Struggling to start the advertising juggernaut

The latest development in outdoor advertising is posters stuck to lorries, a medium already established in the US. It might not work here, says Nick Bell

The recent spate of innovation in outdoor advertising is the result of the industry’s incessant hunt for untapped opportunities. Media initiatives have been developed either by converting an obvious, pre-existing, physical space to advertising use, or by creating a platform to fulfil unanswered demand. But not all ideas guarantee success.

Last week, former More Group chief executive Michael Higgins announced that he was setting up a lorry advertising company, to be called Kinetic Media.

Lorry advertising, where posters are pasted onto trucks, is highly successful in the States but, despite concerted efforts, it is an industry yet to find a secure footing in the UK.

There are several reasons for this, one being that lorries are nearly always dirty and do most of their miles by night! There are also doubts over whether people take notice of ads they see while driving on the motorway, particularly the ones set on the side of the lorries.

In addition, real and important issues such as campaign duration, booking procedures, audience delivery, posting proof, campaign effectiveness measures and even production quality have yet to be overcome.

Assuming this medium is unique – the ad moves at 50mph, its audience at 70mph – normal audience measurement methodologies are not going to work. However, what we would expect is an attempt to find a method comparable to Postar, the outdoor industry’s standard measurement tool.

Without such a currency, efficient campaign weights and optimum coverage and frequency levels will be all-but-impossible to derive. Coupled with comparatively high initial production expenses, it is easy to see that advertisers will be able to convince themselves their marketing budget will be better spent elsewhere.

At present, there is no research and no awareness studies of lorry advertising available to persuade prospective clients that this is the medium for their brand. Therefore lorry advertising is in a difficult position. However, it is not be the first medium to find itself in such a position – washroom ads also suffered from a lack of research a few years ago.

If lorry advertising is to become a mainstream medium, it will need to address a number of real and imagined concerns. Higgins’ may have said “We want to do it properly,” but to capture the trust of clients, and keep its promise to the media fraternity, Kinetic Media must deliver.

While stacks of media get sold on creative vision alone, these tend to be the ones that stay “creative” rather than profitable. To move lorry advertising into a national arena will take time, effort and not least investment. That said, if ads in washrooms can make it, then surely ads on motorways and in urban traffic jams stand a better-than-average chance.

Nick Bell is planning director of Outdoor Connection

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