“How I Got in the Billboard Business” – Owners share their stories. Dave Roland of Roland Digital Media.

Watchfire Signs

Verde Capital Ad 1

Today we have Dave Roland from Roland Digital Media in Cookeville, TN. Roland started in the early 80’s and has approximately 450 faces, 34 digitals, and 1 barn on I-40.

What is your first memory of having an interest in the advertising industry?

I have loved advertising since childhood. I liked the commercials better than most tv programs. I always enjoyed looking at and later collecting signs.

What led up to you deciding to start an out of home advertising company?

I convinced my wife, Diane who married me the prior year, to invest $2,000 that her grandmother left her to finish college, and “Sign Works” (later Roland Advertising) was born. She now says it was an “ok” investment. We built and installed our first wood sign on January 1st, 1984. We hired a sign painter and transitioned into other types of signs. Later on, I met Tom Flynn who encouraged me to build some billboards. He stopped by one day driving a brand new Buick. I was driving a worn-out Chevy Luv with no A/C. You could almost throw a cat through the side. I sat down, felt the cool A/C and he said “this is what those billboards will buy you”. The rest is history. The next spring we started building. I still drive an F250 with a 300K on it, but it has A/C!

What is one of your favorite projects/campaigns you’ve worked on?

In the mid 90’s we did a lot of 3D and animation. A sporting goods store had a fish that jumped with a line and rod that moved and another 3D that had a hunter on the catwalk aiming at a deer at the top of the billboard standing on a treestand.

Below are some of Roland’s early work

This one had a smoke machine that randomly shot out vapor.

The top window sign moved in and out. Note the eye-catchers on the logo.

Mannequins doing various things were good inexpensive props.

A single, 3D billboard for a very uninteresting product.

Is there a funny or unique story you care to share with the community?

One of our first 3D ads was a mannequin climbing a ladder. Our crew was attaching it to the ladder on the ground under the sign and an ambulance passed three times before the EMTs pulled up and started laughing at what they saw!

What’s your impression of the current state of our business? Are you seeing growth, future predictions, etc…

Digital is currently selling above all else.

God has blessed us since day 1. But we, like all of you, have had our share of ups and downs along the way.

– In closing – Did you know that Outdoor Advertising is mentioned in The Bible?

And the Lord said to me, “Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell the others.

Habakkuk 2:2 – The Living Bible

How many forms of media can say that? May God bless us all in the days ahead.


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