An out of home company born in Cape Town, Tractor Outdoor handles the usual outdoor advertising, from billboards and digital out of home networks to transit offerings, but has ‘beach media’ on its menu too.
Using branded beach umbrellas as an outdoor advertising medium, advertisers “can own a slice of the beach and dominate mass brand awareness for all consumers visiting South Africa’s Blue Flag Beaches during the festive season”. Brands such as Tropica, Glaceau Vitamin Water, and McDonald’s have taken up the option. Not only is it effective, but it also provides employment and services to tourists, and boosts municipal revenues too.
The company prides itself on its innovation, with the stunning vertical garden growing from a Cape Town building for Emirates, which was recognised as the only South African outdoor finalist in the 2012 OBIE awards held in Miami in the US.
The vertical growth wall (left) comprised a 6m high by 12m wide horizontal area on Kloof Street in Cape Town, which was transformed into a living, breathing piece of art, through the use of carefully selected and placed contrasting vegetation representing the 100 destinations Emirates flies to.
We caught up with Tractor Outdoor’s director, Simon Wall to find out more about his business journey.
Why did you decide to branch out with your own business/venture, rather than work for other companies or corporates?
My first job was working for Old Mutual Properties where I was responsible for setting up and running their OOH division across their whole portfolio and while I enjoyed the learnings and experience that a big corporate offers, the desire to get involved with a small start-up business and really make a difference to their growth trajectory from the ground up is what drew me to Tractor Outdoor.
Give us a brief history of your media venture? What gave you the idea? How did it begin, and how has your business journey unfolded?
Our first OOH offering was exclusively focused on Cape Town and the immediate surrounds. Over the years, we have grown our business both organically and through some strategic acquisitions to be one of the larger national operators in South Africa, with a comprehensive, national portfolio of locations spanning digital, classic, transit and ambient.
What challenges did you face as a media entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
Having a small offering in the early days made it incredibly difficult to getting meetings with buyers, strategists and potential clients, and there were countless occasions where I would arrive at an agency to present, and the strategist/buyer/OOH specialist that I was supposed to meet would have to cancel as their client had called them in for a last minute meeting. In our first years, I once flew to JHB just for the day with eight meetings lined up, only to have every single one cancel, and for me to fly back to Cape Town having not seen a single client. But through perseverance (and a thick skin), as well as a larger holding I managed to build some strong, solid relationships that I still have even today.
Has there been a moment of success that has really stood out for you and that is your favourite on your journey? To what do you attribute your success?
One of my highlights was running LG Electronics’ entire OOH transit campaign in Germany for the Football World Cup in 2006. We ran this multi-million Euro campaign from start to finish for LG (Korea) and it involved coordinating multiple businesses and people from over seven different countries – it was amazing to see a small OOH company out of Cape Town winning such a huge campaign – which we implemented and carried out successfully.
What characteristics do you think make a successful media entrepreneur?
You need to have a thick skin! And you always need to try and see things from the other person’s perspective. While your media offering is the most important thing in your business, it may not be the right fit for every client, and being truthful and forthwith about when and where your media offering will work goes a long way in building trust with clients. Simply looking at short term profits and gains over long term relationships never works.
Your advice to young media entrepreneurs or those looking to start new media businesses?
Be patient. And honest. Research your client and understand their needs before simply ramming your media offering down their throat. Be ready to walk away from a brief/proposal if you think your medium won’t give them the most effective campaign possible, as all you will do is make a quick buck, but you have broken the trust of your client/media buyer as well as any future business that you will get from them.
What next from you and your media company/venture? What can people expect? Exciting upcoming projects?
Right now, South Africa is undergoing a massive boom in DOOH and our plan is to first take advantage of this opportunity and consolidate our business before we look further afield. We have recently undergone a few strategic acquisitions and are currently bedding these down and integrating them into our current systems. So in the short term, we are continuing with organic growth through the roll-out and conversion to DOOH of our existing and newly acquired portfolio down the line. In the short term, and once we are completely comfortable that our systems and existing infrastructure are able to cope with the increased portfolio size, we will look to plug gaps in our regional portfolio.
In the medium-to-long term, I see further strategic partnerships with digital ad-serving technology companies and location-based media businesses, as it’s only a matter of time before these two mediums cross over and eventually converge.
What, in your view, needs to happen to encourage more media entrepreneurs, and not just that, to help them stay the course?
One of the hardest parts about being a small start-up media business is just getting in front of the right decision makers. Most clients and agencies are so inundated with their own day to day businesses, and on top of that they have every media operator beating down their door for a meeting to come and pitch them their next big thing – so finding time to meet up with a new start-up is the last thing on their mind. But if you can research that client and try and understand exactly how your offering can help them solve that one problem, then you will be able to sustain any relationship long term moving forward.
How do you ‘pay it forward’?
We have supported a wide variety of NGOs over the years, but just this year we decided to consolidate and focus all our attention on childhood education and we now focus the bulk of our efforts in supporting the Bright Start Education program in Cape Town and The Bokamosa Educational Trust in Joburg.
What quote or passage do you think encapsulates you and your approach to business and success?
Work hard and be nice to people. 😊
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