Ike Wingate grew up in a billboard family. He worked for his dad’s business in Arkansas until he went off to college. He never saw himself making a living at it, but billboards just kept coming into his life.
Wingate went into a radio career, and in his role as director of syndication for the Dave Ramsey Show, he handled the purchasing of billboard space for advertising.
Then, when his wife decided to stay home and raise a family, he thought billboards might be a good way to supplement their income. After months of trial and error – not to mention research – he asked his father to bring some scrap plywood to Tennessee, where he was living.
“It was a small wooden sign,” Wingate says. “It wasn’t in the best location, and I started second guessing my decision.”
Wingate didn’t give up, though. He started building bigger and better billboards. They currently have 60 static billboards, five outdoor digital billboards and four indoor digital signs.
“Digital was a way to make billboards more current, more relevant and just from a pure enjoyment standpoint of being involved in the industry, I saw digital as that opportunity for dynamic content and community involvement,” he says.
Wingate quickly saw the advantage of going digital. “Once we learned of the opportunities that the technology afforded us, as far as dynamic messaging, giving clients the opportunity for multiple ad designs, we just kind of fell in love with it. We had to do it. It’s a new medium inside of an old medium.”
He has also found that digital signs can make a better impact for his advertisers and the community through timely messaging.
“It is a community landmark if we’re doing it correctly – not only for our clients, but we can create relevant content for the community.”
COVID-19 inspires innovation
Wingate Media has indoor digital signs inside high traffic businesses as well, such as restaurants, salons and gyms. Those are the places that were hit hardest by the pandemic, which affected advertisers as well. That’s why Wingate stopped charging them for advertising as soon as the government shut down those businesses.
“We reached out and promised to deliver more value back once this was over. Everyone stuck with us, and our relationship with those clients is better today than prior to COVID,” he says.
During the downtime, they used their indoors signs to help promote businesses in any way they could. They created free graphics, helped with social media, and even launched their own SNL-type show called “Good Business News.”
Outdoors, they helped advertisers promote timely, relevant messages, such business hours, promoting gift certificates, and thanking essential workers.
“I can’t imagine going through this time of COVID-19 without digital, without being able to put those timely messages out there for our clients, but also for our community,” says Wingate. “And pushing people to support local businesses. We have a duty to do that kind of thing.”
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