Media Mavericks

C2C Outdoor breaks traditional modes of advertising with a fresh perspective and a unique software system that ensures every choice gets tracked

Devoting 2011 to building a solid team, C2C Outdoor has a new game plan this year. “In 2012, we will put a stronger focus on growing our client roster, because we have the right team in place and we’re ready to take on more clients,” says Michael Palatnek, president and CEO.

C2C Outdoor, which ranked number three on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies in 2011, will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year as a full-service out-of-home (OOH) advertising agency. With a who’s who list of clients, including Tiffany & Co., UGG, Oakley, Comedy Central, and Equinox, president and CEO Michael Palatnek attributes the firm’s success to nontraditional ideas that get noticed, a proprietary software system that tracks every move they make, and a customer-centric culture that empowers staff to be creative and wear many hats.

Instead of owning inventory, we have the ability to work with every vendor. It was always a challenge whenever I worked on the vendor side that no single company could satisfy all the outdoor media needs of a client. So I asked clients, “If we could provide a single point of contact for you across 30 or 40 OOH vendors to simplify the process, would you work with us?” The overall feedback was very positive.

We have this integrated software we custom built called OUTS, the Outdoor Universal Tracking System, that allows us to track all inventory history—rates, markets, vendors, products, accounts payables/receivables—going back to our first executed campaign. It has allowed us to grow much faster than we expected because it put critical data at our fingertips.

We were up about 20 percent in 2011 from the previous year. Last year, we focused on getting great people on the team and cultivating account managers, planners, and buyers. When we hire people, we make sure they can think on their feet. We empower and inspire them to make decisions and recommendations both internally and to clients. We encourage them to be creative. We want them to feel like they are the company. That they can think freely. In 2012, we will put a stronger focus on growing our client roster, because we have the right team in place and we’re ready to take on more clients.

For Comedy Central’s roast of Charlie Sheen, we worked with Vector Media to wrap double-decker buses in New York and Los Angeles. The bus creative ran throughout the market for four weeks. Then the day the show premiered, we put goddesses (i.e. models) on top of the busses and drove them through high-traffic areas such as in front of the offices of leading ad agencies. When the buses stopped, the goddesses stood up and waved and “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne was playing. People were screaming, “We love Charlie!”

We have a service-oriented culture that is all about getting back to our clients immediately. I want our clients to feel that any question they have about out-of-home media, they can call us, that our people are smart, buttoned up, they know their markets, know their information, and are going to get back to them immediately.

The big challenge in our business today is to help clients think about media and campaign execution further in advance. Due to the economy, companies are holding on to budget dollars longer, while technology is creating the ability to print more quickly, so there are shorter turnaround times on specific execution elements. Everyone’s running at 100 miles per hour and we have to step back and figure out the best ways to execute from a pure marketing perspective on clients’ behalf.

We want to continue growing organically. We don’t want to experience explosive growth and lose that feeling of who we are and the brands we represent and being a niche, boutique shop. Our goal is to double in size, but we’re not looking to become a $500 million agency in two to three years.

The potential that augmented-reality media offers is fascinating. If you’re standing in front of a mall poster or a bus shelter, you can see how you will look in sunglasses from Oakley or jewelry from Tiffany’s by interacting with the display. I think interactive media like this will play a big part in the future of where OOH is going.