Outdoor clients put big plans into action early

First quarter figures show that 48-sheet poster sites have reversed last year’s slump, with clients booking early to avoid disappointment.

Sales and demand for 48-sheet poster sites have made a strong recovery after last year’s slump, with 48-sheet now outperforming other sizes, according to Poster Publicity’s recent analysis of unsold poster sites (voidage levels) and average lead times.

The WHIM analysis system compared the first quarters of 1999 and 2000, showing that 48-sheet and 96-sheet posters were bought far earlier this year than last – on average, seven weeks prior to in-charge for 48-sheets and eight weeks prior for 96-sheets. This compares with an average of five weeks for both poster sizes in January to March 1999.

By contrast, six-sheet sites were on average sold only six weeks in advance in the first quarter of 2000, despite higher levels of illumination making them traditionally more attractive to advertisers in winter months.

The increasing length of pre-booking times for 48-sheet posters indicates strong advertiser demand.

The voidage (sites unsold) level for 48-sheets dropped by 55 per cent from 1999 to 2000. Only 17.6 per cent were unsold in January to March 2000, compared with 38.4 per cent in the first quarter of last year. The 96-sheets voidage level fell from two to 18.2 per cent.

In other words, 48-sheets have sold more sheetage than any other size.

This increase is not purely a dot-com phenomenon. We believe there has been a gradual shift in major advertisers’ attitudes to outdoor. This has been accelerated by uncertainties stemming from both the fragmentation of other traditional media and the wider scope of the complex technological innovations they offer.

In the large-format outdoor sector, the categories leading the way are finance, with advertisers splashing out before the end of the financial year to persuade more investors to take out ISAs and bonds, motoring, and travel and transport. Note that these three markets are under enormous competitive and regulatory pressure, which makes good branding a matter of survival.

The entertainment and media category has always been a big user, with TV companies such as Channel 4, Carlton and BSkyB, and numerous films, looking to promote themselves in the first quarter.

A decade ago, who would have imagined that packaged goods advertisers such as Sharwoods, Colgate and Cussons would choose to use large-format posters?

More importantly, the most encouraging element of our analysis is the way this buoyancy is projected to continue into the next quarter.

WHIM’s figures for forward sales show 48-sheets will continue to do well throughout the summer, with products for May and June having already been sold.

Colin McKinnon is business development director at Poster Publicity

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