The UK’s love of cars is driving outdoor media

A lack of faith in TV advertising and a transport system approaching gridlock has increased the effectiveness of outdoor advertising, says Nigel Mansell

Our roads are becoming more and more crowded. Car ownership has increased and twoand three-car families have become more common. Average mileage increases massively each year and public transport systems are bursting at the seams. The sheer volume of it all means that journey times are getting longer rather than shorter.

Press reports have said that several London road networks are totally jammed, with traffic moving slower than walking pace. In fact, trying to get anywhere in this country is a struggle at the best of times and is mostly downright frustrating.

Now switch to television.

ITV’s July audience figures were the lowest in the history of the medium and the bad news doesn’t just stop with TV. Commercial radio listening in London alone is down by ten per cent and the craze to spend via the Internet, rather than go out and shop, has also had an impact.

Ripe pickings are being enjoyed by some sectors of the leisure industry, with cinema audiences up. Of course you have to travel to a cinema to watch a film so, in its own small way, it too is helping to clog roads.

The days of good TV programming keeping the pubs empty are gone, with repeats and cheap programming coming to the fore, and frankly it shows. Consequently, people have found better things to do. And if this trend continues, you will need to take a picnic with you wherever you go.

The silver lining in all of this is that the fortunes of out-of-home (OOH) advertising look increasingly rosy. We all know that a roadside poster – which apart from a few technical additions, has remained physically the same for a number of years – will deliver more people today than it did when first built.

The problem is that at the moment we just cannot say just how much more effective it is. Despite the Postar system, the effectiveness of the medium cannot be annually benchmarked in the same way as other sectors and it would be good if this changed.

Buyers know that advertisers are getting value for money from OOH, but the lack of hard data does not allow this boast to be properly qualified.

Measuring the effectiveness of outdoor is not as logistically simple as other media, but recent moves to improve Postar will help. However, the incorporation of all OOH formats, including giant banners and buses, into the Postar system will improve things considerably.

Over the next year, accurate net cover and frequency figures will be available across the whole OOH spectrum, rather than just roadside advertising. The cost of incremental cover will be calculable, and the true value of everything from buses and cross-track rail sites to 48-sheet poster campaigns will be known for the first time.

OHH is setting itself up to be one of the few media to benefit from the television viewing crisis and the public’s love of their cars – it just has to overcome issues about accountability in order to satisfy advertiser concerns.

Nigel Mansell is chief executive of Concord

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