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Well-kept Secrets of Out-of-Home: An interview with Sarah Speake

Sarah Speake

“From an agency perspective, I saw out-of-home as a medium delivering reach and scale, and the responsibility of specialized OOH agencies. As a media owner, it was familiar but excluded from most credible media monitoring tools. Being a consumer, I was impressed with and intrigued by OOH campaigns, particularly digital ones, though didn’t understand all capabilities.”

Sarah Speake, Chief Marketing Officer at Clear Channel Outdoor, has viewed the out-of-home industry from many angles but could not grasp the opportunities from marrying technology and creative until joining the sector. “I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful results of what can be achieved across platforms,” she added.

Upon graduating from the University of St. Andrews with a Honours Bachelor of Arts in German and Business Studies, Sarah knew her career needed to touch upon Sales and Marketing given her fascination with the way humans instinctively and speedily make judgements and decisions about people, brands and products. Following a move to London, Sarah started out in media sales for a tech firm and was quickly promoted to International Sales Manager.

A testament to her knowledge, character and reputation, Sarah has been headhunted for each new role, moving to the agency side by assuming a director position at Carat and fulfilling her aspiration to become a board director before the age of 30. While on maternity leave with her second child, Sarah was recruited by Google and subsequently promoted whilst on maternity leave with her third child. Following a year at ITV, Sarah took on her current position, which she views as a perfect combination of all former media and tech experiences.

“The endless possibilities of OOH are a well-kept secret,” said Sarah candidly. “I was gobsmacked by how out-of-home media owners worry about what their competitors are up to more than engaging consumers and competing against other media! This has historically slowed our collective ability to educate advertisers about the multi-channel campaigns we already execute.”

Sarah connects OOH’s long history with assumed familiarity and inaccurate perceptions of what it delivers. The only way to have an amplified voice is by reinforcing the magic of out-of-home, with Clear Channel, JCDecaux, Exterion and others shouting far louder about the benefits of the medium, both individually and through the reinvigorated UK Outdoor Media Centre.

The sector will also need to educate itself and consumers about the delivery of technology with good old-fashioned print campaigns. Sarah warns it is important to acknowledge the leap required for consumers to understand interactivity, such as NFC, despite the high percentage of mobile penetration in the UK.

“It would be naïve and arrogant of us to assume everything will be digital in the near future,” she cautions. “Although the development of digital portfolios like Adshel Live and Clear Channel’s Storm are extremely exciting, classic OOH will continue to play an important role until consumers have caught up. Some never will.”

Sarah points to mobile engagement, facial recognition and contactless payments as integral parts of OOH’s future, all based on fun, playful and colourful campaigns. One of her favourite examples is Cancer Research UK, Mediacom and Clear Channel’s deployment of contactless donations through shop windows as a means of overcoming the increasing oversight of fundraisers with collection cans.

Aside from her official duties within out-of-home, Sarah lives the life of a true Leading Lady as demonstrated by her coaching and mentoring initiatives along with many awards including a Top 100 Global Influencer award from The International Alliance for Women. Sarah’s support of women’s groups comes from a strong desire for equality and diversity in the workplace, which she explained via her enriching experience as a mentor through the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

“As a mother of a seven-year-old daughter, I want her to believe she can do whatever she wants with gender eliminated from the radar.”

About Sarah

Sarah Speake joined the transformative Out of Home experts Clear Channel in March 2015 as Chief Marketing Officer, after enjoying her time as Director of Commercial Marketing & Research at ITV. She has spent over 20 years working in media across a variety of international and local Sales & Marketing roles.  Sarah’s career includes 11 years working for technology media owners before joining Google, where she enjoyed 4 years as Technology Sales Director & 3 years as Strategic Marketing Director. She also sat on the Board of Carat Business for 2 years.

As a passionate Marketer, Sarah sits on the Board of the Marketing Society and is proud to be a member of WACL. She is also a qualified mentor and coach, having gained her Professional Accreditation in Coaching last year at Henley Business School. She currently mentors for The Marketing Academy & The Cherie Blair Foundation.

Outside work, Sarah is a keen skier and devotee of tae bo who loves socializing. Since the death of her first child, she counsels fellow bereaved parents and has written a book outlining her journey. She lives in Chiswick with her husband and little people.