Hocker’s upgrades to digital

Date Published: 
September 25, 2015

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Hocker’s new digital sign is the first install of the MX board in the country. It allows ads to be uploaded to it via iPhone or even rotate through an RSS feed.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Hocker’s new digital sign is the first install of the MX board in the country. It allows ads to be uploaded to it via iPhone or even rotate through an RSS feed.

There’s been a change in scenery along Route 26 in Clarksville in recent weeks, with Hocker’s Super Center’s revamped billboard at the corner of Routes 26 and 17.

Hocker said the digital billboard received approval on the county, state and federal levels prior to its installation.

“It has been a four-year process. I went through every proper channel I needed to go through to get 100 percent approved,” said Gerry Hocker. “I first started with the County, and got approval from the County. Then I had to get approval from the State. There were a lot of meetings. It took a lot of time.

“I went through every proper channel… Looking back now, I don’t know how I did it… other than determination, perseverance and respect.”

The billboard, which was upgraded in August, is a state-of-the-art, double-sided digital billboard, with each side measuring 300 square feet, and is available for rental by interested parties or advertisers.

Hocker said he knew he wanted the billboard, which had previously been occupied by vinyl advertising, to be digital from the very beginning.

“When you get any Board of Adjustment variance approval, you have 12 months to begin your construction. Knowing I would not have all of my permits in place for the digital, I had the structure designed and made as if it was going to be a digital billboard, because they have to withstand the weight,” he explained. “That structure was structurally made for a digital billboard, but to safeguard my permit, I had to erect the structure and just put in vinyl.”

Although it was a long process, Hocker said there was an unforeseen advantage to waiting for proper approvals.

“The Watchfire company… just came out with a brand-new technology, an LED model. I was the very first install of their MX board,” said Hocker. “If there’s an advantage to going through the process for four years, [it's that] I’ve been able to be a part of the most advanced billboard technology that’s on the market today.

“Had I gotten all my permits four years ago, I would not have had that opportunity... The day after I got it installed, I got a call and was told we were the very first MX board to be installed in the country, because the technology had just come out. That’s why the board tends to have a crisp clarity. The graphics are just phenomenal.”

Hocker said that, while an average digital billboard has about a 10-year lifespan, the MX-class board is guaranteed for 20 years.

“It’s part of the new technology.”

The board is capable of being changed at the swipe of an iPhone and allows advertisers to take advantage of the new technology.

“The capabilities of this board are incredible. I can upload ads, view ads and log into the billboard from my iPhone if I want.”

Hocker said that, being in the static billboard business since 2000, he’s always encouraged his advertisers to create an ad that would have longevity.

“With the cost of your vinyl, you had to be able to say something on that vinyl for 12 months. So you had to be able to say that one message that could stay up there for 12 months or longer.

“The good thing about digital is it gives you the flexibility. You can say anything you want to say at any point in time you want to say it. You can design your ads to certain days of the week, certain months, a certain time of day.

“You may want a particular ad to run between just 10 and 12 during the day, and then between 1 and 4 advertise something totally different. It’s 100 percent immediate. The immediacy and timeliness are the advantage of digital. If an advertiser doesn’t have multiple things to say, then digital isn’t for them.”

Those advertising on the new digital billboard are being encouraged to upload at least six advertisements that can rotate; however, Hocker said there is no limit to how many ads are within their library.

Advertisers can even get creative with RSS feeds — a format for delivering regularly changing web content.

“If a media company wants to advertise their breaking news or headline news, or whatever song might be playing on the radio at that instant, that board is capable of doing that.”

The digital billboard runs 24-7, with each advertiser getting a full rotation.

“I want somebody to feel like they’re getting the true value,” said Hocker. “I don’t want any of our advertisers to not see the benefit of it. We’re in business, too. Our main priority is our stores. That’s a heart of what we do. Certainly I know what it’s like to make decisions with advertising. I want people to feel the true value of being on any of our signs.”

Hocker said he wants to have a mixture of advertisers on both the eastbound- and westbound-facing signs.

“I’m trying to get a mix — anywhere from restaurants to homebuilders to insurance companies,” he said. “It’s a different medium to reach different customers in a different way.”

The process, said Hocker, has been a learning experience for him and his family’s business.

“I had one chance to do it right. Certainly, someone had to be the first at doing something,” he said, noting Hocker’s was in a similar situation when they wanted to get County approval to sell their in-house-made barbecue from their food truck, on their property.

“We were the very first to go through the whole process. The approval process we had to go through [for our food trucks] was so ridiculous that then the County changed it.”

Hocker noted that, in the wake of the County’s recent off-premises sign moratorium, their digital board has been referenced; however, he said he believes the County’s issues lie more with on-premises signs, rather than off-premises ones.

“But certainly our board was not a result of the moratorium,” he said. “I’m a fan of doing billboards with the proper approvals…

“I think, as of right now — just because it has been such a long process for us — as of right now, we are the only off-premise digital billboard in Sussex County. Not that it was intended for that. I think I was just a little bit ahead of the times. And since we did the two digitals, back-to-back, I think I was the second and third digital billboard to be in the state of Delaware.”

As his family has deep roots in its community, Hocker said, it was important to him to keep the sign attractive.

“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t distasteful,” he said. “We love the community we live in. Our business is here, and certainly we didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”

Hocker said he wasn’t sure what kind of reaction the signs would garner from locals and visitors but was pleased with the positive response.

“I’ve probably gotten more positive feedback on this than all of the static boards combined… I’m very pleased. Just the positive feedback that I’ve received from potential advertisers, and I want it to be a sign that people want to look at.”

Hocker’s Super Center is located at 34960 Atlantic Avenue in Clarksville. Those interested in advertising opportunities may email Hockeroutdoor@gmail.com.