The growing success of poster advertising in recent years has been due to a variety of factors, tied by a common thread. Many of the things boosting the medium have been outside the industry’s control, but the industry has successfully positioned itself to take advantage of them. For instance, the growth in road traffic means that larger audiences now pass posters at slower speeds, and rather than just sitting back and rubbing its hands, the industry has developed a system (Postar) to measure those audiences and better panel designs to draw them in.
But one factor has received no attention at all. I believe there is a strong connection between the popularity of the mobile phone and the rising demand for outdoor advertising.
This is not for the obvious reason – that mobile phone operators and handset manufacturers find posters a natural media choice (although they all do) – but because of the interaction between mobile phone users and the brands advertised on posters.
Five or six years ago, conventional wisdom dictated that posters were not the medium to use for direct response advertising. But that has all changed: over 90 per cent of posters now carry a telephone number, not simply because the client asked for it to be bunged on to fill a space next to the logo, but because it works. And the key reason that it works is the penetration of mobile phones.
If a potential customer is stuck in a traffic jam, it is easy to tap in a number from a poster site. Furthermore, it is just as easy to go one stage further and use up what would otherwise be dead time by ringing the number there and then to order a brochure, a trial or the product itself. Direct marketing companies have found that the quality of response that comes from poster advertising, both in terms of social class and genuine interest in the product, tends to be high.
Hopefully this phenomenon is about to receive a boost, as people move to 3G mobile phone technology, with “always-on” connection to the Web. Consumers will be able to tap in a URL (they now appear on over 60 per cent of posters) to get detailed information on something that interests them. Perhaps poster media owners will be able to be more active: using sites which include bar-code, Bluetooth or infra-red technologies to make the connection with the consumer that bit smoother.
Just over a year ago, almost half of all adults had a mobile phone. Now that proportion has risen to over two-thirds, talking, texting and increasingly surfing. I don’t know when the next generation of mobiles will really take hold: but the next generation of posters will be ready to talk to them.
David Pugh is managing director of Maiden Outdoor