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When Mobile and Digital Out-of-Home Collide: An interview with Sarah Neill

Sarah Neill

With a background in marketing on both client and agency sides, Sarah is no stranger to the worlds of advertising and digital media. She is, however, a relatively new entrant to the digital out-of-home industry and is quickly learning just how powerful place-based media can be. Sarah is the General Manager of Ultra TV, a network of 1,500 digital displays rolled out and managed by Ultra Mobile, one of T-Mobile’s fastest growing MVNO’s. Ultra TV is an interesting case study as it was creatively developed by Ultra Mobile to advertise their own product at the point of sale, with no ad model – until now.

“We’ve done studies that show stores with an Ultra TV sell more and grow faster than stores without an Ultra TV. So for us, it is a valuable investment on its own,” shared Sarah. “But recently we’ve realized just how valuable a commodity we have. Ultra Mobile provides wireless service in the US with a focus on people that want to call overseas, so we skew towards the multi-cultural demographic, which is notoriously hard to target via traditional media. We started receiving requests from people wanting to advertise on our network, so we decided to open up a portion of airtime to outside advertisers, with the revenue invested in supporting and growing the network.”

Born and raised in Australia, Sarah completed her Bachelor degree with a major in Marketing and Organizational Behaviour at Macquarie University. A performance-based orientation guided her into retail start-up and recruitment positions before landing a dream job as National Sales Manager at Boost Mobile, where Sarah was introduced to the Australian telecommunications industry and would attend surf competitions in Fiji and the VMA Awards with Kelly Slater.

The travel bug brought Sarah to London, where she joined a start-up advertising agency working on the Vodafone account and then moved to another agency where she led the Samsung team. Following some time back in Australia and the completion of a MBA, Sarah moved to New York to run Sales and Marketing for international calling company, Keku, before co-founding another mobile company, DOODAD. It was during a conference at which Sarah was a speaker where she met the CEO of Ultra Mobile, David Glickman – and the rest is history.

“Negotiating and securing real estate in independent wireless stores that sell a lot of brands is extremely competitive,” explained Sarah. “A field representative will visit a store and put up a poster, but there’s no way to guarantee that the next day a competitor won’t visit and put their poster on top of ours.”

To gain a permanent and prominent foothold in the store, Ultra Mobile decided to go beyond the paper and invest in displays. Now, 40” screens in portrait orientation are installed with a frame to give the impression of a mobile phone. “We use Broadsign to manage content from our head office and change it in real-time. Aside from the assurance that a poster will not be placed over our screen, we have found digital to be much more effective than static posters. We can communicate more information in a more engaging way. We can update in real-time if we have sudden product changes and as we know, anything moving gets ten times more attention than anything static – and you see this very clearly in these often cluttered stores.”

Having launched third-party advertising in July, Ultra TV is excited for this element to fuel the growth of the network over the next 24 months.

Sarah’s career path and rapid understanding of the DOOH space is proof that armed with a sharp mind and passion for communication, newcomers can jump the learning curve to become successful network operators. Ultra TV’s next steps will push the envelope in its vertical and Sarah is a big reason as to why.