The bigger picture
The billboards view on the market
While other sectors have been quite erratic, since 2000 outdoor advertising’s share of the overall marketing pie has continued to grow year-on-year.
As time-poor professionals spend less time in front of the TV and more time out of the home, advertisers have kept faith in the medium, putting money into bus-sides, billboards and a growing number of digital platforms.
“The continued faith,” suggests Forrest Media managing director Marc Keenan, “stems from the fact that outdoor effectively represents the last true advertising medium.”
He continues: “This is due to the fragmentation of commercial television and the invention of the remote control; the granting of more and more commercial radio licenses; and the drop in newspaper consumption.In short, the broader base of choice for the consumer has made it more and more difficult to captivate and engage with
them. It remains true what they say about billboards – you can’t switch them off.”
Gavin Hollywood, managing director of Posterplus, attributes the unwavering support to the evolving marketplace. “The Outdoor sector has evolved since 2000 with certain large billboard companies changing hands. Also the continued introduction of quality sites and bespoke options available demonstrates to clients and agencies that outdoor offers an excellent platform across the country.”
One of the ways the evolution has manifested is through significant sums of cash being ploughed into outdoor. The OAA believes this is set to continue and JC Decaux marketing director David McEvoy, pictured left, says this has been a big factor in the sector’s growth.
“The out-of-home audience has grown by 51 percent in the last ten years and has been accompanied by massive investment by all the major outdoor companies,” he says. “OAA figures show that £170m has been invested over the last six years and a further £290m is set to be invested over the next six years. As a result of this highly competitive market, outdoor has not only benefited from increasing audiences but also constant innovation and investment – ideal for advertisers.”
Sean Duffy, new business director for CBS Outdoor agrees and believes outdoor has probably seen more investment in the last few years than any other media. “Better quality sites, new posting techniques and the installation of a digital portfolio means that there is constant reinvention,” he says.
“Consumers are spending more time out of home than ever so it stands to reason that there is great value in being able to reach this audience while they are in the ‘third space’. The consolidation of the outdoor industry also makes it easier to buy and it’s more accountable than before.”
Keenan, too, believes that after a long wait, the last decade has witnessed signs that outdoor advertising has started progressing at an acceptable rate.
“It seemed to stand still for quite a time, up until the end of the nineties when things really picked up. Suddenly the ‘paper and paste’ medium was getting its act together, with a number of new formats and initiatives being introduced in a relatively short period of time.”
Digital technologies are shaping the medium and the new opportunities are whetting the appetites of advertisers throughout the country. Helen Beacham, marketing manager at Ocean, believes the products in London, which have demonstrated excellent results, are now spreading throughout the rest of country, while Keenan welcomes an increasing number of ads tailor-made for outdoor.
This goes against the ‘safe’ label, which has been a double-edged sword for the medium and its owners and while practitioners operating in outdoor concede that there is some truth in the ‘safe’ reputation, they remain adamant there there’s more than meets the eye.
“Outdoor is only safe to the point that clients know that it delivers results,” argues Duffy. “We are always looking to push the boundaries to ensure that we can offer up engaging solutions that really stand out.”
Mungo Knott of Streetbroadcast notes outdoor’s heritage as the “oldest medium” as part of the reason for why it is renown for being safe, but says media owners are adding something extra to the offering that is having a positive impact. “In many ways it is the media owners who are investing, and creating the challenge to clients and agencies, encouraging them not to think of outdoor just as a poster. With movement, with sound and with interactivity, for instance through Bluetooth, there are some real opportunities to make people take more notice of your message.”
McEvoy adds: “I think safe is the wrong word,” he claims. “It’s an exciting, vibrant sector of the industry, a sector that is benefiting from huge investment designed to make it even more appealing. As an industry we are tripling investment in audience measurement, allowing outdoor to be even more accountable and targeted.”
Beacham continues: “The majority of the outdoor market is still made up of safe formats (6’s, 48’s, 96’s, Bus and underground) but there are the exciting new formats and opportunities which are being revealed on a regular basis which continue to ensure that outdoor has an exciting edge to the more standardised products.”
The excitement is likely to be music to the ears of agency creatives, who are starting to embrace the changing face of outdoor advertising – something outdoor experts are keen to encourage.
“I would welcome more creative agencies to really challenge the outdoor media owners and take the attitude that nothing is impossible,” says Hollywood. “The variety of special buillds and unique outdoor formats across the US and Middle East currently demonstrate that clients can create the wow factor in outdoor. Delivering quality content and a common sense approach to targeting should create the proper channels for brands to create impact and interact with their desired audience.”
Keenan believes the role creatives play will be crucial going forward. “A lot of the responsibility in this regard lies with the creatives,” he says. “Given that the media owners are striving to deliver great outdoor sites, it is then up to the creatives to come up with dynamic copy which captures and engages the consumers. Movies like Minority Report and Bladerunner have given a taste of what the future holds, but a lot is already out there.”
It looks like a bright future for outdoor, but in a difficult economic climate and an increasingly competitive advertising market, can the out-of-home medium sustain its impressive levels of growth?
“There is absolutely no doubt that the growth can and will continue,” says a confident Keenan. “Outdoor is now a 10 percent medium; the only sector other than online which has steadily grown in recent years.”
Sense of scale
McEvoy is equally optimistic. “On average, outdoor takes a 10 percent share of display ad revenue, but consumers spend 16 percent of their time outside the home or office – which shows there is still an upside for growth. As other media continue to fragment, outdoor is one of the only places that provides a sense of scale.”
Beacham concludes: “Outdoor is unavoidable and therefore is a medium which clients and media buyers know that consumers will be exposed to and cannot selectively put down or turn off,” she says. “The new and innovative developments will also attract new clients into the industry whilst keeping existing clients interested – the scope of outdoor is such that there is room for growth from all angles, where other media may lack scope.”