Give Me A Sign, With Vistar Media CEO Michael Provenzano

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Demand for digital signage is finally returning after a horrendous 2020. Vistar Media CEO Michael Provenzano shares an update on COVID’s impact on the category, including his company – a programmatic digital out-of-home provider. 

“It was horrible,” Michael recalls of the spring and summer of 2020, the peak of the pandemic, when advertisers pulled back from billboards – and, indeed, most media channels. 

In this episode, Provenzano puts some numbers to the pain. He says Vistar’s revenue fell 85% in Q2 and 50% in Q3, compared to the previous year. Furloughs and layoffs followed. 

But the company was helped by a culture of careful spending. The company has raised very little cash and has been EBIDTA profitable for seven years straight. 

“COVID was the first time in a long time we were burning money as a company,” according to Provenzano. “We were able to get through it and be very cash-efficient in how we operated.” 

Once vaccinations hit in March and April 2021, most brands returned to advertising, with average spend increasing as well. Vistar’s Q3 inventory is 100% booked, and 2021 billings so far are tracking 40% ahead of 2019 billings. 

“We’re very excited about where the rest of the year is headed,” Provenzano says. “Obviously we’re keeping our eyes on the delta variant, but overall, brands seem to be doubling down.”   

Also in this episode: Vistar, along with other out-of-home companies, used device-level mobility data to measure pandemic foot traffic across DMAs, ZIP codes and specific locations. The company went so far as to create a “COVID behavioral audience,” pledging to serve ads only to locations with traffic greater than 40% of pre-COVID times.

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