Download our
media kit
< Back

The Future Of Out-Of-Home Marketing, An Interview With Brian Wyatt

Four insights on the past, present and future of out-of-home marketing from a partner at Newad & Campsite

May 21, 2020

This interview is part of our new series: Something To Write Out-Of-Home About. Every month, we’ll be interviewing innovative marketers on their perspectives. To receive a monthly round-up of all our leadership interviews, click here.

Even the most ardent fans of reality television probably hesitate to defend the genre as a tool for career building. It’s hard to imagine that watching, say, The Great British Bake Off could set one on the path to reshaping an industry. 

But that’s just what happened to Brian Wyatt—though it’s important to note that the show in question did not involve pastry, icing, or Paul Hollywood. 

Not long after graduating from the University of Alberta in the mid-90s, Wyatt watched an episode of Venture, which was something of a precursor to Dragon’s Den. The show profiled a young Montreal lawyer named Michael Reha who had just founded a company called Newad, which was pushing the out-of-home industry in a new direction.

“I saw Michael on this show, signing up bars and restaurants in Toronto,” says Brian. “I thought it looked cool and I wanted to get involved.

“I called him and he said ‘I can’t pay you.’

“I said, ‘That’s OK.’”

Wyatt’s willingness to work for free wound up working out for him—and changing the OOH industry in Canada forever. 

Newad’s principle innovation was one so simple and powerful that it looks obvious in retrospect, like sliced bread or the smartphone. The company brought OOH advertising into bathrooms at bars, restaurants, colleges and universities.

“A lot of the OOH environment is pretty cluttered,” Wyatt says. “But if you go into a bathroom, an ad can be unavoidable. We sold on a captive environment. You couldn’t PVR us or turn away. It was a fantastic media. All the research that came back showed that it was great at increasing brand awareness and eventually driving sales.”

Keen observers might note that these advantages can also all be found in elevators—though elevator OOH advertising has a few distinct advantages of its own.

Brian Wyatt

“You have to force yourself to change with the times and adapt. Always challenge yourself.” 

Wyatt became Newad’s leader for Western Canada, growing the business from west of Toronto to the coast of BC. He soon bought into the company and became a partner with Reha. 

By the time they decided to sell the business to Bell in 2019, Newad had grown to become one of the leading OOH firms in the country, with over 30,000 static board and 2,000 digital screens. The acquisition made Bell the biggest OOH player in Canada by number of screens. 

Wyatt was also early to spot the power of DOOH programmatic purchasing platforms in the OOH space. Newad began building what would become Campsite, one of the leading programmatic ad platforms in the world. Wyatt and his partner sold Campsite to Broadsign within a few days of the Newad deal with Bell. 

In other words, Wyatt helped Newad get ahead of the curve on market-defining trends not once but twice. 

Which raises important questions: how does he see where the market is going? What does he see ahead for OOH? 

Here are four insights on the past, present and future of OOH from Wyatt, who recently became an Executive Partner for Vertical Impression.

  1. Innovation can be simple—sometimes.

    Maybe the most striking thing about Wyatt’s career is the simplicity of Newad’s value proposition: what if we brought OOH into a new space? Turns out the answer is that you could build one of Canada’s biggest OOH firms and leave a permanent mark on the industry.

    Of course, there are a few gigantic caveats here. Growing Newad meant managing zillions of details and relationships and lots of hard work. It meant investing in new technology like digital screens. 

    But every tendril of the business can be drawn back to this simple question. 

    It’s worth remembering that simple can be powerful.

    1. If you’re not willing to change, it’s really hard to innovate.

      During his 20 years in the OOH world, Wyatt attended many industry conferences.

      “We’d talk about best practices, different associations and boards, stuff like that,” he says. “Most people were like, ‘Wow, we’re happy with static boards. We don’t want to spend the money to put a digital board up.’”

      Since a digital board costs many times more than static ones, this caution is understandable. But staying the course can come with its own cost, even if we don’t always recognize it.

      Newad invested early in digital boards. By 2015, the company had about 2,000 digital boards in its network, compared with around 30,000 static ones. The digital boards accounted for 10% of all revenue.

      Three years later, that had grown to 50%.

      Digital ad boards are not cutting-edge technology. What allowed Newad to grow its business was nothing more than its willingness to take on some smart risk and do something new.

      “Newad started out static,” Wyatt says. “We had conversations about going digital. It was $1,000 per digital board. The metal frames are $10! How can we justify this? 

      “You have to force yourself to change with the times and adapt. Always challenge yourself.” 

      “We came out of that crisis leaner and meaner. We were ready to go

      1. In every crisis, there is an opportunity.

        The full economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be known for some time, but the statistics are already pretty grim. Canada officially entered a recession in early May. The International Monetary Fund projects that the global economy will shrink by 3% this year.

        Wyatt acknowledges that the pandemic’s impact is tremendous. But he can’t help thinking about the opportunities it also presents.

        “I’m an optimist at heart,” he says. “I went through the financial crisis in 2008-09. We had to lay off 30% of our staff. That was tough. We took a real kick to the gut. It almost bankrupted the company. We said, that’s never going to happen again.

        “We came out of that crisis leaner and meaner. We were ready to go—our people were doing more, they took on more responsibility. We used technology more. It wound up being a major step for us in the long run.

        “I see the same thing with COVID. In the digital OOH world, you saw, pre-COVID, a shift towards programmatic buying. Now, coming out of it, you’re going to see programmatic becoming even more important. The companies that are going to come out of COVID are going to be those that are ready to go.”

        1. Tech shapes the future—but people matter more.

          These days, Wyatt is in the enviable position of advising and investing in projects that catch his interest. 

          “The big thing for me is projects that combine new tech, AI, sustainability and the environment,” he says. “I think companies involved in those types of things are going to be more successful than traditional businesses.”

          “When you see a company like Vertical Impression, you see a company with a great team, incredible tech, with a vision to grow the business globally—and do it the right way. That’s exciting.”

          In fact, Wyatt is so impressed with Vertical Impression that he’s joined the startup as an informal advisor.

          Wyatt has one more rule for screening new opportunities: no jerks allowed. 

          “Life is way too short to be dealing with jerks. I’ve seen ideas come across my table, fantastic ideas, but I could never get involved because of the team. In 23 years I’ve seen so many companies crash and burn because of the leadership’s inability to listen and be coached.” 

          So what distinguishes a good team from a bad one?

          “A good team is not so set in their ways that they’re not going to listen to outside advisors or look at different ways to do things,” he says. “You need to be able to adapt and change quickly.

          “That’s the key, in my opinion.”

          To sign-up for our monthly OOH marketing and leadership series, enter your email in this form below.

          Start planning a smarter campaign today.