Look before you leap into the outdoor world

In the increasingly complicated six-sheet world, it is only the best media specialists who can successfully pick their way through the maze. Mike Gorman urges companies to think carefully before choosing their adviser. Mike Gorman is media dir

A new financial season is upon us. Desperate to stay at the top of the media division, every opportunity is being explored for buying new players. The UK market is buoyant and there are plenty of attractive propositions around.

This is not the usual Mike Gorman memo to Alex Ferguson on how to win the champions league, but an assessment of the six-sheet market.

What was an easy market to sell and a difficult market to buy because of limited supply, is fast becoming an over-complicated maze that only the best specialists in town have a hope of picking their way through, and when they do they are still confonted by sales practices that are variously confused and confusing.

The advent of son of Oscar, Postar, (name changed to avoid connection with suspect parentage) has not helped, but that’s another story. In the short term, what was pioneered by More O’Ferrall was, and to some extent still is, a fantastically innovative medium with great impact is in danger of being strangled by the late entrants and the foreign players that don’t understand the English game.

The six-sheet market is fundamentally linked to local authority business and the opportunity for them to bring revenue into the borough or city. Advertising is just a means to an end for the contractor, in this case Adshel, paying the council promised revenue and making a profit on any extra. So the next time you are in the centre of Manchester and think, “My God what a lot of bus shelters for a place that has tram stops,” remember this fact.

When you get an updated poster universe and the six-sheet figure has climbed to beyond 40,000 from 37,012 ask yourself not just who has been doing the building, because at the last count it could have been any one of eight currently in the market, but where and why they have built them; and do you really need to buy them to get an effective campaign, no matter what the rate card says about buying networks.

To my mind, for a poster campaign to be effective it needs above all (apart from great creative work, which we always supply) to offer good coverage of the target audience.

So don’t be misled by the salesperson who comes bearing high Verified Audience Data – VAIs, the new ratings planned for posters – and wants you to buy overweighted networks biased to territorially small areas. And don’t buy packages as unseen, they will be like the lucky bags we received as children – only half of the sweets were any good.

My advice when going into the market to strengthen your position, is to think about what is really going to make a successful campaign. Decide what you want to buy, and don’t compromise objectives just for the sake of convenience.

Ask yourself if the contractor is a marketing ally to the client or just out to make a down payment on the debt to the local council. Ask yourself if the contractor has ever made a contribution to help you promote the medium. If the answers meet your approval, then you’ve got beyond the Alan Sugar “Carlos Kickaball” test.

Then get your specialist to interrogate the market to get you what you really want. If that means that some of the foreign players have put too high a price on their own head by overstating their importance to the team, they may end up in Middlesborough, playing even less of a role than they do currently.

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