You don’t grow up wanting to build digital billboards. At least, I don’t think very many people do! For me, starting GLOBOX certainly wasn’t that straightforward. As a young guy from Te Awamutu, I was all about cars - a big passion I still have! I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in life, but what I did know for sure was that I wanted to have my own business.
I ended up running a number of businesses, including well-known dental clinics, throughout my career. These businesses were great for a long time, and for the clinics, we had an awesome team across Hamilton, the wider Waikato, and the Bay of Plenty. All was going pretty well, but we wanted it to do better. So, we naturally turned to what marketing channels might suit a growing, but still local, business that wanted to take the next step and expand their brand.
Driving past a billboard several times a day on my way to work, I thought - what a great idea - we should get our business on a billboard! I picked up the phone… and well, it was a good thing I was sitting down, because the price was SHOCKINGLY high. So high, in fact, that it went a long way to explaining to me why you never used to see local businesses on billboards, only corporate brands and multinationals. Local businesses - growing businesses - were being priced out of the billboard market from the get-go - we didn’t even get a look-in, because the agencies running the show were only interested in chasing the big bucks.
I’m not one to be easily deterred. I ended up importing hardware and installing a few small digital billboards around Hamilton myself, as it made more sense for us to do that, rather than forking out the extraordinary rates the big players were trying to charge.
At this stage it was early 2020… and we all know what happened next.
When New Zealand went into lockdown, none of my clinics were able to operate. I had expensive billboards sitting around the city, all empty - a pretty grim picture. Knowing that growing businesses like mine are the backbone of the New Zealand economy, I suddenly realised we had an amazing opportunity.
I picked up the phone and started calling local businesses. My pitch was simple: I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.
To be fair, the offer was a really good one - too good for businesses not to see the value, even during lockdown. For an affordable investment each week, I would give them guaranteed visibility - ad space on a billboard, up in lights, visible day and night.
The catch? They had to commit for 12 months.
It didn’t take long for the first business to say yes, because this kind of ad space just wasn’t otherwise accessible to the types of businesses I was talking to. Businesses can usually afford a few hundred a week for out-of-home advertising, but not the thousands upon thousands that the traditional players and big ad agencies would demand as minimum spend.
Like these businesses, I too wanted my business on a billboard. I saw the value in the fantastic brand exposure that premium-location billboards can bring. Like them, I didn’t have a cool $3500-plus to commit each week, as that would have seriously crippled us. I understood their pain points, their hopes, their needs, and their opportunities - because I was also in their shoes! I know exactly what it’s like, trying to stretch profits, get great returns, and sometimes just make it through some pretty tough times. I wanted to help small businesses - because I was also a small business, and I know how bloody hard it can be.
After that first client signed up, I’d broken through the wall. It spurred me on, and after about a week of cold calling, I had ten new clients on the books. The fire was just getting started!
Through 2020, we continued to expand and acquired some new billboards, new clients, and hired a few people to start helping manage it all. By December of that year, it was clear that we needed to fully commit to it - so we sold the clinics, and went all in on GLOBOX.
The rest, they say, is history! I still have most of my original clients. In fact, I don’t even call them clients, because they’re our partners, and I seriously value the relationships this business has helped me build. We are privileged to have partners who have grown their business alongside ours, and have expanded their billboard presence as their own business also grows.
It sounds like only sunshine and rainbows, but of course, like anything in life, it wasn’t all smooth sailing over the last few years. But what I do know is this: if you see a way to lift others up, and can find mutual benefit with others like you in business, it’s pretty easy for everyone to win.
Allan Nicholson, Founder & CEO.