Pardon me, is that your bag of burgers?

Once A Week, But Never Weakly

by Nick Coston, U.S. Sales Director, The Neuron; OOH Industry Consultant & Humorist.

“Pardon me, is that your bag of burgers?”

Whatever side of the fence you’re on, whether it’s traditional OOH Media, Digital Media, Programmatic Digital Media, buying, selling or creating, we all have that one, very special common thread. That one Itsy-bitsy little habit that binds us all together.

I’m talkin’ food. I’m talkin’ big food, little food snacks, a round of appy’s, a shared charcuterie board, a pou-pou platter, a tray of freshly baked desserts or a dozen sliders. Let’s face it, in our industry, we all look forward to and love that next, spectacular meal. It’s an initiation rite, a passage into those extra pounds, or as we lovingly refer to it, “The Billboard 10”. After that first full year, no matter what side of the industry you’re on, you wake up one morning and you’ve gained 10 pounds. It could sneak up on you in a month or a year, but it’s coming. Heck it’s happened to me at least 15 times. I’ve gained and lost more weight while being an OOH media salesperson, a buyer, and now a pDOOH media professional, than most humans are allowed. By my account, I’ve probably gained and lost literally 100’s of pounds since 2001 when I got into this wonderful, gluttonous industry of ours.

My wife would ask “honey, what’s your weight today? You look like you’ve put on a few. Not your billboard weight, but your real weight.” We all know that billboard weight can be slightly exaggerated, just like CPM’S or weekly impressions. Don’t like today’s numbers? Just wait a few days and they’ll change, hopefully in your favor. My billboard weight is never the same, it’s in constant flux.  Don’t like what you weigh on Tuesday, weigh yourself again on Friday, you will definitely be less. Or more. But never the same. I know only one guy in our entire OOH industry who’s never gained or lost a pound, who looks exactly the same 150 pounds or so than he has for the last 25 years. I’ll let you guess who that is for a few moments. But he’s the anomaly. Big word, I know.

Market rides featuring Whataburger, cocktail hours, barbecue joint lunches, steak house dinners, Asian buffets, Chicago deep dish pizza, dessert rooms and late night 7-Eleven runs, we’ve all done them. Sometimes for three weeks straight. Now that’s a bender. Throw in some IPAs, a bottle of Pinot and some after-dinner Johnny Walker, and The Billboard 10 sneaks up fast. Not to mention entertaining or being entertained at sporting events, especially in Milwaukee. I just put on 5 pounds thinking of this.

But a true test of how I would react when confronted with a virtually impossible situation came at the first OAAA Convention I attended. Los Angeles, 2013. I had gone to the rooftop swimming pool at the JW Marriott to catch some sun and mingle. Upon arriving at the pool deck I was immediately confronted by my worst nightmare. There I was, a heavyset, second year media buyer, trying to watch what he eats so he fits into his suits, is confronted with the ultimate quagmire. This one would test my discipline to its core.

There, with nobody around, next to an open and empty lounge chair, was a sparking white, fresh, untouched, extra large paper bag of In-N-Out double cheeseburgers. Animal style. I kid you not. At least six glorious hunks of meat, cheese, extra goo and bun. Yes, there were even golden french-fries in there as well. Untouched, virgin territory. Ketchup packets included.

The first thing I did was look around to see if this was some joke. Maybe a test. After all it was my first true Billboard Convention experience. Maybe that crafty Nancy Fletcher was playing a cruel prank on me. Or was it that one particular billboard company because I stiffed them on a previous buy. Or just my wife playing her usual “let’s watch the big boy sweat” jokes on me. It could’ve been any of them.

But alas, that little, sarcastic, condescending voice of my mother whispered her constant refrain into my ear. “Nicky, don’t eat too much”.

She won that round. Out of sheer embarrassment of being seen by my peers picking up the bag of unattended cheeseburgers and rumbling off to a safe place to munch down, I sadly left them there to melt away in the Southern California sun. The hardest thing I had ever done in my life, bar none.

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To this day as we sit around campfires at the end of a long arduous OOH media day, puffing on cigars and telling stories of being on the road, the in-N-Out Burger one is a fan favorite. Yes, grown men in our industry have openly wept when I describe walking away from a bag of double cheeseburgers, animal style, with fries.

And even though it’s been close to 10 years since that faithful run-in with a bag of cheeseburgers, someone out there, and you know who you are, remembers what they accidentally left behind. My bet is Ned from Clear Channel.  Hungry, but forgetful Ned. And if you do fess up, Ned, or whomever the mystery “I forgot a bag of double cheeseburgers animal style” person was, all I ask is that please do it again in Marco Island, Florida in late May. By the pool, under the third umbrella table on the right. I beg you. I’ll even pay.

And don’t think for a minute, since I now work on the Programmatic Digital side of our industry that I’ve changed my weight fluctuating ways and approach work meals differently, like let’s say astronauts do. You know, eating out of tubes or freeze dried packets with calories and nutrition facts listed on the outside.  No way, uh-uh, just because the media displays change doesn’t mean the food choices change. No matter what side of the industry we all work on we still love and look forward to a wonderful bountiful, middle of the day, end of the day, middle of the night, glorious meal to share with our esteemed colleagues. No, that’ll never change, and I hope it shouldn’t. It’s the common thread that keeps us together. Enjoying the best our industry has to offer, building relationships, spinning yarns of years past, looking forward to the next round of seminars, conventions and market rides, It’s one of the best ways our industry works and gets business done. I should know, I have the photos to prove it.

And next time you see our longtime, friendly, true-blue, billboard colleague, little skinny, I-guarantee-you-he’s-had-the-same-waist-measurements-for-30-years, Jeff Joaquin from Marquee Media, ask him how he has managed to stay away all these decades from the Billboard 10. Go ahead, I dare you.

It may be the biggest secret in the OOH industry.

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