Making sure that outdoor remains the media pin-up

Outdoor has led a charmed life of late, its market share climbing steadily. This is no time to rest on its laurels, says Nigel Mansell – there’s still work to be done

At the end of 2002, outdoor media’s share of total ad revenue touched eight per cent. This year, it looks set to breeze past 8.5 per cent. But what must the sector do to reach that golden goal of ten per cent share of ad revenue, so firmly set in everyone’s sights?

The answer is: absolutely nothing. While the audiences of all other media are either dwindling or fragmenting – or often both – outdoor enjoys the exact opposite. By default, its audience will continue to get bigger. We are a growing population, and we own more cars and make more journeys – and advertisers pay more for larger audiences. So media owners could just wait for the current to wash them to a new high-water mark. If they want to get there faster, however, they will have to market the medium better.

What drives advertisers to use different media is the return they get on their investment – if it works, they buy more. Accountability comes first, and in posters there are two aspects to this. Firstly it’s about establishing what the advertiser will get in terms of reach and frequency; and secondly, it’s proving the advertiser got the posters it paid for. Postar looks after the first of these and, at no small expense to media owners and outdoor specialists, is expanding its capabilities to cover all formats. The latter aspect – posting proof – has hitherto been a time-consuming process, owing to the different systems used by media owners. With the roll-out of the industry’s central proof-of-posting system, co-ordinated by Optimad, and next year’s fully inclusive Postar, outdoor will have plugged the last of the big issues it had with accountability.

While safety is good, a medium needs excitement too. Despite a harsh economic climate, outdoor innovation has been rapid. We have seen the introduction of scrollers, squares from Clear Channel, Transvision from Maiden, direct-response posters, and a slick new array of affordable printing techniques. Next year, JCD Decaux’s Premiere division will up the ante at the quality end of the market, and with the cost of the technology falling, the digital sector will blossom. The ambient media sector continues to dream up new places to advertise – TV in hair salons is now on-stream. This vibrancy has long been one of the medium’s best strengths and I can’t see it falling away.

To fuel growth, outdoor needs to be planned effectively and used creatively. On the planning front, Concord launched Posterwatch, the first industry-wide NOP omnibus research programme, 18 months ago. Now we can benchmark the performance of clients’ campaigns against the rest of the industry, and also see the likely outcome of a plan and edit it in confidence, to maximise return on investment.

And advertisers should never forget that creative work is more important than media in determining effectiveness, and the bar needs to be raised. Cogent initiatives such as the POW campaign help, but a programme of activity to encourage better creative work is a must. Great creativity in posters is the best promotion the medium can get.

Nigel Mansell is chief executive of Concord

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