Getting business competitors to work together isn’t easy, but that’s how Atomic Enterprises managed to put together the largest network of independently-owned LED billboards in central Kansas.
“It was actually pretty difficult,” Atomic president Brandon Shuey said. “It took some convincing.”
The competitors Shuey refers to are the independent owners of LED billboards around the city — that is, those that aren’t owned by national communications behemoth Clear Channel.
The individual billboard owners are all going after the same advertising dollars. Shuey said that by turning over management and operation of the billboards to Atomic, those owners guaranteed themselves a better revenue stream by making it easier for potential advertisers to utilize the billboards in more strategic ways.
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Atomic Enterprises was started by Shuey and longtime Wichita adman Mike Snyder in November 2010. Snyder left to join the Rowley Ablah Snyder marketing agency and Shuey was joined in June by Elizabeth Falk, who is vice president of sales and a part owner in the company. Located in a bare-bones office suite in Bel Aire, Atomic employs several more people on a contract or part-time basis.
Shuey describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur" whose previous jobs include CEO of Key Centrix, a health care software company. In addition to Atomic Enterprises, he operates FlipHound.com, which allows customers to buy time on LED billboards online. Falk is a former Clear Channel Outdoor employee who “went straight into billboards” after college.
“Being young, I thought digital billboards was a good place for me,” he said.
The market, the partners say, started to take off in 2009, ground to a halt with the economy in 2010, then started to grow again. Costing an average of $400,000 to build, the billboards are owned by individuals or groups who may spotlight their own companies on them but are primarily interested in attracting other advertisers. The average ad runs seven to eight seconds. The technology used on them is ever changing, with some offering high definition graphic and video playing capabilities.
Atomic operates 15 billboards in Wichita, Haysville and Hutchinson, including prominent spots such as one on Kellogg fronting the Scotch & Sirloin. Two more are expected to come online any day. Shuey and Falk say they’re aware of three other independently owned LED billboards in the area, while Clear Channel’s website shows it has 16 in Wichita.
For businesses already interested in advertising on the LED billboards, Atomic provides easy access, Falk said.
“Nobody knew who was in control” of the independently owned billboards, Falk said. “You didn’t know who to call.”
To convince other potential advertisers of the billboards’ value, Atomic focuses on such thing as the ability to change the ad — a must in these days of instant messaging and social media.
“We have advertisers who want to do temperature-based advertising,” Shuey said. “They want to advertise frozen yogurt when it’s hot and hamburgers when it cools off.”
For advertisers who want to reach many parts of the city, the Atomic network allows them to use a different billboard each month.
The network also allows Atomic to attract the kind of national advertisers that are not interested in individual billboards, the owners say.
Atomic offers creative services to clients that need them or work with existing campaigns designed by advertising agencies or in-house marketing departments.
Another option, Falk said, lets clients post their content directly onto billboards, something Wichita State University, the Wingnuts baseball team and others have done locally.
“That grabs your eye,” Falk said. “It’s something you’ll see more and more.”