The great outdoors beckons for supermarkets

Poster ads outside supermarkets offer benefits for all, and in a few years’ time may well be seen as one of the more significant media initiatives of the decade, says Francis Goodwin. Francis Goodwin is managing director of Maiden Roadside

With Tesco and Sainsbury’s likely to join Safeway in setting up their own six-sheet poster holdings, the stage is set for an intriguing battle to bring more major advertisers, particularly some of the recalcitrant TV loyalists, into the outdoor medium.

The key selling point of this potentially lucrative outdoor sector will be the valuable opportunities offered to advertisers to reach customers with money in their pockets, just before they buy.

Obviously packaged goods advertisers will be the most important targets, but the medium should not be limited to brands that are already, or likely to be, listed in a particular chain’s stores.

The supermarket shopper is a valuable all-round customer, so the medium should be attractive to companies marketing cars, financial services, or entertainment.

The important task for the outdoor media owners managing these new holdings (Maiden/Safeway, Decaux/Tesco and probably Adshel/Sainsbury’s) will be to ensure that they bring in additional money rather than affecting the retailer’s existing arrangements with suppliers. It’s important that they don’t cannibalise below-the-line budgets for promotions and other in-store activity, or indeed, money allocated for co-operative advertising.

The second task is to develop what is really a virgin medium and establish its price in the market, as the hard-nosed supermarket chains will be looking for a good return from their investment. All the contractors will rightly be presenting their supermarket holdings as premium products, but without Postar-rated data, the onus will be on them to support this with other forms of accountability – the customer footfall is an essential element, although the acid test will be more sales. Controlled tests, comparing the sales activity of stores with and without poster sites, should be developed as soon as possible.

In the past, forays into this area have positioned the sector as a car park medium, which throws away its greatest strengths. It’s only by locating as many panels as possible by the main entrance of a store that the whole audience can be delivered.

Furthermore, for the kind of premium brands supermarkets will be trying to attract, the medium will have to offer similar premium quality. A co-operative and harmonious relationship between retailer and contractor is essential.

This should be a development where everyone wins. Now that superstore expansion is fairly limited, the big chains will be concentrating on yield per store, and this will add an appreciable amount to the bottom line.

They’ll be getting an additional revenue stream provided by the contractors, with relatively little effort demanded on their part.

From the marketing department’s perspective, the new supermarket holding is a “no-brainer” – between five and 20 opportunities to reach shoppers at exactly the right time, and all for an insignificant cost.

And for outdoor media owners it presents a unique chance to develop a further premium sector, which could increase the total six-sheet universe by anything up to 25 per cent and bring in a stream of blue-chip clients. If the expected progress is made, I have no doubt that in a few years’ time this will be regarded as one of the more significant media initiatives of the late Nineties.

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