speaking more in like 18 months terms. So I might've been, I might've been, um, you know, macro, correct. But, um, I was thinking in the micro and, you know, in fact in 2008, I launched the first prize.

Division that just worked. There's going to end square. And all we did was the digital place-based really placing a bet that that was going to take off. And the way I looked at it at the time was these are mini cable networks. Right? You've got specific audiences that go to specific types of venues. And my bet was, well, you'll see contents.

To represent that, right? You'll see custom content made for these environments for these particular viewers. And then the advertisers will follow same way that they do on television. It just didn't happen. It's like weather news. Like I get that on my phone and, and what's really started happening since then is if I'm standing in line somewhere, I'm on my phone, you know, whatever the screen.

In the environment has to be shown something, something I can't get on my phone. And it just, I still to this day cannot understand why, um, certain networks and organizations that have really unique environments, didn't go find online short form content partners to create, um, some sort of syndicated symbiotic relationship.

You know what I mean? I always use the example of, if I owned a health club network, I would have gone to funny or die. How would you refer one of these, um, beddings I'd say create a funny short form June. Based, you know, comedic episode of something and or why wouldn't you go to men's health and fitness and women's health and fitness and say, look, your readership is down.

I have your audience. Why don't you create custom content for me in the short form, we'll link back to long form on your website, trying to get people to go in between the two things. It's just, I never, I never saw maybe the money wasn't there. Maybe. I don't know whatever, but I, it, I would like to see that in the future, I really believe that these numbers are going to stay around, um, the content.

And you do submit anything, some cases, but I'd like to see something more, um, to really go out into the, I mean, there's so much short form content providers online now that are looking for additional, um, Places to run their content. There got to be people that want to make deals. And I think if you're going to get somebody to look up from a phone, standing in line somewhere, or sitting in a waiting room or something like that, uh, you're going to need to provide content that gets their eyeball on the screen.

Um, and I think that's one of the components that gets missed when we start to get impressions for digital place-based and things like that as well. That's great. I'm in the room, but how do you start discounting for how many people are on there? You know, and not paying attention particularly to the ads.

And I think we'll see a change in that. You know, I just couldn't imagine these screens stay around, do well and continue to just run weather makes sense. And it's it tees up perfectly for my question about measurement. Not just for the place-based screens, but we've seen it across the board. Right.

Advertising spends compressed make sense. I'd be put out a great report on it with out of home. And there's still being that question about measurement. What needs to change in the conversation right now, too? Facilitate a successful platform when advertisers do get back into the game for even just local, you know, small business owner, why should I do a billboard instead of a Facebook ad?

What, what should, what should operators be focused on? Is it training? Is it education for their teams? Is there something more we can be doing as an industry to educate the small business owners of how out of homeworks, where do you see an opportunity? I mean, I think the, the most immediate opportunity while technology continues to evolve into a way that allows us to measure out of home more accurately and more similarly to what we see online, um, is to talk about how not necessarily either or right out of home is a one plus one equals three proposition.

We never go into a client and say, yeah, look, I see what you're spending in digital. Um, listen, you don't need to be doing that. You need to be moving that money into home. And these are the reasons why, um, it's always, uh, let me know what you're doing. Tell me what you're doing. What's your current strategy.

Okay. Here's your current strategy? Great. Let me tell you about how outdoor is going to goose that for you. Let me, let me show you how much more effective your dollar is going to be. You know, if you're spending. $50,000 in digital. Let me show you how another $50,000 in, out of home using those two things together, turns your app makes your ad budget run like a $200,000 budget.

You know, let us, let us show you how there's an amplification effect when you add in out of home and how it compliments your strategy, your current strategy. And, and I think that is the place where the sales people should really be focusing on is they really need to go learn. More about online and more about how other media positions that sell to advertisers and then really get to know that media.

So you can talk about the ways in which out-of-home can enhance it. It's really difficult to go in and talk about how out-of-home is going to enhance, uh, a digital budget or even if, even if you want to go in and fight against a digital budget and say, and make an argument for why they needed to move money out of it.

Uh, you need to understand what you're talking about. You know, I've, I've seen a lot of conversations about. You know, ad fraud and bake impressions and all those type of things. And that's true, you know, that does exist for sure in, in online. But if I'm buying online, even if there's fraudulent ads, I still know with certainty, what is working and I can work around that, you know, I can, I can say, okay, well, if 75% of what I'm buying is fraudulent, I still know what the hell the 25 is doing, and I can play.

Um, it's more difficult to do that in out of home. And so, you know, technology is changing. Things are changing. I have concerns about, you know, if, if the mobile companies move away from IDFA, which is how they identify an individual cell phone, mobile phone out in the world, they move away from that. How does that affect.

The entire foundation that the metrics for our industry is based off of it's based off of mobile phone data and watching travel patterns and where people go and the cookies that are attached to that, that tell you who that audience is, especially in the programmatic side of things. Um, you know, what, what happens if they do away with that?

What happens is, um, you know, that granular data isn't available, what are the workarounds do the workarounds work for? Um, you know, that's something that I have my eye on down the road as a, as a potential concern for, for how we're currently measuring and, and talking about our value proposition. Um, but I, but again, I think being really well-educated about not necessarily who you're selling against, but who you're selling out of home as an enhancement for.

I totally agree. Um, it's, it's something that I've committed myself to personally and doing. I do a weekly live session and in a lot of account executives from, from outdoor companies are attending because it's exactly that conversation. Here's how out of home are just like Facebook ads. Your small business owner has probably done a Facebook ad.

If you can make this intelligent case to them, they'll go, oh, that makes sense. And we can create a conversation from there. So I'm with you. We'll continue to push that forward then. What are you working on right now? Is there, is there anything you want people to check you out or how do they get in touch with you?

Sure. So, I mean, you can check out our website. We launched a new website, um, beginning of this year, www.agency, six 70 two.com. Um, Yeah, I, I gotta be honest with you. I wish I could say I was working on a lot currently, you know, the RPS have definitely, definitely dropped off a big focus of mine has been the work with public and things that we're doing around some PSA's and some different things.

Um, and that area, um, But yeah, I just check out the website and, um, you know, you can check us out on, on LinkedIn as well. We're trying to keep small business up to date on the different things through my foundation that I come along that have to do with lending and grants and different things that pop up for specific areas.

I'm trying to post that kind of stuff as much as possible, uh, just to get. You know, the small operators and ellos, small business people up to date on where ways that they can access capital outside of PPP and, you know, an EDL. And we'll link out to that in the, in the show notes so that anybody who is seeking that information out, we'll make it really easy for them to connect with you Daniel, on behalf of everybody listening.

Thank you for the time. Thank you for sharing your insight. If this has been helpful for you and your network, please, I encourage you to share it. And as always go ahead and click the subscribe button below and we'll see you guys next time. Awesome, man. Thank you. Thank you. It was great. Fun. Very fun.