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Outdoor advertising

By The Drum, Administrator

May 8, 2003 | 11 min read

JCDecaux Innovate’s interactive billboard for

The outdoor industry has noticed a strong start to the year. However, with legislation now banning tobacco advertising and forecasters predicting a fall for the second quarter, how will the outdoor market develop to keep up with the demands of consumers and advertisers alike?

If advertising is the lifeblood of the media industry, then television, radio and publishing are likely to be feeling decidedly dodgy.

However, one sector of the media has remained rather perky, casting its grapes aside, and – ironically – with the help of a little nicotine boost it has leapt into the new year with an enthusiasm that contrasts with the current mood.

The outdoor advertising industry noticed a strong first quarter of 2003, growing 15 per cent year on year as the tobacco firms threw money in a last hurrah before the advertising ban came in at the end of the quarter. And although predictions forecast a drop for the second quarter, with nicotine patches unlikely to make up for lost tobacco revenue, the outlook continues to be fair.

Outdoor advertising is growing in stature and now accounts for £690m of valuable marketing budgets every year.

Gavin Hollywood of PosterPlus said: “Out-of-home accountability is getting better and better, the sites on offer are getting better and better and the technology driving the industry is improving all the time. All these improvements are leading to a more accountable medium.

“Outdoor advertising is becoming more fashionable. In 2000, every car manufacturer used outdoor as part of their sales drives.

“However, the outdoor market is a very structured industry. Being relatively new to the market, we have had to offer a great deal of flexibility. But that has also led to some of our most successful campaigns. Nike gained massive media coverage at the Scottish Open when it hijacked the event through a series of inflatable posters. Furthermore, we took a student discount card launch for Citylink right to the target market when we erected the inflatable boards on campus on a tour of the universities, something no other medium could offer.”

In such a media-savvy culture it is so important for your marketing to stand out from the clutter. Not a day goes by without a client wanting “something different”. But you can’t just go to the “something different” basket and pull out an idea.

“It can take a great deal of time to conceptualise, check the feasibility, and implement an idea,” says Murray Bothwell, director of regions at JCDecaux Airport.

“Regardless, the outdoor industry is growing, and one of the biggest growth areas in the outdoor market is in ambient media. Outdoor as a medium is being re-invented every year. BAA has realised this and reacted to this to interact successfully with the travelling public.

“At the airport, a brand can take over a whole space. The audience can touch, feel, taste, interact and physically immerse themselves in the brand. Airports have a huge dwell time and a highly targeted, yet diverse, audience. Both senior business executives and holiday-makers are the audience – both the ideal targets – the decision-makers and those whose barriers are down. The market doesn’t change by season, there isn’t a ‘suit to shell-suit’ transition.

“However, in a closed environment adverts can become an annoyance quite quickly. For example, internet advertising is often seen as an irritant. If there is an element of search or choice this is dangerous. However, in an environment that you move through, the target audience is less troubled. And if there is an entertaining slant to the campaign, it will be looked upon favourably if it is targeted right. But still, you can’t go over the top. We are very aware of the ‘piss-off factor’. You have to limit the number of times you target the audience.”

However, despite warning of a communication overkill, new means are being utilised to talk to potential customers at every turn.

Clyde Taxi recently added a new dimension of available taxi media, launching a campaign for carpet retailer Behar utilising the taxi floor carpets to carry the client’s branding, supporting the exterior cab and seats.

“Behar’s media-buyer had been looking to do this for a number of years,” says Scott Anderson, of Clyde Taxi. “However, they had always been told in the past that it just wasn’t possible. But we were up for the challenge. After a couple of months’ research and many meetings we produced carpeting that met with Glasgow City Council’s strict fire and safety regulations.

“Now, because of the success of the campaign, Behar has increased its spend on taxi advertising nationally.”

However, despite such success, too often clients will only consider taxi advertising if they have budget left over. Mirroring past (but overcome) problems faced by outdoor advertising media, taxi advertising is not always seen as an integral part of the marketing mix.

“We still lose out on business because clients generally tend to only spend when they have money left over after planning a campaign,” continues Anderson. “This problem exists because there are no proven statistics for the medium. Every agency will tell you that their clients want hard, fast facts. They want to see it in black and white. And, as yet, there are few or no figures to show.”

Taxi Media, one of the UK’s largest taxi advertising companies, recently ran a successful taxi campaign for “Austin Powers: Goldmember”, which put over 2000 taxis into 10 cities, including Glasgow. The campaign was researched in London and Glasgow and showed that the Scottish city had performed well, with awareness of the film growing by 26 per cent due to the taxi advertising alone.

Creative thinking is improving and it is the media sellers who often lead the path. Clear Channel offer advertisers the chance to wrap the entire cab with their ad and also fill the inside tip-seats with their product. Highland Spring filled the seats with mineral water to complement a fully liveried taxi campaign in Scotland. In London, Monsters Inc recently commissioned a furry taxi.

“We are constantly trying to encourage the creatives to be more creative in their designs,” says Anderson. “Often the design will be fantastic – especially when the taxi is idle at a rank. However, you have to remember that a cab will normally be moving at 30 or 40 miles per hour.

“We want our clients’ campaigns to be successful, for obvious reasons, so we don’t just want a signed purchase order form. If we can help, we will. And, as our work with Behar shows, the creativity is becoming more and more innovative.”

However, the boundaries are not always set by the limits of technology and the bounds of imagination.

John Cresswell’s Scot Cab Media was one of the first companies to introduce taxi advertising to Scotland at the end of the 80s, and he has noticed a lot of change as the medium has matured. Yet Cresswell believes that it has been the relaxation of legislation that has allowed this progression:

“The councils were very opposed to the idea of taxi advertising. However, as legislation was relaxed there were more and more opportunities to grab. But we’ve still had to fight to get where we are.”

After four years of lobbying, Edinburgh Council finally agreed to allow taxis to carry alcohol ads, while busses have been carrying them for years. Yet still, in Glasgow, taxis are not allowed to advertise alcohol.

But as restrictions have lessened, the limits of outdoor advertising have stretched. Consumers are now saturated in advertising messages. However, as the boundaries widen it is becoming harder and harder to gain the exposure that marketers drool over.

Dave McEvoy, marketing director at JCDecaux Innovate, says that if television isn’t catching the imagination and radio is proving a turn-off (or a turn-over, as the case may be) then bring the show to the streets: “We bring the communication to the street, and what better place to communicate? Advertisers want to be able to stand out in a fast-moving marketplace, and out-of-home communication is one of the fastest.”

Recently JCDecaux Innovate introduced a number of new offerings to the streets, including an interactive advert for T-Mobile – touch-screen six sheets with interactive buttons that allow the viewer to listen to mobile ring tones and download them to their phone.

This campaign added a great deal of accountability to the outdoor offering, making it possible to gather information on users and numbers. Yet still, the accountability of out-of-home advertising is often questioned by clients and planners when deciding their media schedule.

McEvoy, however, disagrees: “Is any medium accountable enough? If you are talking footfall and audience, yes we can tick that box. But really the effectiveness of any out-of-home campaign rests on creativity. If you get it right it can be the best medium in the world. Get it wrong and outdoor can be one of the worst.

“Outdoors, the message should be the media. Outdoor advertising is doing so well as it is a very busy marketplace for consumers. People are busier – out more often – and they can’t cut it out. Audiences cherish a distilled message, a simple message. Outdoors there can only be one brand USP, essentially creating a brand shorthand.”

Family has recently been utilising ambient advertising for a number of its clients, including Martin and Frost and the highly visible SNP in the run-in to the election, showing the value the political party sees in outdoor as a campaign medium.

Ian Wright, managing director of Family advertising, says: “Outdoor is an increasingly essential part of a marketing budget. And, in the outdoor mix, ambient forms of advertising are coming more and more to the fore.

“Ambient advertising offers a great deal of coverage from a relatively low ad spend and offers even greater creative opportunities.

“When everyone is fighting for stand-out on TV and radio, outdoor and ambient can certainly gain the desired effect. It can be smarter, more imaginative and more creative.

“Outdoor and ambient are now both very much part of the overall marketing mix. You just have to find the clients who are prepared to get on with it and get stuck in. Fortunately, we are very lucky.”

Outdoor giant Clear Channel has also been at the forefront in utilising both creative thinking and technology to grow the sector. Glamour Magazine recently booked a billboard through Clear Channel with a catwalk complete with models. The world’s largest bowl of spaghetti (which made the “Guinness Book of Records”) was made in front of “The Lady and the Tramp” billboard to launch the video, while Mazda arranged an empty car to drive around a track, like a wall of death, on a billboard.

Other special-build billboards include a life-size 3D Guinness pub, a giant dinosaur peering over the billboards for “Jurassic Park” and wagging tails of 101 dogs for 101 Dalmatians. The list is endless.

However, the industry is fast moving, and today’s advancements will be tomorrow’s norm.

“I can see radical changes in the next two to three years in the outdoor industry,” says Hollywood. “The city regulators are capping the spread of sites so a great deal of re-investment will be noticed in the sites that currently exist. Already the big players are introducing special builds, scrolling sites, LCDs, and backlighting where traditional wooden boards stood before.

“Creatively and technologically, the market is becoming a lot more sophisticated. Good copy is no longer good enough on its own. The outdoor industry has matured.”

UK’s Top outdoor spenders

Pharmacia & Upjohn£10.7m

Nissan £6.1m

Tesco £4m

BMW £3m

Travel Inn £2.5m

Ford £2.5m

Virgin Holidays £2.4m

Entertainment Film Distribution £2.2m

BBC £2m

Peugeot £1.9m

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