Healthy outlook for outdoor ads

Far from being outdated, outdoor is embracing modern technology and becoming the dominant medium. Consolidation means it is now on the road to achieving global acclaim.

Clear Channel’s decision to commission Europe-wide research into advertiser attitudes towards outdoor reflects the surge in interest this medium is enjoying. Last year, outdoor revenue growth outstripped other media.

The most visible sign of this new-found popularity is the explosion in dot-com businesses using posters to quickly establish brand visibility. According to AC Nielsen, Media International’s outdoor ad revenue from dot-coms rose by a startling 1,000 per cent between 1998 and 1999, from &£580,000 to &£8m.

But this is not the only reason for outdoor’s appeal. At a logistical level, consolidation across the outdoor market means it is now relatively simple to buy a pan-European campaign. Clear Channel, for example, is in 15 European countries, allowing advertisers to buy multinational campaigns from a single source.

Outdoor has also enjoyed something of an image boost, thanks to a few high-profile fashion brands building their marketing programmes around posters rather than the press. The US retail chain Gap, for example, astutely recognised that some fashion brands were becoming lost in the packed ad pages of glossy magazines. So the company chose posters as the main media for every new city it entered. This initiative, by a high-profile and stylish advertiser, encouraged others who might historically have steered clear of outdoor.

So what can we expect Clear Channel to discover when the Henley Centre delivers its report in April? Without wishing to pre-judge the outcome, Clear Channel group marketing manager Robert Thurner suspects it may reveal a few misconceptions about outdoor.

“One common misconception is that it is fragmented and therefore difficult to buy coherent international campaigns,” he says. “The other misconception, although this is less prevalent, is that the outdoor industry is still stuck in the Seventies, with tatty boards and blokes on bicycles with buckets of glue.”

The reality is that outdoor is keen to embrace new technology as fast as any other media. And there are many opportunities for contractors to do so: computer-aided systems are allowing real-time advertising so clients can tailor messages to specific audiences at particular times of the day and night. The use of plasma screens gives outdoor a similar moving image effect to that of TV. And the increasing use of outdoor interactive kiosks provides a new way for advertisers to build and maintain close consumer relationships at street level.

Outdoor may not have the glamour of TV or the buzz of the Internet, but it is in as strong a position as it has been for many years. Now is the time to listen to advertiser requirements and become a truly powerful international medium.

John Shannon is president of Grey International

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here