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The changing face of Scotland - an outdoor perspective

It's now a matter of weeks until Scotland decides its fate - whether to go it alone or remain as part of the United Kingdom - and a lot of different sectors and repercussions will be analysed ahead of then. Here, Keith Lammie, regional director of Primesight offers his thoughts on how strong a year the country has had and the possible future the outdoor sector may have north of the Border.

My dad always used the phrase “win some, lose some” and without doubt 2014 in Scotland will have its fair share of winners and losers. Whether it’s sport, music, politics or the fight for prominence in Scotland’s outdoor market, we all have our own battles to be won.

2014 has long been billed as one of the most important years in Scottish history. With the Commonwealth Games, Scottish Referendum, MTV European Music Awards and the Ryder Cup, we certainly have enough platforms on which to compete.

2014 has been a very positive year to date. In 2014 I have my own honour of being president of the Scottish Outdoor Advertising Group (SOAG). The Ryder Cup, to be held at Gleneagles in Perthshire in September, provided SOAG with the perfect seduction to lure the big hitters from London to the North, and lure it did as the industry gathered to experience the Ryder Cup course. We held the biggest event in recent years at the venue, reconnecting after battling the recession together. Indeed, since the financial crisis hit some key players have either perished or been swallowed up in a market that continues to consolidate. Planning for this pivotal year (for sports anyway), started in 2007 when the Commonwealth Games was handed to Glasgow and the City began the massive preparations and budgeting needed to hold such an iconic event.

Much has been made of the investment in the Games to justify the amount of money spent. One thing that is obvious is the regeneration of the East End, particularly Dalmarnock. This was most evident in the BBC programme ‘Commonwealth City’ which highlighted Glasgow’s poverty and desperate need for investment and employment, ultimately being transformed to include world class sporting arenas.

Since the recession started, it’s been a tough seven years across the UK and Scottish industries, but over the last 12 months I have felt us climb out of the downturn to new heights and investment across Scotland. We have observed this trend with both regional as well as national advertisers. The Glasgow Subway is undergoing a £290m modernisation which will, in the long run, save money.

Primesight has partnered with SPT to introduce digital 6 sheets and digital escalator panels at key stations such as Buchanan Street, St Enoch and Hillhead. The new stations are starting to look very futuristic, clean crisp advertising and digital displays in stand alone. We have only really scraped the tip of the iceberg as the future plans are even more exciting, and along with driverless cars, it will see digital tube panels inside trains.

Outdoor environments have followed suit with digital 6 sheets in cinemas, Soar at Braehead, rail and shopping centres, all offering new digital frames for brands to display advertising content.

However, I think the real story on Scotland’s outdoor market development will lie in digital roadside billboards. We have already seen Forrest, an early digital mover, now with three screens across Scotland, and Primesight most recently has launched Network, a national digital roadside platform, including two digital 48 sheets in Glasgow visible from the M8, Scotland’s busiest road and one on the Southern approach to Edinburgh on Salamander Street. This roll out provides the very first opportunity for clients to be displayed on digital roadside estate at a much more affordable price. It forms part a wider strategy to deliver more affordable national digital roadside coverage.

2014 and 2015 will also see the Glasgow and Edinburgh City Council contracts up for tender and all those bidding will be desperate to either win or retain the contracts. This will result in many more digital sites needed to satisfy local authorities in search of income streams. However, these contracts can often detract from delivering a sustainable business for the media owner as all efforts are ploughed into one area of development.

All of which are being taken advantage of in the next winners and losers battle that approaches in the Scottish Referendum. I am excited to see what will be my biggest influences and how the campaign will heat up with hundreds of posters across the UK trying to convince the Scottish audience of a future that neither side can guarantee. One thing I do know is that elections have been won or lost on the quality of media planning and creative on outdoor campaigns and I’m sure the Referendum will be no exception.

Either way, 18 September will change the future of Scotland forever. Either by way of an independent Scotland or one that has decided to remain in the UK and follow the promises of further devolved powers from Westminster.

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