• Nancy Fletcher on the Thomas Case, Women in OOH and Mentors

    This week’s podcast guest is Nancy Fletcher who retires at the end of this year after a 40-year out of home advertising career, which includes nearly 30 years as President and CEO of OAAA.  Here are highlights of our interview.

    What have been the industry’s biggest accomplishments over your tenure?

    Over these last almost 30 years the industry has reinvented itself.  Today it’s data rich, it’s measured, it has an exciting variety of out of home formats that are digital or static, and in that time out of home revenues have tripled while other traditional media is declining.

    The industry over the last three decades has done an effective job of turning what were government and community skeptics into actual partners of the industry.  We won that important fight for just compensation on Capitol Hill. All 46 states that have billboards now have just compensation. We beat back a statewide referendum ban in Missouri that would have spread to other states. We achieved a green light for digital billboards and rolled out a regulatory framework that is working at the federal level. We won a court challenge when Scenic America was not happy with that regulatory framework and tried to stop digital billboards via litigation.

    On the importance of the Thomas case

    This is a big case before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  It’s called the Thomas case.  It asks whether billboard law is constitutional. The case comes out of Tennessee, and it’s important because it may actually make its way to the US Supreme Court. The industry stake in this case is nothing less than the protection of property rights that are included in the current law. We expect a ruling from the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals later this year.

    Where is OOH doing a good job giving women opportunities?

    We’ve made good progress, but we need to do more.  If you look at it just from a metrics perspective, the OOH industry has done as good a job or better than much of the advertising or corporate world in giving women opportunities.  I remember when I entered the industry in 1978, there were four women in senior positions.  And now there are hundreds.  You had a piece in Billboard Insider on almost 400 women in senior positions, and 58 were running specific operations.  You also published a story on how the public out of home companies are doing better than the Fortune 500 for the number of women directors.

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    Where can the industry do better?

    Diversity and inclusivity will be a central theme at the Las Vegas Conference.  We’ve partnered with the Female Quotient, which is a female owned enterprise committed to advancing equality in the workplace.  They are going to add important programming elements including a Female Quotient lounge that will be a side stage with panel discussions, career counseling, etc.  The CEO of the Female Quotient, Shelly Zallis, is going to be on the main stage talking to CMO’s from two or three Fortune 500 companies, discussing the importance of diversity in today’s ad business.

    Who have been some of your mentors?

    I have been blessed by working with Bob Naegele. He taught me the power of out of home and the power of urgency. Arte Moreno brought deep discipline and a service orientation to the business. Karl Eller, and his focus on the creative impact of the medium.  Bill Apfelbaum, who is one of the best salesmen ever in any business.  He lived the principle, and I learned from him that nothing happens until a sale is made. All of the Reilly’s are super savvy business people.  I’ve worked closely with Kevin Sr and Kevin Jr and now Sean Reilly. And then maybe most important of all, the many family owned company leaders who are really like family to me.  People like Tom Norton, who has been on the OAAA board since the day I arrived.

    What’s next?

    I want to take the next months to thank the industry…. This industry has given me such unforgettable opportunities.  I’ve had a great ride.  I wouldn’t trade a single day of it.  Even the most challenging days.  After 40 years it’s time for a change.  I’m ready for more time with my husband and grandchildren. I also anticipate some corporate board service and some work on non-profits.

    Any parting words?

    My hope for the industry is that all of you would remember to stick together and push yourselves to do even better all the time for our customers and communities and the public.


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