Lessons in Serendipity: An interview with Charmaine Moldrich

August 6, 2014Stephanie Gutnik

Whether it’s fate or a matter of being in the right place at the right time, Charmaine Moldrich, CEO at Australia’s Outdoor Media Association, has a knack for encountering fortunate happenstances and pleasant surprises. Charmaine will always venture down the road (a reference to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”) and say yes instead of no. Yes, she maintains, opens doors and carried her career to the out-of-home industry.

As one might guess from her sure stance and animated demeanour, Charmaine studied drama in university. One evening, she attended a dinner party with a fellow looking to fill a position at a radio station. Impatient to get the working part of her life started, Charmaine took the job in lieu of finishing her schooling – and was running the entire station within a year and a half. It wasn’t long before a board member at the station, also on the board of a theater company, thought Charmaine would be a good fit as the theater’s General Manager and off she ricocheted into festivals, music, film, museums, the government and finally, out-of-home advertising.

“I have been ambitious in my career path but never planned,” said Charmaine, “which is slightly slothful but also a wonderful way for hard work and experience to influence and attract interesting and fulfilling positions and colleagues.”

While enjoying her time on sabbatical, Charmaine was offered a job in OOH and interviewed for it with a “let’s see what happens” perspective. Slightly reluctant to enter the world of advertising, Charmaine was delighted to find that her almost five years spent as CEO of the OMA have been some of the most satisfying and enriching in her career. “It is exhilarating to be the driver of an association equipped with a great board and staff who allow me to be open, emotional and passionate. I have climbed a mountain in terms of learning my role and the industry, and am enjoying the view while embarking on my next hike.”

Australia has a united and cohesive out-of-home industry. It is responsible, aware of its space in the public arena and uses a common lexicon. Digital out-of-home has been in the country for a long time and some providers purely operate in digital signage. Charmaine insists that whether static or digital, everyone belongs to OOH no matter how it is delivered; the two cannot and should not be separated. In terms of shifting revenue between the two, she believes that just as there was a progression from hand-painted to paper-printed to vinyl-printed signs, so too is digital an opportunity to obtain a finished product better suited to certain venues.

“Market share is a complex story,” cautioned Charmaine when asked about fears of DOOH stealing from traditional OOH and cannibalizing total OOH revenues. “I think the future holds a use/pay system that will prove how an ad is working and facilitate a clear path to transaction. In Australia, media is still being bought in silos and new media has simply been added on top. OOH will take a more significant slice of market share when the technology becomes seamless and transactional – and it’s going to. Our screens will come to life.”

What’s next for Charmaine? Educating members on codes and policies, and bringing advertising content to higher standards is high on the list, along with applying information about the industry via strategic initiatives. As for her next surprise, one can only guess!

About Charmaine

Charmaine joined the Outdoor Media Association (OMA) in 2010 and has over 30 years’ experience specialising in management, leadership, marketing, communications and business development. She started her media career in Adelaide, South Australia, and at 24 years of age found herself working as the Station Manager of a public radio station, her first management position. Charmaine’s career has been varied with one common theme: working with diverse groups of stakeholders negotiating and wrangling, and finding the common goal to join forces. The majority of her career has been spent working in the arts – theatre, film, music, festivals and museums which taught her to do a lot with limited resources. Charmaine is enjoying being back in media, especially in this rapidly changing, technology-infused environment. Charmaine believes that outdoor advertising is not just an integral part of the media mix but an integral part of the vibrancy of cities.