Jim Wilson’s career spans over three decades across the entertainment, gaming and out-of-home industries, but it began in the rather less exciting world of accounting, where he worked with the likes of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Microsoft, which quickly turned his attention to the media and technology sectors.
After a stint at Disney and earning two MBAs, he finally cemented his feet in marketing in 1996 when he became vice-president of brand marketing and business development at Universal. There, he would build its fledgling games business and launch global gaming franchises Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. He was also instrumental in the subsequent merger of the company with Havas when Vivendi bought Universal.
He then moved to Sony Music Entertainment, where he initiated and led the merger of Sony Wonder into Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and ran classic gaming console Atari as its president and CEO.
A stint in the connected TV space saw him launch a company called Premion under the Tegna umbrella, but after four years he was lured to out-of-home (OOH) giant Talon America where he is now its chief executive.
What do you make of all the 3D OOH around just now? A lot of brands are doing it, but is it all just a PR stunt?
Any effective, great, bold piece of work in OOH should end up in PR and should end up on social media because it gets people talking.
3D out-of-home is a consumer experience. Technology will continue to enable OOH so that it can be effective, stand out and resonate with consumers. 3D, augmented reality and interacting with your phone are just a few of those tools. If I can experience 3D in the OOH environment, it’s a wonderful consumer experience.
Is it a PR stunt? I hope so. Because if it is, that means we just took out-of-home and expanded those impressions through digital media. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to create experiences in out-of-home that appeal to people and get them talking.
What are clients and agencies asking for from OOH sites?
They’re waking up to the power of out-of-home. The education and advancements in technology have made this space a lot more attractive within the marketing mix. They’re looking at everything from return on investment, to reaching audiences and targeting audiences to deliver measurable outcomes. If you can do that, then you are a more effective part of the marketing mix.
In many ways, out-of-home feels like it’s siloed off to the side because it’s a different type of medium. But through data and technology, we are tying out-of-home back into the marketing mix, to make it a part of the omnichannel.
But honestly, they’re asking for awards. Why? It’s because awards celebrate the effectiveness, creativity and innovation of a campaign. They can show clients or the client themselves that they know that their campaign was successful. There’s a high correlation between winning awards and the success of a campaign.
What is one pertinent problem you would fix in OOH?
Education. When I started in the connected TV business, there was a significant amount of education to teach broadcasters and broadcast salespeople how to buy connected television, and yet it’s on the same screen. It caught on quickly, of course.
It’s a fragmented market and there are a lot of companies out in the space, trying to educate the market. The industry needs to come together and focus on educating in a more organized way. We spent a lot of time doing thought leadership and education of our clients and thought leadership in the industry because we’re trying to ultimately educate buyers, planners and marketers about the power of OOH. Because at the end of the day, we want to see more dollars flowing into OOH because we believe it is an incredibly effective medium. In the US, it’s a single-digit buy across the board – I’d love to see it as a double-digit buy.
What’s been your greatest career moment?
During Covid, the team that I started from scratch to build the games business at Universal reached out to me and said, ’wouldn’t it be great to have a 15-year reunion?’ So we did a Zoom call and all the employees that started that company were on this call and it was my proudest career moment, getting to see all of those people who started their careers with me, where they were now. I was always proud of what we had accomplished together to create some of the best franchises in the gaming business, but also what they went on to do in their careers.
What one piece of work are you particularly proud of?
I’m amazed to see the evolution of OOH and being able to do augmented reality with Puma. I took my three sons, who always wondered why I wasn’t still working in video games, to see the augmented reality piece with Puma and they understood. We’re just at the beginning of what technology can really do for out-of-home to engage consumers. It’s all about engaging consumers with the right message at the right time and in the right place.
Why should the industry be celebrating OOH excellence?
In the OOH space, the award says that you ran a campaign that was effective, creative and innovative. It delivered on what the brand objectives were. Of course, it’s very nice to have an award sitting on a shelf, but at the end of the day it’s about the fact that you delivered on the brand promise and you did it effectively, creatively and through innovation.