What Does YESCO’s Centennial Tell Us About Tomorrow?


With $300 of borrowed money, immigrant Tom Young started a sign company 100 years ago in Utah. A century later, Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) is building high-tech signs – hundreds of them – at the new $2 billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Allegiant Stadium pic

YESCO’s centennial is a metaphor for out-of-home (OOH) media: resilient, innovative, and poised for growth.

  • Global ad-spend on OOH media is expected to increase 5.4 percent in 2020, according to the MAGNA forecast.
  • Consumers’ exposure time to OOH media will continue to expand
  • Buying and selling OOH media will be easier and quicker

Century-old startup

Tom Young sign picTom Young left Liverpool when he was 15; with his family they headed West. He founded a sign company in Ogden, Utah, in 1920, painting golf-leaf window lettering, wall signs, and coffin plates.

By 1932, YESCO was making signs for a remote rail stop in Las Vegas. Today, the company designs, installs, and maintains complex electronic displays, lighting, store signs, and billboards.

On the other coast, the longest “ribbon board” in professional sports engaged fans at the Super Bowl in Miami.  The ribbon board (2,105 feet) and other high-def video displays at Hard Rock Stadium were built by Daktronics based in Brookings, South Dakota.

Two engineering professors at South Dakota State started Daktronics in 1968 to create jobs that would help keep university grads in Brookings (which consistently has low unemployment).

When London’s iconic Piccadilly lighted sign was revamped – as a single, curved display – Daktronics built and installed the upgrade for Ocean Outdoor, which operates the popular site.

Piccadilly pic

Indeed, technology has been a friend to OOH media, while frustrating other traditional media. A growing chunk of OOH ads are placed programmatically, which puts OOH on equal footing with other media bought by programs.

OOH ads – in the real world with mass audiences – complement digital ads. Data makes OOH easier to measure and easier to match ad messages with groups of consumers.

Bezos’ prediction

Disruption in business is like air in the atmosphere. Disruptor Jeff Bezos famously predicted that Amazon eventually will be disrupted and go bankrupt.

What makes some companies and industries last and others fade?  Business gurus who studied centennial enterprises in arts, sports, and science found common traits (published in the Harvard Business Review).

I was in Salt Lake City for YESCO’s centennial celebration on February 20. YESCO joins other centennials such as Barnes Advertising in Zanesville, OH, Lamar Advertising Company based in Baton Rouge, LA, and Wolverine Sign Works in Owosso, MI.

YESCO 2020

Pat O’Donnell, YESCO Outdoor Media; Anna Bager, OAAA; Mike Young, YESCO


Common traits identified by business experts help explain the longevity and the promise of OOH media:

  • Centennials stabilize their core while looking ahead.

Watch for YESCO to transfer leadership to a fourth generation of the Young family.

  • Centennials work with youth, sometimes as young as preschoolers, to help them understand the future. 

YESCO — long involved in Scouting, sports, and schools — sponsored a youth football team for a kid in Las Vegas named Marco Rubio, who is now the senior US Senator from Florida.

Rubio picRubio pic2

  • While stabilizing their core, centennials stay fresh and “keep waves of disruption crashing at their edge.” 

Lamar Graphics, in 1992, began silk screening posters. Five years later, Lamar began printing digitally in place of traditional silk screen. Today, Lamar has more than 3,000 digital (electronic) billboards.

  • Success makes centennials nervous. 

“Rather than celebrate it, they unpack it” to search for what they’ve missed or what they could do better.

By any measure, OOH media is ready to unpack opportunity and success for the next century, to deliver information in a mobile world.

Guest post author Anna Bager will be speaking about the ‘State of OOH’ as part of the Digital OOH Strategy Summit presented by the Digital Signage Federation, which takes place at Digital Signage Expo 2020 on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Find out more info here.

About Author

Anna Bager is president and CEO of the Out of Home Advertising Association of America.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend