Alpharetta billboard firm grows with acquisition

Advertising-based businesses have largely fallen into retrench-and-survive mode since the onslaught of the recession. But an Alpharetta-based outdoor advertising company, Olympus Media, has embarked on a growth strategy fueled by acquisitions.

Olympus, which was founded in 2004 and moved to metro Atlanta in 2005, this week announced that it has purchased 133 advertising "faces" here from Action Outdoor Advertising, giving it a total of 752 in the local market.

Each side of an outdoor advertising sign is called a face.

While Olympus is regarded as a mid-sized player in an industry populated by giant firms such as  CBS Outdoor, Lamar and Clear Channel, it bills itself as one of the fastest-growing outdoor companies in the U.S.

Olympus also said it is the largest provider of LED billboard advertising in metro Atlanta -- digital displays whose messages can be quickly changed to accommodate an advertiser's needs.

It operates 36 digital displays nationwide, including 29 in the Atlanta area, and has 2,124 faces in the U.S.

Olympus has outdoor advertising signs in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida, in addition to Georgia.

Outdoor Advertising Association spokesman Jeff Golimowski said the industry is prospering compared to other advertising media because of the introduction of digital technology and because there now are more reliable ways to measure how many people see billboard messages.

And, noted James McLaughlin, president and CEO of Olympus Media, there is no shortage of vehicle traffic and drivers to see those messages, particularly in metro Atlanta.

"Drive times are up, as are the number of vehicles and passengers on Atlanta's roadways," McLaughlin said.

Golimowski said the outdoor advertising industry overall is in a period of consolidation, with acquisitions of other companies' billboards not uncommon, and that Olympus' strategy is not unique.  While some companies are looking to build more billboards, local community laws sometimes won't permit further development, limiting growth prospects beyond acquisition.