Out of adversity comes opportunity, as the old saying goes. Such was the circumstance confronting Al Dalton of Poster Displays when the Covid-19 lockdown began to bite hard.
“When I took over the company, around 80% of our business came from the arts and entertainment industries,” he explained of the outdoor advertising company specialising in billboard displays across Cork City and suburbs. “Traditionally, this time of year would have been particularly busy for us with so many concerts, plays, gigs, and festivals taking place around the city and county.”
Poster Displays is a family business set up by Al’s grandfather Martin in the early 1990s and subsequently taken over by his aunt Breda in 2005. Having taken over the company in 2019 after the death of his aunt, Al recalled one particular afternoon at the height of the pandemic when the business lost multiple bookings and all of the upcoming theatre work, which was either postponed or cancelled.
Clients include local venues such as Cork Opera House, The Everyman Theatre, and Cyprus Avenue, as well as national promoters MCD Productions and Aiken Promotions. Al also runs a theatre company, ALSA Productions.
“We have a residency in Corcadorca’s Theatre Development Centre in the Triskel and we were scheduled to begin development on a new play for young audiences this spring, following on from the success of our last production, Tall Tail, which had a sold-out run in the Cork Midsummer Festival last year. When Covid-19 hit, both businesses came to a grinding halt.”
For the first time in his memory, all of Poster Displays’ billboard sites lay dormant. “I wasn’t happy seeing that amount of ‘negative space’ around the city and felt that maybe I could do something to help keep people’s spirits up and spread some positivity," Al said.
As the long term effects of Covid-19 became more apparent, he realised the company would have to undergo a significant rethink in order to survive: “I had already been considering expanding Poster Displays’ services so now seemed like the perfect opportunity for a total reconfiguration.”
To this end, Al availed of the advice clinic service through the LEO Cork City office, mentored on the rebrand by Jackie Gowran of Business Weaving. Awarded the LEO Business Continuity Voucher which allowed him to restructure the business as ‘Notes to Cork’ — a creative design agency. The company expanded its services to include graphic design, brand development, and content creation, in addition to its poster display service.
One of the company’s first campaigns involved the National Campaign For the Arts, and supporting the ‘Songs from an Empty Room’ series of televised gigs organised by EPIC and RTÉ in support of backstage crews.
“I felt it was really important to support these campaigns because, not only does a huge amount of my business come from the arts, but I also strongly believe that the arts are an integral ingredient in our daily lives. As a creative agency, Notes to Cork will continue to support and promote the arts in Cork.” Having initially started out as display posters with positive messaging, it is now an independent creative agency offering billboard displays, strategy and campaign development, and content packages.