• Karl Eller RIP

    Industry great Karl Eller has died at the age of 90.  Eller made a fortune twice in the out of home business: selling Combined Communications for $370 million in 1978; and selling Eller Media for $1.15 billion in 1997.

    You can read a tribute to Eller’s life at Sixteen-Nine.

    Clear Channel Outdoor released this statement today: “Clear Channel Outdoor is saddened by the passing of Eller Media founder and out of home industry icon, Karl Eller.  Karl led an extraordinary career in media, and his efforts and vision over many decades led to the creation of the company we know today as Clear Channel Outdoor.  We are grateful for the trail he blazed for us all.  Clear Channel Outdoor is also running this creative.”

    Insider is reprinting five tips from Eller’s book Integrity Is All You’ve Got and 7 Other Lessons of the Entrepreneurial Life:

    Bring Ideas, Don’t Take Orders

    “my sales pitch is built around a strong idea – billboards put cash in your pocket…That’s one of my chief sales rules: always sell an idea, some fresh approach that captures the customer’s imagination as both dynamic and realistic.  This rule has a subtext: never talk to anyone about his or her business without knowing enough about it to offer a constructive idea…”

    Be Concrete

    “If you present only the general idea of buying, say, a billboard you miss the chance to plant something visual, exciting and desirable in the customer’s mind.  I’ve found that the more concrete I am in presenting a sales idea, the more likely I’ll get an early answer…The best way to sell anything is to show customers an accurate picture or model of exactly what they will own if they say yes.”

    Think Big and Bold.

    “One day, the Hertz ad director called asking us to find a spectacular location for a Hertz billboard in San Francisco.  So we found him one.  He said “Mr Jacobs is going to San Francisco, and if you could get me a picture of this thing we will show it to him and see if he can check it out…” Instead of sending Hertz a picture of the sign we wanted to sell Hertz we found a huge billboard, visible from the Bay Bridge.  We had our people paint in big letters: “This is it, Mr Jacobs.”  He saw the sign while driving across the bridge with five other people…Jacobs was delighted…and sealed the deal.”

    Quit While You’re Ahead

    Get the order and leave.  While at Foster and Kleiser, Eller convinced Bob Naegele to let Foster and Kleiser rep the Naegele billboards for a commission of 5%.  Instead of leaving with a signed contract Eller went to lunch with Naegele to celebrate.  Over lunch Naegele reconsidered and asked Eller to lower the commission to 2%.  The transaction fell through.


    On the Value of Mini Billboards

    “I never failed to present all of my customers with a miniature of each billboard I sold them, so they could put it on their desks and be reminded every day that their very own billboards were out there working for them.  At one point, I had miniature billboards about twelve inches long and four inches tall with my company logo on them, stationed on every desk in Chicago’s two major advertising agencies.”

    Paid Advertisement

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email

    One Comment

    1. Gilbert Nichols says:

      What a sad realization to know such a great man had written a book about the very thing that seems so nonexistent in the billboard business today: Integrity. I had never heard of Karl Eller, though I recall seeing his billboards many times. I wished I had met him and read his book when I first entered the billboard business, and even the advertising business for that matter fifteen years ago! No one in this industry apparently knew of Eller’s book but after reading this article, I quickly ordered one from Amazon. This should be required reading for anyone seeking to enter the OOH marketplace. Thanks for posting this eulogy. Next time, let’s capture these gems while the people are still living.